Chaos Attraction

Guitar Class, Week Three

2013-04-29, 3:33 p.m.

Here is the history of me and trying to learn guitar:

Summer: I get a guitar at the flea market. I sign up for classes, which do not happen. I do get a free class, then end up resorting to learning three chords by myself by watching This goes pretty well.

Fall: I go on a long-ass vacation and get way out of the habit of practicing guitar after returning. I want to sign up for classes again, but they are on a night I am already booked on this quarter. I never get back in the habit of practicing very often again.

Winter: Pretty much the same as winter, except the class isn't even offered and I still do little practice.

Spring: I sign up for the same in-person class I tried to do this summer, which this time is actually running. Huzzah! I also signed up for the Intro to Guitar class on Coursera, but that just started this week and I don't have much to say about that as yet. First week has been about the parts of the guitar and what stuff to buy, mostly.

.... I don't think the in-person class is going so well.

The format of the class is that it's weeks long, 1.5 hours per class. I decided that for various reasons, I preferred that to the traditional half hour weekly one on one instruction thing.
(a) it was cheaper and had a set time period and we wouldn't have to worry about how my schedule changes from quarter to quarter the way I would with private lessons.
(b) I'd rather sign up for a class through one institution rather than call sixty phone numbers and interview every possible instructor over the phone, because for some reason they all give phone numbers only (or very brief, unhelpful websites).
(c) I haven't done a whole lot of one-on-one instruction and kinda creeps me out to have that much focus on me.

I am aware that musical performance is not my calling. I liked playing violin and noodling around with piano back in the day, but lord knows I wasn't good at it. I wouldn't call myself tone deaf, but I am not super good at hearing notes very well, and generally don't have much aptitude for playing. I pretty much do these things for my own amusement/education more than anything else. (I had a conversation with the guitar-playing managers at the CC who were getting on me for not getting a huge amp. I don't WANT to sound louder, thanks! Part of why I like the electric is that it's quieter when you practice--especially when I sometimes do it at 7 a.m. or something too early.) So it's entirely possible that I am just a blockheaded student here. Or maybe just that I am not suited to this particular instructor. Inherently I am kind of a doofus at this sort of thing anyway.

But in week 3...oh dear lord, do I not know what I am doing. The class started out with seven people in it. By week 3, only three showed up. Normally I attribute this kind of flaking to well, living in a college town where half of any class tends to drop out during OMG MIDTERMZ, or just that the sky is blue that day. But after awhile during this last class, I thought, "Maybe they dropped out because they weren't up to handling it." I don't plan on dropping out because I did pay my money and all that...but hoo boy, am I lost. The best way that I've been able to describe the experience is to once again compare it to my taking professional driving lessons at 16: even though I was in no way, shape, or form ready to hit the freeway after an hour, we only have so much time to cram it all in! And thus, we must cram it all in, whether you're ready to handle this information or not!

I was figuring that this class would be all, here's the D chord, here's the A chord, here's the E chord (all of what I've done on my own online), followed by more chords, maybe figure out how to play a song. But...he appears to be throwing in music theory. A lot of music theory, or at least it seems to me to be way too much to be chucking at my complete newbie head. I sooooo don't understand what the hell he is talking about. Instead, he's going on about all the different musical scales, and different ways of strumming ("six strum, five strum...." uh, the what now? Also, we spent a half hour on learning how to strum up and strum down), because it is important that the noobs learn different STYLES. Because we're up to styles now? And "you can play this chord like this, or this, or this, or this, because you have OPTIONS!" And meanwhile, I'm having a hard time even remembering which chord is which in the first place, and I am sure as hell not ready to learn the OPTIONS and CHOICES that I could be using instead of. I am hitting the overwhelm point in my brain here. And we're already trying to do a song--"Blowin' In The Wind"--except he's giving us OPTIONS as to which song to play AND we have to do the special strumming AND, AND...meanwhile, i am still freezing up every time I have to switch notes and keep thinking, "Which one is that again?!?!" even though 3 out of the 4 main notes in it are ones I already had (mostly) memorized before the class started. Adding in special strums and styles and options is only making my brain overload even faster.

I'll admit: my practicing has not been the recommended daily half hour. I got in practice about half of the days of the first week, but only one day last week (birthday week was busy and very tiring). But when I was up way too damned early (see entry dated for tomorrow, I'm writing this chunk of entries over several days) and decided to get some super quiet practice in, I found myself at a total loss as to where to even START with practicing. Do I practice the chords? Which ones should I be practicing? ALL of them that he's mentioned or barely mentioned, just in case? Should I be memorizing that? Or practicing the strums? Or memorizing which version of the song? Or both of them? We also have tons of paperwork for this class. Which I appreciate, don't get me wrong, but there's like 6-8 pages per class per day and wading through the information is making my head swim.

Plus he constantly talks in numbers. All the frets are numbered, all the fingers are numbered, all the strings are numbered. So what he's constantly saying is "Put the first finger on the sixth string on the third fret...." and all the numbers BLEND TOGETHER FOR ME LIKE HELL. They all turn into number gibberish because at best, my brain has to stop and think, "Okay, sixth string is the low E, third fret is the third fret, ring finger is the third finger..." or whatever. And by the time my brain has hit the halt button, class has moved on. Why can't he just say "index finger" or "D string" or anything that uses less numbers in each sentence? As for group classes...I find myself doing what I did during orchestra in school: "air playing" at times or playing very quietly so they all can't hear just how badly I am not getting this right now. It's pretty embarrassing to still be all, "What's that note again?!" because I lost track of all the numbers once again.

Are all guitar classes like this? The theory ones? Is this a typical experience for a class, or is it just overwhelming because I'm me?


Maybe I'll just go back to the online lessons again. Focusing on figuring out chords at my own speed may be what I need to be doing here.

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