Diary of a Bad Guitar Player: Yousician

I doubt there is anything worse for a guitar player than sitting down to practice and not knowing what to practice. This might be the biggest limiting factor for people like me, who have gone well beyond beginner, but still lack any sense of mastery. It is definitely the worst part of teaching yourself and so often it leads you to just hacking away at something simple or noodling around without direction or purpose.

This problem makes a system like Yousician very appealing. Yousician is a play-along app that features customized progressions for players built around original songs and exercises. It also has a library of songs by popular artists that you can play along with. I have been playing with Yousician for a year and a half with mixed results. This week I decided to return to it to get some more structure to my practice.

It is hard to overstate just how incredible the technology of this program is. It listens to you play and tells you I you hit the right notes in real time as you play. You can slow down songs in practice mode to help master them and then try to nail them in performance mode to progress. As someone old enough to remember a time before there were even chord charts available online, this seems as futuristic as flying cars or self-fitting clothing.

But as impressive as the tech might be, you can’t help but use Yousician and think, “this is basically Guitar Hero on a real guitar.” The program gamifies playing music so much that it feels like you are really only learning to play the game of Yousician and not playing music. This feeling is reinforced by the biggest flaw with the app- you can’t print out or export any of the music to play outside of Yousician. This makes it really difficult to feel like you are mastering a song independent of the app and basically makes it impossible to play anything on your own. As a result, to date, I have only learned one song that I play on my own from Yousician and it was a pretty easy song for me to play (and to memorize) to begin with (Ain’t No Sunshine). Without being able to step away from the very easy-to-follow format of Yousician’s notation and practice with just a metronome, I feel like I never really learn anything but how to play inside Yousician and that is disappointing.

This week, I did discover one thing that I really love Yousician for, however. The program cannot be beat when it comes to practicing techniques like scales and arpeggios. One thing Yousician does really well is to force you to have great time. Because it judges you on accuracy note-by-note, there is no speeding up and slowing down to fit to the beats. You have to nail every sixteenth note in time and this makes it perfect for warming up and for technique exercise. I just wish they had more of them available. As much fun as the app can be for playing along with famous songs, it really crushes it for the more mundane elements of practice and I’ll be incorporating it into my playing for that reason for the foreseeable future.

Diary of a Bad Guitar Player: Of Dogs and Homework

There is guitar playing and there is life. Sometimes life gets in the way of guitar playing. That has been the case the past two weeks. My practice has slipped and my focus is shot.

What I’m saying is… the dog ate my homework.

She didn’t actually eat my homework, or in this case I guess it would be my sheet music, but adopting our beautiful new puppy, Zuzu, has ruined my practice schedule, along with my sleep schedule and my mind in general. Just over two weeks ago, my family decide to finally fulfill my daughter’s life-long dream- if eight-years old can be said to have life-long dreams- and get a puppy. We got incredibly lucky and we were able to rescue the adorable little girl that you see above.. She is sweet and gentle and quite sleepy. She is also, as anyone who has ever had a puppy will tell you, a ton of extra work, and that work has mostly fallen to me.

Sweet little Zuzu doesn’t deserve the blame here, however. The reality is there will always be something that screws up my guitar practice. Someday (maybe) this quarantine will end and I will have to figure out where practicing can fit in between twelve hour work days, long commutes, being a dad and occasionally even sleeping. I am a bad guitar player, in part, because I have been bad at fitting my guitar playing in to everything else that happens in my life. Music is a hobby for me. I have no intention of ever trying to make a living doing it. When it comes down to it, it can’t really rank that high in my priorities.

But one reason that I don’t just scrap the whole idea of playing music altogether is that I love the discipline of it. I need the discipline of it. Along with exercise, playing music is the main experience in my life that is capable of reminding me that progress comes from doing a little bit every day. Seeing small improvements here and there brings me comfort. It is a reminder that we can be better. Change is possible. I can’t imagine a time where that lesson would be more vital to our everyday existence than it is now. It is one thing to say that change is possible, but it is another to experience change regularly, to embody it. Playing guitar has given me that experience, especially during quarantine, when it feels so hard to imagine change really coming about.

The lessons of playing music don’t just apply to the good times though. They are there when things go wrong as well. Improvement is never a straight line. It is never a series of uninterrupted successes. Failing is part of the process too. So is regression and frustration and wanting to give up and making ridiculous excuses that involve your dog. There is nothing to do but start again. Back to the one. Take two or take two million.

