My First Year

I have just reached the mile stone of learning guitar for a whole year. Whilst I love learning guitar I have to ponder "at what level should I be at after 12 months?" I have found learning guitar very hard. My left hand especially my fingers struggle to find the right strings to press and my playing is mechanical and at times not very nice to listen too. What has been the experiences of others who have reached that mile stone of one year and how long has it taken those who are competent players to reach that level. I have a teacher who I work with every week and I have just joined tonebase which looks fantastic. 

 

Cheers

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  • Congratulations on one year! In my opinion, there should never be any “shoulds” regarding what “level“ you are at. The only should is, you should be enjoying it. If you are, why would level matter? If you are not enjoying it, then what is the point, even if you’re already a virtuoso?

    Like 2
    • Eric Phillips Very kind words so thank you. I am enjoying my guitar. My guitar is a beautiful hand made Spanish guitar with a bold sound snd great tone. So I am looking forward to playing it better. I am excited to have joined Tonebase. There is a lot of very good learning material. 

      Cheers

      Like 2
    • Michelle Roper Glad to hear it! Having a guitar you love to play is really important, regardless of how expensive it is or what other people may think of it. Thinking about playing level is probably only important if you are looking for appropriate material (repertoire or exercises) that will improve your playing. It's important to play things that challenge you, but don't discourage you or lead to bad habits because they're too difficult (been there, done that). Other than that, thinking about level is counterproductive in my opinion. We're all on a journey, and I know I receive inspiration and encouragement from players of all abilities.

      Like 2
    • Eric Phillips Great advice. Thank you.

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    • David
    • David.39
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view

    I'm past the one year and a half, or close to two, or whatever, but I've struggled with being patient with myself. I like that, on guitar (rather than, say a keyboard), there are always tone production and other parts of the physical mechanism to work on, and to enjoy the timbral variety as I work on different technical problems. It's a good distraction from what seems like a glacial learning progress. Mine is an internal "should", and when I fail my expectations, I consciously do slow practice and work on my listening skills trying to communicate something to myself, even through a short passage (played deliberately but as musically as I can).

     

    One thing that is a persistent problem for me is left-hand tension in the forearm. Taking light practice days between longer ones and being disciplined in not sight-reading (poorly) through pieces for too long helps. When I am not fully prepared for the next hand position, that is when tension builds up as I awkwardly reach at the last second to cover the notes. Have you had any ergonomic issues like this? My right hand stays pretty relaxed on what I am able to play, but I am still learning to internalize the spacing of the strings, especially on skips.

     

    Getting the guitar in the perfect place using various supports has been tricky, too. I have a slightly shorter scale-length guitar which helps in position I since my fingers are shorter and less flexible (hopefully I will gain flexibility). However, the body is also a bit smaller, so I am trying the Ergoplay, the GuitarLift, a footrest, a leg cushion...argh. It's a process! 

     

    I hope there are other newbies that are willing to chat on forums about the struggles that come up. I thank you for sharing. Perhaps that will stimulate more conversation in the beginners' circle here on ToneBase. Maybe Martin can help facilitate a place for new players to bring up common issues (and not common ones, too... maybe experienced players will chime in, too).

    Like 2
    • David Hi David. You raise some very good points about the issues encountered in the early stages of learning. I read your post and can relate to all of the issues you mentioned. I have been someone who was very good at sport and I got that way focusing on achieving good technique. My moto was "get the technique right and the world becomes your oyster." When I started my journey to learn guitar my first goal was to learn correct technique. However whilst I respect and like my teacher he believes it is more important to be musical when playing and the technique will come. Nevertheless it is fun to learn and I hold faith I will become a better player. Your idea of a beginners Forum is brilliant. As a side note I have been using Guitar lift for several months and I love it. 

      Cheers

      Like 1
    • Ariel Elijovich
    • Performer, Teacher @Conservatory M. de Falla and member of Nuntempe Ensamble GQ
    • Ariel.1
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view

    Hi, Michelle!

