Confessions of a Desperate Guitarist: Training in vain |

England’s best performance in a major football tournament in 55 years, history of a Tour de France comeback through the ages with the success of Mark Cavendish, and the return to Wimbledon after last year’s absence : The distractions for an aspiring guitarist with an unhealthy interest in sports have been plentiful lately.

So how do you cope? Well, on the one hand, playing the guitar isn’t totally incompatible with having the television on. A football game requires your full attention for 90 (or 120 minutes plus penalties), no doubt about it, but a Tour stage takes hours, and the sights and sounds of Wimbledon, if you can avoid diving into it. tennis, are perfect. backdrop to any activity.

So my opportunities to sit down guitar in hand weren’t entirely extinguished by this avalanche of athletic prowess.

But it’s very difficult to learn something new without giving it your full attention, so instead of running forward to be a better player, it’s been a month of rehashing old riffs and chord sequences from flippant way: my life as a guitar player so far.

It’s not completely without merit, I tell myself. I continue to wiggle my fingers and sharpen what I might laughingly call my “skills” to some extent, but I’m not really progressing. At least, not in the physical mastery of my instrument, and I resolve to get back to work as soon as the Tour ends in Paris.

Ear today …

Where I took a temporary step into the unknown during this time, however, was downloading an ear learning app on my phone.

As a person with no musical training, when I listen to music – even though I enjoy it very much – I have no idea what I’m actually listening to. Learning the guitar is a key to understanding – I now know, for example, that the opening riff of The Who’s Baba O’Reilly contains the notes E, B, and A, in that order – but if I listened to these notes played elsewhere on the fretboard, or in a different order, would I still be able to identify them? Absolutely not.

So that’s where the app comes in (Functional Ear Trainer, if you’re interested, although there are other choices available): it plays a note to me on an octave of the C major scale – I don’t have not yet progressed beyond C major, or to other octaves – and I have to identify it. It’s a perfect post-game activity, before sleep, as long as a sense of frustration and growing self-hatred over your own incompetence are the things that help you get a restful night’s sleep.

But despite my shortcomings, I can honestly say that I am improving. Having been fortunate enough to correctly identify one or two out of 20 notes when I first started playing (and that just on the first four notes of the scale – C, D, E, F), I now regularly mark something. thing like 16 or 18 out of 20 out of the eight notes. I’m not ready to take it to the next level until I consistently score 20 (okay, at least 19), so I’ve been stuck in some kind of mediocrity limbo for a while now, but when I want to really start to fight about it I remember where I was when I started.

Hoem comfort

The C major scale is a comfortable home: I know where it is on a piano, it has no sharps or flats, and it’s one of the few new things that I actually play on the guitar, in the open position ( Fender Play also wants to show me how to play it in the 2nd, 5th, 7th and 9th positions, but come on…).

Fender Play promotional image
Image: mudguard

So maybe I should have started this column by bragging about practicing scales like a real musician, but that would have stretched reality beyond breaking point and I’m here to offer you the unvarnished truth. on my own nonsense. But I have been practicing a scale, as I try to teach my ears to hear the notes and assimilate them to what I hear on the app. I do this in the hope that one day I will be able to hear the notes and chords of a piece of music by ear.

Will I one day be able to listen to Radio 3 and capture the smallest details of a performance by Beethoven Symphony No.5 as a result of all this? I doubt it, but now I know that the famous song at the beginning is G, G, G, E, F, F, F, D, and I can play it on guitar! The fact that the symphony is in C minor, not C major, and the way my ears are supposed to distinguish that fact will have to wait until later. Much later, I guess, at my current rate of progress!

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