Diary of a Bad Guitar Player: Burnout

It was a rough week of practice. For the first time during quarantine, I missed two days of practice in a week. I also started to feel terrible about my playing, which is something that happens every so often. For days or even weeks at a time, I don’t like the way my guitar sounds. I don’t like anything I am playing and I don’t really want to play much. None of it makes any sense, of course, but it happens anyway.

In this case, I am feeling like this is a little bit of burnout. Recently, I have been focused on playing a number of difficult new things and that has been fun and challenging. It has also been frustrating at times and lately the frustration seems to be outweighing the fun. As I wrote about earlier, I am battling with one of the greatest pieces of rock guitar playing, learning Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing. It has actually been going fairly well, but progress is slow. While I might have been able to learn an entire fingerstyle arrangement in the time I have spent on Little Wing, I am still only working on the intro of it. It feels daunting to even start learning the verses.

But Little Wing isn’t really the source of my frustration lately. I am still really enjoying learning it and I never expected it to happen quickly. I did expect that I would have more success with the inversions I have been working on and that has definitely been a disappointment. I have one week left on these in my current practice regime so I will power through, but I will be happy to move on from them (at least as the central thing I am practicing, you never really move on from anything).

Still, being frustrated with something that is hard to play is one thing, but right now I hate everything I am playing. Acoustic. Electric. Difficult, simple, it doesn’t matter. I am writing this now and when I finish, I will go practice and I am not looking forward to that for the first time in a long time. I don’t want to feel this way but I do and there is no point denying it.

Obviously, I can’t stop playing. That is a slippery slope and one that I have been down before. I am finishing a section of practice this week anyway, so I would be making a new regime anyway and it seems like the timing is good there. Maybe playing something new will help, but it doesn’t feel that way right now. Maybe, this is just something I have to go through periodically. The more I play music, the more I feel like I have a relationship with music. Relationships are difficult, even the best ones. I think it is even more true with music, because, in some ways, my relationship with music is with myself. I can’t blame music for the problems in this relationship, because it is just an abstract concept. I can blame myself, but I don’t see how that will help. Ultimately, the only choice is to play through it and know it will be better on the other side.

Diary of a Bad Guitar Player: New warm-ups and new challenges

After one week of focused on trying to taking better care of my hands, my fingers are feeling much better and I am starting to look for ways to begin building more strength in them. If you are struggling with soreness in your playing, I highly recommend making the following additions to your practice routine.

My Warm-up

I used the following warm-up before even touching the guitar.

  1. Hand-shakes: Keep your hands loose and shake them to get them warmed up. Any way that is comfortable and gets them moving will do.
  2. Finger taps- lightly tap each finger to your thumb, moving from pointer to pinkie and back. Do this with your hands facing away from your body, in neutral (hands facing each other) and with hands facing your body. 3-5 times
  3. Finger presses- press each finger to your thumb firmly, moving from pointer to pinkie and back. Do this with your hands facing away from your body, in neutral (hands facing each other) and with hands facing your body. 3-5 times
  4. Finger bends- Bend each finger down to the heel of your hand, from pointer to pinkie and back.
  5. Finger curls- Bend each finger to the bottom of the finger
  6. One-hand claps- slap all your finger against your palm and extend them back up straight.
  7. Thumb circles- make wide circles with your thumb in both directions
  8. Jazz hands- make a fist then pop your fingers out as wide as possible

This takes just a few minutes and it really helped me to feel less stiff as I started playing. It is simple enough to do basically anywhere.

Breaking up my warm-up exercises on the guitar was also extremely helpful. I did one minute on and thirty seconds off while running my finger exercises and I felt much better. I am planning on build these up my doing one day a week on the acoustic for the next two weeks and by slowly adding time in fifteen second intervals. With my hands feeling better and my focus on maintaining a lighter touch, I was able to improve my speed on these exercises as well, so that was a great bonus.

Now that my hands are feeling better, I am trying to decide on what to learn next. I have been playing exclusively fingerstyle arrangements for the past few weeks and I am coming close to having locked in on the songs I am working on. For my next song, I am looking for a different kind of challenge but I have not decided what that should be just yet.  

