Thursday, April 19, 2007

First Post

I'm starting another blog, to be updated erratically like my other blogs. The topic is the guitar.

I've been playing on and off, mostly off, since I was about sixteen years old. I'll be forty this year, so you do the math. Am I any good? I'm not the best one to judge. I have strong basic technique, but I'm almost entirely self-taught. I'm undisciplined as a player and have a very minimal and eclectic repertoire. So, obviously I have a long way to go. What is my goal? I'd like to play with a band for fun, or for worship services. I'd like to record original music for podcast productions.

In High School, I performed the Rush instrumental "YYZ" with a bassist and drummer at a school variety show. It was pretty terrible, but I still count that among my proudest achievements -- for an introverted underachiever, it was a big thing to do! I played heavy metal with other kids in the garages of Harborcreek, PA, on a red 1968 Fender Mustang with racing stripe, now sadly long-gone.

It didn't sound very good, partly because I couldn't play very well, but also because the pickups in an original Fender Mustang don't put out much voltage, and just couldn't give me the crunchy, harmonic-rich tone I was looking for. Of course, it didn't help that I was playing through a measly little solid-state Peavey practice amp. So I was was always frustrated with that guitar, and eventually sold it. (As a side note, that Mustang, had I kept it in good condition, would be wroth a fortune today).

A few years ago I played electric and acoustic guitar, and occasionally Chapman Stick, with a small band at St. Francis of Assisi church here in Ann Arbor. We had a lot of problems, and I was inexperienced, but I learned a lot, particularly how to learn new material quickly and read and play a lot of chords in a lot of keys. I played the occasional solo. I learned a bit more about reading traditional musical notation, but I still can't really sight-read. I've forgotten a lot of my chord forms. Oh, and I had to sing, and on rare occasions sing harmony while playing. That can be a bit tough -- hearing a melody, playing an accompaniment, and singing a different line, the harmony, all at once. Pros do it all the time, but it was a big challenge for me.

These days I have sold off most of my music gear but I still have an Ovation acoustic and a customized and abused Jag-Stang guitar. I'm practicing again and trying to get back to the basics, get past my last plateau and break out of my bad habits!

What am I practicing? I'm getting back to some of the very first music I tried to learn back when I was sixteen. Songs by Rush, along with a variety of other material including some of the contemporary Christian rock songs I played with the St. Francis band. In my next post I'll write a little bit about Rush, the good and the bad, for aspiring guitarists.

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