    Congrats on your first year!!

    both answers by @Eric and @David are good and helpful. Enjoying yourself is VERY important. Not only enjoying but also learning about yourself and your hands and concentration and how you breath and a lot of things that if you develop them while studying will make your life better. 

    But also there are some tips that can make your "selfawarness" a little more tolerable, for example: don't rush from one piece to another. Continue to play the "old"things. The studies you did when you first begun. Pieces are as friends, i tell my students. you cannot ask them for a lot if you just met them. You only get the trust and confidence to ask more to the ones you have befriended for a continued period a long time. 

    Also, the pieces that you are studying "now" will ALLWAYS be the most difficult pieces you'll always be playing. And therefore will come along with a certain "angst" that's almost unavoidable. If you just study the new pieces. You'll teach your body to be used to the "angst" and it'll never find the ease that you actually need (muscularly) to get a nice sound. There are many things to be said regarding the left and right hand but that would require a video showing what you do and much more time... 

    i hope this comment is useful! 

    Ariel  

    Like 3
    • Ariel Elijovich Hi Ariel Many thanks. Good advice. Thank you for taking the time to reply. 

      Like 1
      • David
      • David.39
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Michelle Roper thanks for the post! I’m using the half plate GuitarLift and alternating between that and an adjustable footstool. I put in a request to open up a novice-centric area on ToneBase. 

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      • David
      • David.39
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Ariel Elijovich I will be thinking of your comment about pieces being like friends that you keep touching base with, even as I start something new.

      Like 1
      • Ariel Elijovich
      • Performer, Teacher @Conservatory M. de Falla and member of Nuntempe Ensamble GQ
      • Ariel.1
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      David i'm glad this idea found resonance! Let me know, via PM if you wish how it worked for you! 

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    • David Hi David Yes I have the half plate Guitarlift too although I think the medium would have been the better choice. Thank you for requesting the novice centric. I hope that comes to fruition. It is good to talk to those who are at a similar level. I am also glad to see that there has been several comments from more experienced players and that is good. We need those cool heads to tell us to take a "chill pill" or to "settle petal" when playing becomes frustrating. Thank you for your post and good luck with playing. . 

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  • I guess I am a newbie too, not in terms of age, but because it's been 2 years or so since I picked up the guitar again and started making a serious effort. I sometimes say to myself that I was quite naive thinking that I'd learn to play the guitar, because, gosh, it is much more difficult than I thought. I have a collection of pieces compiled by Walter Götze called 'Die stunde der Gitarre' and these are called 'easy' pieces ('leicht' in German). Well, I find it difficult enough to play this pieces really musically and more often than not there is a passage or two that is quite tricky to play well. So it's quite a journey, learning to play the guitar. Still, I do find that I am making progress. This is not so obvious from day to day, but if I go back to pieces that I was playing a couple of months ago I notice my progression. So this is the attitude I take: I know I will be better, say, 6 months from now. In the here and now I focus on improving my technique through exercices and playing repertoire. Tonebase is a great resource and a great help in staying motivated.

    Like 2
    • Mark de Beer Hi Mark I think it is very important to set goals. I guess we all have those special pieces of music that first inspired us to learn guitar. Especially classical guitar. Thank you for your reply. 

      Cheers

      Like
  • Hi Michelle 

    One thing I found useful when starting, was keeping a journal. This would include pieces I’d learnt, particular difficulties and challenges. At the end of the year, I would summarise my achievements, and indulge in a bit of goal-setting as a way of giving my journey some direction.

    I too joined tonebase and I was alternately inspired and intimidated by the content ( perhaps this says more about me than tonebase!). I like the idea of a novice centric forum.

    As previous respondents have said, enjoy the challenge and don’t worry about your “level”.

    Good luck

    John

    Like 1
  • Hi John. That's a very good idea. I keep a journal but only with a practice plan for my weekly and daily practice schedule. I never thought of keeping a journal for what I have achieved. So once again thank you. Great idea. I hope all is going well for you. 