Diary of a Bad Guitar Player: Gone Loopy

This week I added the ultimate toy for any bad guitar player- a loop station pedal. I have considered getting one for years but held off because I always felt like I should work on my playing and not add gear that would just add to the goofing off at the expense of actual playing. With so much more time on my hands these days, I figured it was a good time to grab one. I also feel like I am reaching a point in my playing where this is something that has a good deal of value for me. All this time in quarantine practicing regularly has got me to a place where I am moving beyond playing in just one scale at a time for improvisations and to a place where I need to be more focused on the song, its melody and the changes. Being able to create quick loops is very helpful in pushing my playing forward.

Of course, the first thing that I realized when I threw the pedal down on the floor is that I am pretty bad at using it. I have had no trouble making loops by recording to a computer, but having to hit the pedal to end my playing and start the loop just threw me for a… you know.

 Some of the time, I just didn’t hit tap the pedal hard enough for anything to happen. I mean, I am not slamming my foot down when I tap the beat out with it. No problem. I’ll just stomp on the damn thing. They call them stop boxes, right? That worked! All good now…

Except… wow, that first beat is kind of loud. I guess when I stomped the box I also hit the one beat twice as hard as necessary. At least I can hear where the one is. How do I reset this stupid thing?

With clearing the loops from the pedal mastered, it’s time learn to walk and chew gum. I isn’t too difficult to stop slamming the first chord down to start the loop, but ending the loop is trickier. I might be a bad guitar player, but I would be horrendous drummer. I tap the pedal again at the end of the loop and hit it too softly. So it doesn’t stop looping.

Now this thing is in my head. My foot is on the pedal, here comes the end of loop. Bam! Foot to the floor, we have looping! But wait… it’s a half-beat too soon. Take two. Half beat too late (and I slammed on the one as I stopped the loop, just for good measure). Resetting people, going again in five. Such is the life of a bad guitar player.

Ultimately, the pedal is actually pretty ease to use and even on the first day I am making more quality loops than bad ones after a few tries. The one thing that does continue to give me issues is the way the pedal works for adding a second loop. On the Boss Loop Station RC-1, when you end the loop it, it begins play back and continues recording what you are playing to create another loop. Since I am mostly just practicing improvising over chords, one loop is enough for me most of the time. This means I have to hit the pedal twice to stop recording as the playback continues. I forget that about half the time and end up recording the solo as a second loop. This feature also makes it slightly difficult to record the loop and jump into a solo right on the first beat without getting an extra note or two in the loop. This way of functioning is incredibly cool though if you are looking to create more layered sounds or write music because it is easy to play one part, start the loop and jump into a second part. That is something I will definitely play with more as I get more comfortable with this new toy.

After a few days of playing with this thing, I feel kind of foolish for not getting a loop station earlier. I don’t have a ton of people that I play with (and now that number is down to none) and this is a quick and easy solution that definitely beats play-along tracks and having to open up recording software just to lay down a eight-bar pattern. It’s fun to laugh at all the mistakes I make using it, but it is incredibly simple to use even for a pretty lousy guitar player like me.

Diary of a Bad Guitar Player: Feeling vs Counting

I have been thinking about rhythm a great deal this week after writing about “locking-in” last week. Rhythm is so essential to music- play it poorly and you will sound terrible, play it well and even simple things shine. But while rhythm is an essential concept, it is not a simple one. Playing with great rhythm doesn’t just mean being precisely on time with a metronome’s beat. Great players will push and pull the beat but never lose it or sound off. Small changes in emphasis go a long way to giving the beat it’s power.

One thing that I have noticed in my playing is that I tend toward two extremes in rhythm. I will either feel the beat or count the beat. When I am feeling the beat, I am usually playing along to a recording or playing with the Yousician program and the full band is there to tell me where the beat is. I might be able to count it some as I am going along but I am not there counting each beat. My foot is tapping and I might be playing in time perfectly (or just murdering the time, depending on how well I know the part I am playing) but my mind is not focused on counting each beat.

This is nothing like the way I play when I am practicing new songs or concepts. Then, I have the metronome on and I am counting every beat, even every note, in my head without exception. In this scenario, I am usually the only one playing or maybe I am playing to a backing track I laid down, but I am not supported by a full accompaniment of sounds playing in time.

Both of these relationships to the beat are important but, for me, at this point, they are very distinct and very different. When I am counting the beat carefully and precisely, I am forcing all of my playing, pushing the sound to exactly their correct place in the beat and, if I am off, I am usually rushing notes or catch up or falling apart completely and needing to start over. When I am feeling the beat, I am playing looser and if I am off, I will either just hang back to catch the rhythm again or I will so lost that I will be unable to find the beat correctly, ear-cringing will follow.

