EMUS 202 Morstad

Welcome to my journey learning to play the guitar! I have never played a guitar before so I am very excited yet nervous too! The guitar has six strings which are EADGBE. The neck of the guitar consists of frets and each fret will increase by a semitone as you walk up the neck of the guitar. One can choose to play the guitar note by note, which was my original intention, or one can learn to play the guitar playing several notes at once, known as chording. I am an experienced pianist so I did not think this would be too terribly difficult but was I in for a surprise! I have decided to learn chords first because it is easier, I can begin to play songs quicker, and it is pleasing to the ear. The guitar requires one to use their left hand (trim those nails!) to press down on the strings on the neck of the guitar while the right hand thumb is used to strum, making the sound.

I began by learning the D major (+ or M) chord which has me press three of my left fingers within two frets of the neck of the guitar. I then strum DGBE strings. It took me a few days before I would attempt any other chord because I was afraid I would forget this much! Day three I opened myself up to incorporating the A major (+ or M) chord and this brought my three fingers in tightly on fret two while I strummed ADGBE strings. I practiced going between these two chords before adding G major (+ or M) chord which stretched my fingers out more than I thought possible! I am very frustrated because I cannot move smoothly between these three M chords at all. I have to look at my left fingers to find the correct fingering on the frets of the neck and my attempts are choppy. I hope I can eventually move between these three M chords smoothly and with ease but I am having doubts and difficulty imagining doing so. My left finger tips do ache/ hurt slightly when I play because I am not used to playing and pressing on guitar strings. I find the sound so pleasing though that this is not a disruption to me. I enjoy taking the daily time to practice, it is not a bother or nuisance in any way!

A solid week into guitar learning and it is going well. I found myself frustrated because I wanted my chord switching to come faster but all in all I am very pleased with my progress. I really enjoy practicing and it sounds easy on the ears. Some instruments (ex: violin) are hard on the ears when a beginner is learning but the guitar just sounds lovely! I made my first recording of how things are going for me. I am still only working on three chords (D,A,G) but I am so excited that I can keep them all straight. I used to get D mixed up with G but I have them separate in my mind now. I still need to look at the guitar neck and my fingers while I figure out where to place all my fingers! Then I place them all down one by one. This is very slow and prevents me from moving quickly to another chord. Looks like I need more practice. I am sure it will come. I am still very slow when I move from one to the other but I can tell I am making improvements. Denise introduced me to the “survival strum” so I have incorporated this into my regular practicing. I like it!

My first recording learning chords D,A,G using the survival strum

I have focussed this week learning how to appropriately hold my guitar. This book has great guidance, page 2.

A good Beginner Book

Denise Morstad also suggests this book:

I continue to focus on moving from D, A, and G chords. It is becoming smoother but I still struggle, especially with D chord. This is the most difficult chord for me to get all my fingers in the correct placement and when I strum it seems to have a whispy, unclear sound. I keep my nails very, very short so I know that is not the issue. I think I may just need to continue practising. I am most comfortable with the A chord! Although I became sick this week I continued to practice my guitar. I use an acoustic guitar at home but a classical guitar at school. After strumming my acoustic guitar at home my right thumb always looks as though I drew lead all over it. For some odd reason my strings leave a powder residue! It washes off. I really enjoy the guitar and I like the sound I can produce!

Another week of class and Denise introduced our class to a new strum called a “slap strum” and it is one strum down, up, slap. I really like it and I have played with this a lot this week. I am still moving between D, A, G chords although I am slowing becoming more comfortable with each chord. I struggle the most finding D chord and I am frustrated because I usually have to peek my head over the neck of my guitar to help plant my 3 fingers in the correct positions. I wonder if it’ll ever come! I enjoy having choices for strumming- it adds variety and excitement to my play. This week we were introduced to the E minor chord which uses 2 fingers stretched over to strings 4 and 5 on fret 2. So a lot going on! It is time to record my progress, enjoy!

Recording number 2, D, A, G chords using slap strum

Another week of guitar practicing has me becoming slightly more confident although I am still slow finding the D major chord. I still need time to move all 3 of my fingers onto the correct strings and if I am rushed I more often than not miss it! A goal has been to play along to “Margaritaville” and I am getting closer! I can find the A and G chords with out too much concern in the song but it is that D chord! Each week I become slightly quicker strumming along to this song. I have even attempted The Lion Sleeps Tonight- my fingers need to move faster so this is developing!

Last class Denise introduced us to a concept in which we can plant fingers 3 & 4 on the bottom two strings, see picture. I am not yet comfortable using fingers 3 and 4 but I am grateful additional options are available.

Optional fingering chart

Next week I would like to attempt Leaving on a Jet Plane by Chantel Kreviazuk. I will keep you posted on what happens with this!

With only 4 weeks of class left, I feel overwhelmed with how slow my progress has been! I really enjoy playing the guitar. I leave it out of its case, on top of my piano, so that it is easily and readily accessible (a pointer from Denise) so I have less barriers and fewer excuses to not pick it up and play. I have really struggled to understand how to properly tune the guitar. In class this week I used a class mates Guitar Tuna App and it became clear to me! There was something wrong with my app, so I deleted and re downloaded the app and now it works like my classmates. I am not sure what happened there but now I can play in tune! Ha! Sounds much better! I have made a few recordings of the pieces I am working on and when I compare my playing to where I was several weeks ago I can hear (and see) improvement. I think I am too critical and hard on myself because I am not playing at the level I would like to, but I am discovering my daily practicing does help and I progress! Enjoy my YouTube videos showing my progress up to these past two weeks!

The Lion Sleeps Tonight
I Can See Clearly Now

So I have had an exciting guitar practicing/ playing week! This song has been one of my goal songs since Denise introduced it because moving between chords in this song has been more challenging for me than in the other songs because they move quicker. I can almost do it, including the C chord, although choppy. I have yet to master the F chord but I know it will come. When I think back to the beginning of the semester I really doubted my ability to play along with any of the songs Denise suggested but I can now, and almost to full speed. A hiccup I ran into this week is the A chord, which surprised me because I thought I had it but I realized I do not press finger 3 firmly enough on its proper string therefore I do not get a clear sound, it comes out slightly muzzled. So my focus going forward this week will be securing the A chord and learning the F chord so I can get this song smooth! I have really enjoyed the guitar. I like that it can be as simple or as challenging as I want it to become. Even skilled guitar players have areas of growth. I really enjoy listening to Denise play.

In class last week Denise introduced us to a few news ways of depressing the guitar strings in order to get a different sound. This was interesting to me because I had not heard of any of these options before, such as palm muting. I want to explore this technique further although it intimidates me! Denise also introduced me to other techniques found here: https://www.guitarlessonworld.com/lessons/7-beginner-guitar-playing-techniques/

This week I also began using a pick to strum the strings instead of my right thumb. I like the sound the pick produces, it seems to ring out clearer. I am excited to move forward in another week exploring more guitar techniques as from above and learning a new chord (F) while continuing to strengthen D, G, and A chords. Wish me luck!

My final week officially tracking my guitar playing! It has been an enjoyable journey! I decided to play and record “Leaving On A Jet Plane” as my challenge piece. It always seems to sound better in my mind than when I play the recording back to myself! Haha! It was an enjoyable semester although an uncomfortable way for it to end. Safety first though, I do understand. All in all, I learned a lot about the guitar and I enjoyed it. I developed callouses on my fingertips so I feel like I am a legitimate guitar player!

My challenge piece, Leaving On A Jet Plane