    Cheers

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    • Brian
    • Retired Software Designer/Developer, Inventor, Dog Lover
    • Brian_Bowman
    • 4 wk ago
    • Reported - view

    Michelle Roper

    First of all, thank you for sharing details about your first year, classical guitar journey, including the frustrations. It sounds like you are on a great path and taking it on thoughtfully with great love for our instrument.!

    I did not begin classical guitar in earnest until 30 years old.  Prior to beginning classical, I had played rock, some acoustic guitar and learned jazz guitar fundamentals on steel string instruments.

    Was extremely fortunate to find a great teacher who required balancing learning of body posture, physical technique, theory/harmony and most of all reading (extremely slow at first) very musical and appropriate exercises and etudes from the very first lesson!

    It was very slow and methodical process.  I was working full-time and could only devote at most 8 hours per week to focued practice.  We spent two years in First Lessons for  Guitar by Julio Sagreras --supplemented with  other exercises from Emilio Pujol and harmony studies from Walter Piston. My teacher was an expert in integrating these things through a repetitive set of steps where every exercise and etude was read and learned correctly -- focusing on melodic development, Identify lines/parts in the music, phrases and cadences, etc.

    The entire process seemed like a major delay of gratification as I kept asking the question "when are we going to get to actual classical guitar repertoire?". After finishing the first Sagreras book, we transition to Initial repertoire via a few Brouwer simple etudes and Sor Study #5.

    After about 3 1/2 years of total study, I Was very fortunate to play for an old friend who is a professional classical violinist with a Masters degree in violin performance.  She had known me a few few years prior as a nascent jazz guitar student and was blown away by how much progress I had made on Classical Guitar -- not so much, WRT "fancy repertoire", but solid technique and musical expression In the simple etudes and pieces that I could play

    All that to say that it is good to keep technique and musicality in balance.  It takes many years to decades for most people to develop virtuoso level technique.  The sobering reality is most people who play classical guitar, never attain virtuoso-level technique, yet that's OK because there's so much beauty and fulfillment in being able to play more basic things at the best level one can.  

    Since beginning classical guitar studies, 33 years ago, I've gone through years of not playing at all. Now retired and in my mid 60s., I practice many hours per day between jazz and classical.  Although I would probably be considered an "intermediate" level player, WRT repertoire and technique , this journey remains so fulfilling.

    Stay on the path, Michelle, you won't regret it!

    Like 1
    • Brian What a great reply to my question and thank you for such a detailed response. As someone who was an elite sportswoman I understand what it takes. But on the dark side human nature thinks that because I was successful at one endeavour that I should be able succeed at everything one does. Yes ambitious. No not realistic. 

      You are right I love the instrument and after all the great advice I have received in this thread I am humbled to be in the company of some very nice people with great attitudes and ideas. So thank you. 

      Cheers

      Like 1
      • Brian
      • Retired Software Designer/Developer, Inventor, Dog Lover
      • Brian_Bowman
      • 4 wk ago
      • Reported - view

      Michelle Roper 

      WRT guitar lifts -- I highly recommend the Sageworks Guitar Support. It does require a somewhat tedious install of magnets inside your guitar, yet the support itself is very easy to height/angle adjust.

      Like
      • Brian
      • Retired Software Designer/Developer, Inventor, Dog Lover
      • Brian_Bowman
      • 4 wk ago
      • Reported - view

      Michelle Roper 

      Totally get what you're saying WRT being successful at one thing and thinking that perhaps it will translate to new endeavors.  Eighteen months ago, I retired as a Distinguished Engineer after a 40 year software development career.  Software design and programming, tech, etc. always came very natural -- so I projected a lot of that onto music and wondered why I was frequently frustrated With seeming lack of progress on classical guitar in particular.

      Natural talent is a wonderful thing, but in the end, everyone has to work very hard to attain their highest possible level.  It's really an economic trade off of time and focus, especially when one has expert instruction.
      My advice is to be patient with yourself and enjoy every note you play!

      Like 1
    • David
    • David.39
    • 3 wk ago
    • Reported - view

    I watched this

    video and found it helpful for some pretty specific tips for barré

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