What I want to do now is find a way to do both in both scenarios. In those times when I am playing along to recordings, I want to push myself to keep count and be more directly conscious of the exact time. In playing alone or practicing, I want to ease back from needing each note to have its place in time voiced in my head and feel the beat I am creating without depending so much on that kind of over-counting. I think playing with the metronome, leaving out beats, and playing other games like that with it will help, but ultimately, great time is probably just something that you have to develop by constantly playing and counting and feeling the beat.

Diary of a Bad Guitar Player: Fingerstyle learning and deep listening

A million days into quarantine (approximately), my practice on the guitar has fallen into a steady routine. I am working on new fingerstyle songs, practicing the ones I learned the last week, working on improving on one or two of the songs I know and play regularly with a focus on implying the changes and doing some ear training.

The Ear training is by far the greatest challenge for me. This week, I focused hard on singing intervals to advance my interval recognition. It is tedious work. I have been using a chromatic tuner and playing an interval, then singing that interval. Since it often takes me several tries to get the notes in tune and then get the interval correct, this is slow work. Painfully slow. After a few intervals, I move on to singing through the major scale, then on just playing the major scale slowly, listening carefully to the intervals. After ten or fifteen minutes of this, I start to feel like an insane person, but I can see very small glimmers of progress, so I plod along at it.

The biggest discovery I have made by going through this drudgery is that there exists different levels of listening. The deep listening it takes to hear the notes and intervals in this ear training practice is different for the way I listen to music riding in the car, or even the way that I listen back to improvisations I have played, thinking critically about them. I spend a lot of time listen carefully to music because I love it and I am fascinated by it, but to hear the notes with total clarity, I have to listen much deeper,  and that is something I am just getting a handle on. I couldn’t even begin to listen to most pop or rock music this way at this point because it is just too dense. I think the closest I get to this kind of deep listening in casual music listening is when I listen to Christopher Parkening playing Eric Satie on the classical guitar. Those slow, ringing melodies are about all I can handle listening in this way.

On the other side of things, learning the fingerstyle arrangement of Harvest Moon this week was a brutal reminder of one- how slow I am at learning me pieces- and two- how the learning curve goes for me. I am not sure if this a typical experience, but whenever I learn challenging new pieces of music the process is basically three to five days of utter hopelessness where I am stabbing at bits of melody and chords as the metronome clicks by. I lose time, I play the wrong notes, I start again, it goes the same or maybe worse. Then, mysteriously, I am playing sections of the song with some degree of competence. The transition between hopeless noob and a competent player is not a smooth line rising upward at all. I suck, badly, for ever and then without warning, I am suddenly playing something that could be recognized as music.

The catch is that the first inklings of competence on a tune are still a million miles from it sounding good. One of the things I enjoy most about fingerstyle guitar arrangements is that once you have the basic notes down, the challenge becomes about the details of the melody and harmony, getting the right emphasis on notes and all the other minor details. That part of the process takes me months, but it never feels like work because I am playing the song. That first step of learning the basics always kicks my ass.

Diary of a Bad Guitar Player: Week 4 of the Guitar 30 Challenge

The final week of the challenge was an interesting experience. I played the Whole Tone scale, which is something that jazz musicians use frequently but which I had never learned and really did not “get” from a sound perspective for the first days of practicing. I eventually started to hear it in context and that felt really positive, but I am still so uncertain as to how I’ll actually use it in my ordinary playing.

Day 1- C & G: Welcome to the whole tone scale, a strange scale that features the b5th and #5th and feels like a finger stretching exercise. I cannot get my ears around this one or begin to comprehend how to use it in any practical setting. It’s fun to play and because most forms of it progress down the neck it does feel like the perfect thing to be working on to finish this challenge and lock in my fretboard awareness. With no idea how to improvise with this scale, I tried playing some lines from a jazz book (Doug Munro’s 21st Century Jazz Guitar from Swing to Be-Bop) and didn’t fair much better.

Day 2: D & A &E: The fingering patterns for the whole tone scale are fun to play and are definitely helpful in pushing my fretboard awareness forward, but I still can’t rap my head around  the sounds. Playing with the sounds just leaves me baffled.

Day 3: B & F#: A breakthrough! From time to time, I have been stepping away from the electric guitar and playing on my classical guitar. Today I tried to use the F# whole tone scale between the  F# Augmented and B minor chords. Obviously F# Augmented is the best match but there was some interesting tones that went with B minor as well and the scale served to bridge the two sounds. I still don’t see myself going to this scale often, but at least there is something I can see using it for now.

