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The 40-Year-Old Music Virgin

Over the past 20 years, I've gathered enough knowledge to play a decent repertoire of famous songs on the guitar. But that's it. My musical "skill" is quite limited.

I equate myself to a cook who knows dozens of recipes, but only those recipes. I'd rather be a chef who can invent and improvise something that isn't already on the menu.

I want to play more than songs. I want to play music. I want to become a GUITAR CHEF. So... I'm re-programming myself and learning music theory from scratch.

This blog will document the highs and lows of my re-education process.

  1. Day 145: "Picking" up where I left off...

    by , November 9th, 2012 at 01:38 AM (The 40-Year-Old Music Virgin)
    One of my biggest obstacles over the past 20 years has been guitar picks!

    Picks felt foreign and unwieldy right from the get-go. I didn't feel as connected to the instrument and it was easier to lose track of my strings. So rather than work hard, develop skill and master the pick, I became steadfastly opposed to their existence. I would lobby about the unnecessariness of picks to anyone who would listen. In hindsight, this was an obvious self-defence mechanism. I was only fooling ...
  2. Day 121b: <Tangent> Top 10 guitar terms that sound filthy to the uninitiated...

    by , October 15th, 2012 at 11:59 PM (The 40-Year-Old Music Virgin)
    #10... hammer-ons & pull-offs

    #9... bending above the nut

    #8... headstock

    #7... bolt-on

    #6... buckle rash

    #5... hot pickups

    #4... bone nut

    #3... single coil

    #2... brown sound

    #1... humbucker!

    Honourable mentions: G-string, F-hole and speed knobs.

    Feel free to add more in the comments section.

  3. Day 121: Life gets in the way sometimes...

    by , October 15th, 2012 at 11:30 PM (The 40-Year-Old Music Virgin)
    My hiatus is officially over and it's time for an update.

    Since my last post I:
    1. moved my family out of one house and into another,
    2. had a serious bout of bronchitis and pneumonia,
    3. was promoted at work,
    4. turned 40,
    5. lost over 25 pounds (including 1.5" from my neck, 2" from my chest and 4" off my waist),
    6. and suffered a ligament injury to the thumb on my fret hand, which still hasn't fully healed.

    Even if I had the time or inclination to play ...
  4. Day 27: Reflections on a clean axe...

    One of the easiest and most expensive ways to motivate yourself and practice more is (you guessed it!) buy a new guitar.

    Justifications for the investment:
    • you can't wait to pick it up and hold it
    • you want to play it non-stop
    • it's more comfortable/easier to play than your current guitar
    • it provides a better tonal range for expressing yourself musically
    • you haven't purchased a new guitar in almost 5 years
    • this is the Summer you turn 40
    • you recently received a
  5. Day 16: Just in case you're wondering...

    I am reading Gary Marcus' Guitar Zero. In fact, I finished it tonight.

    It's an excellent read for a middle-aged analyst and guitar enthusiast like myself. The book offers enormous insight into how we learn, how our brains re-wire themselves, how music affects us, music history, theories, studies, observations, anecdotes, opinions...

    I read a digital copy on my iPhone. This was also a new experience for me and, surprisingly, not unpleasant. I was a hardcover guy, now ...
  6. Day 13: My first "real" challenge...

    Ties and dots.


    Ties and dots.

    I get it. They're simple concepts, but this is the first music notation that made me roll my eyes and want to go to bed early.

    I've had minimal difficulty with whole, half, quarter and eighth notes writhing up, down and across the staff. It's cool. It's an alphabet. There's a natural flow and familiarity. These are notes/letters forming riff/words... but now I have to deal with these accents--these ties ...
  7. Day 10: Joy! (An Ode to...)

    I've definitely played more difficult songs than "Ode to Joy." I can't recall playing an entire song on just 2 strings. I can't recall playing an entire song with only 5 recycled, natural notes.

    So why am I grinning from ear to ear? Because I can read EEFGGFEDCCDEEDD | EEFGGFEDCCDEDCC | DDECDFECDFEDCFG | EEFGGFEDCCDEDCC across a treble staff as fast as you can read it here.

    Sure, it's just "Ode to Joy." But playing it from sheet music at a decent ...
  8. Day 6: Insidious rationalization...

    I wanted to play the guitar tonight. So I did, but I didn't.

    I wanted to play the guitar tonight, but I didn't want to practice fretboard fundamentals or learn foundational music theory. I told myself to play the guitar because practice is just practice and it's not really playing. I convinced myself to play/not play.

    This is perhaps the most insidious trap in adult learning: rationalizing procrastination. In effect, I played myself.

    All I've ever wanted to ...
  9. Day 4: Thumbs up for thumbs down...

    Previously, I expressed concern over the inconsistency of thumb placement by my fret hand. Eerily, my pre-recorded guitar teacher addressed the issue tonight.

    What's scarier is his advice made instant sense and had an immediate impact (paraphrasing): don't worry about your thumb, worry about your wrist--keep your wrist down and your thumb will fall into place.

    The prescribed wrist-down technique has also improved my fingertip angles. As well, it helps keep my fret ...
  10. Day 1 - Lesson 1...

    Noble me, I literally started from scratch. I did not fast forward through the pre-lessons like "the parts of the guitar" or "the names of the strings." In recognition of this miracle, I may change my handle to Saint David.

    Early comments about Gibson's Learn & Master Guitar program:
    • Outstanding production value
    • Nice balance between high-level concepts and low-level details
    • Steve Krenz is a genuinely nice guy and his voice is well suited for instruction
    • Appreciate
  11. Day 1 - Taking inventory...

    Acoustic guitar? Check!
    Chromatic tuner? Check!
    Picks of various shapes and sizes? Check!
    DVD-based guitar learning program? Check!

    Some backstory: last year I received Gibson's Learn & Master Guitar as a gift. It's a high-end product in this saturated market and emphasizes music theory as much as technique. Plus, L&MG was already an established thing before Gibson funded some reshoots and attached their brand to it. Vote of confidence, right?