Day 4: Ab & Eb: So I accidentally skipped C#, oops.

Day 5: Eb & Bb:  Another solid practice. I do feel like I understand the sound better now. I still don’t think it will be something I actually go to too often, but I after five days of playing it, I think I get it. A little. Maybe.

Day 6: F & C: For improv time, I went back to the Classical guitar and worked on playing F Aug and C7#5 by starting with the chord and improvising in the Whole Tone scale out of that hand position. I was really instructive and fun and I have way more confidence in adding this sound to my arsenal. I don’t play with Augmented chords a ton, but if I do, I think I can make this work in context, or I will be able to with more practice.

Day 7: The final day of the challenge was unremarkable. I had a good practice, working my way through the whole tone scale and then improvising with it over more augmented and 7#5 chords. If anything, today felt anti-climactic. I think I have got a lot of what I wanted out to get out of this challenge but I have not suddenly morphed into Kenny Burrell or Jimi Hendrix.

Diary of A Bad Guitar Player: Week 2 of the Guitar 30 Challenge

Week 2 Focus- Minor Pentatonic, Harmonic Minor, Melodic Minor

Week 2 was a great learning experience. Like many great learning experiences, it was alternately frustrating and enlightening, humiliating and invigorating.  I learned a lot about what I still need to learn and even managed to learn a little about what I was hoping to learn. Here is the day by day breakdown along with some cringe-worthy listens for your amusement.

Day 1: C, G – Well, this was humbling. I was feeling pretty good about myself after last week but throw some unfamiliar scales my way and the whole thing goes to hell. I didn’t even get through all of the key C in 30 minutes. Sure, I breezed through minor pentatonics, because, of course, that is the same forms as major pentatonics. Then I hit the harmonic minor. Wow, is this scale tricky! The leap from the b6 to the maj7 left me completely lost. Melodic minor was relatively easy in comparison. Even though I can’t play the damn thing at all, I found the harmonic minor completely inspiring. I loved the sounds here and I am going spend some time this week looking into how people actually use this weird scale in practice. The sound is very West Coast Cool Jazz and makes me want to bop around on it in the lower register.

Day 2: just D  This was the first day of my challenge where my practice was legitimately terrible. I had family stuff going on and could not practice at my usual morning time. Practicing in the evening, my energy wasn’t there. I was not focused and I got through very little productive work. It was lousy. I am also seeing just how much harder it is to play through patterns I don’t know. The major scales and the pentatonics are quite comfortable, but in these new patterns, I get lost easily and can’t always just hear the mistakes instantly.

Day 3: A, E, B: Better and more focused. I am back on track playing in the morning and feeling good about my efforts today. One cool thing about learning the melodic and harmonic minor scales is that they are pushing me to know where every note is on the fretboard without just relying on the patterns of major scales to get me there. Since that is the point of this whole challenge, I think it is well served. I have been writing the notes of the keys down for each scale at the top of the chart that shows the scale so I can reference them and that has been a real help.

Day 4: F# and C#: A very successful practice session although I never get through both the harmonic minor and the melodic minor positions completely. The highlight, however, was when I played over a loop of F#min mixing the harmonic minor and pentatonic minors. I really liked what I played and saw my solos developing something that resembles and arc. I did get lost once and wound up off key but, for me, this was still something of a breakthrough. You can listen here though the audio quality leaves much to be desired (these are just scratch tracks after all):


Day 5: Ab and Eb: Playing through all these scales is definitely locking in a greater awareness of the fretboard for me and opening up my improvising. I am far more focused on the harmonic minor and barely running through all the melodic minor forms, but the awareness is really developing. I am also seeing some improvement in my ear as I learn these new sounds, which is very exciting. In my improving today, I tried moving from Abmin to Ebmin with some success. I got a very interesting minor country “Ghost Town” sound from the scales. I’d shared that recording here, but getting quality audio is still an issue so I’ll aim for better on Saturday.

Day 6: Bb and F: I really question whether I have learned these scales at all. The harmonic minor scale still just does not fall under my fingers easily. The irony is, of course, that I love it and keep finding new sounds in it. Is there anything that defines being a bad guitar player more than being least able to play the things that you find to be the coolest? It is going to take a lot more work to be able to incorporate harmonic minor ideas into my playing regularly but I definitely need to do it.

Day 7: Back to C: Rather than review the keys I struggled with (which was all of them) to complete the week, I decided to wok on creating a short song in C Harmonic minor based on a bass line I played around with all week. Most of the time, in the past, when I have written music, it has been very lyrics-first folky songwriting, so working with looped drums (care of Fruity Loops), looping my bass line and putting chords and solos over it was a new experience and challenge. It was really exciting and much more difficult than I anticipated. I still don’t love the rhythm guitar part or this solo. My timing is much looser than I would like as well, but I learned a ton doing this. Here is the final(ish) product for your enjoyment(?).

Diary of A Bad Guitar Player: Week 1 of the Guitar 30 Challenge

I am happy to say I completed the first week of the Guitar 30 Challenge without missing a practice session and I am seeing some of the results I was hoping to see. I keep a running log of each day’s practice so I can share my journey from #badguitarplayer to #OKguitarplayer with the world.

Day 1: Day 1 went very well, but it is obvious that I will need to do just two keys per day because even playing in three keys I am very comfortable with (C,G,D) and playing scales I know fairly well, I still needed extra time in each key and could not push the speed of the key up. I also discovered I need to set up a quick recording and playback system for the play section since I had to spend extra time messing around trying to record a quick backing track. When I get to scales I can’t play well, I might not be able to get through two keys, but I’ll tackle that problem as I move forward.

Day 2: I can see now that I actually know my major scale positions and, by extension, the modes better than I might have thought, but inconsistent practice definitely hasn’t helped my ability to use them fluidly. I did not expect to have so much trouble in the Keys of A and E, but I struggled with both and found myself gravitating toward playing in C and G positions, probably because I play A min over C and E min over G so much. I still have not found an adequate method of making a quick loop to play over in the improvising part of my practice.

Day 3: Today, I discovered that the Keys of B and F# are about as familiar to me as the language of Urdu-I have heard it, I know it exists and I don’t understand it at all. Good to know. The funny is, though, I actually enjoyed the sound of these unexplored keys a great deal and three days into practicing, I am definitely seeing the connection between the scale patterns better even in positions that are strange to me. I can also see that it was ludacris to think I could play through all the positions and have time to do it again at a higher speed. That might work if I just played each position once, but that would definitely not help me visualize them on the fretboard better, which is the whole point. I think I will have to work on speed in these patterns some other time. Right now, I’m letting them sit at 90 bmp and playing several times through. Tomorrow I’ll try playing them less and turning up the speed, but I doubt I’ll get far with that if I’m keeping these sessions to 30 minutes.

Day 4: C# and Ab (G#): One hallmark of being a bad guitar player is never playing the things that you are really bad at and constantly playing the things that you are only a little bit bad at. So, obviously, I landed on C and G instead of C# and Ab at least five times in practicing today. But at least I caught myself. In the improving section, I could hear that mistake over the backing track and adjust. I had a blast playing in these keys and I’m going to play in the more and more some songs into them for fun and because they sound different and more exciting to me. I settled on using the Music Maker JAM app for looping. It is fairly easy to make a quick 4-bar loop and I had fun with using a drum track behind the chords. I also managed to get through playing at two different speeds today, 90 bmp and 120 bmp.

Day 5: Eb And Bb: I am surprised and happy to see how much the steady practice is improving my ability to visualize the scales all over the fretboard. I’m back to keys that I am familiar with and playing with ease in every position. Eb is a key that I should play in more and was harder than Bb which I play in regularly, but with all the patterns under my fingers now, it’s mostly just a matter of remembering the notes that make up the scale now.

Day 6: F and C: Back to keys that I am comfortable, I pushed the speed up today and even though I have mainly been playing eighth notes at 90bmp, I found them easy at 140 bmp which is very exciting. I’m looking forward to moving into minor keys and less familiar sounds and shapes next week. Recording a loop to play over is still an issue in part because I’m playing in the morning and I can’t push the volume up enough. #Dadlife. Overall though, it’s been almost a week, I’ve been through all the keys and I still find this completely engaging.

Day 7: Weakest Keys: With a week of playing done, I’m very happy with my improvement here. Today I focused on playing freely in two keys I was weakest at and it went… OK.

This improv was almost totally unplanned and still, it is mostly on key and there is some nice lines and phrasings. I focused on trying to use a few positions and I felt comfortable in all of them which was nice to see happening in these keys. I still don’t “play the changes” really at all and my leads are more a collection of lines than a complete solo, but hey, this is progress.