Learning the guitar – 3 Years of progress in one page!
12 January 2018
I learned classical guitar for about 6 months when I was 15 years old, back in Brasilia. Long enough to develop callouses (which have long faded away) and to get frustrated because I wasn’t learning any rock songs, as I wasn’t being taught any chords, just a hell of a lot of finger picking!
It was my mother’s idea… I just wanted to play the drums. We couldn’t afford a proper drum kit, and even if we could, we lived in a flat, it would have been too noisy. For some reason (probably money) an electronic drum kit wasn’t an option we considered. So I got given a guitar instead (and reading my diary I would like to point out that I was quite pleased with this gift). My mother was an accomplished guitar player when she was a teenager in Rio de Janeiro. She used to be friends with Ivan Lins, before he became famous. And she did really resemble Nara Leao! I’ve seen a couple of photos of her performing on stage, wearing a very 60s fitted dress – I need to take a photo of that photo next time I go to her place.
Moving forward in time, my son also learned the guitar from ages 7 to 12. To live vicariously through my son, I also got him an electronic drum kit and he got much more into playing drums than the guitar, but still, he got good at the guitar too, playing in school concerts. Then he lost interest in both. For the last few years the guitar has just been sitting in the hallway, unloved and unused. It’s a nice acoustic guitar – a Cort SFX-1NF NS. D’Addario EXP16 Strings.
About a week ago, I was in the attic putting the Christmas decorations away and found a copy of ‘Guitar for Dummies’ and, having time on my hands, I decided to read through the book and see what happens when I get to the end of it. So far I have spent two hours on it this week, and fingers 1,2 & 3 on my left hand are indeed aching.
I’m going to make notes on what I learn here, I think blogging will also be an incentive to keep me going:
Day One: Introduction, Chapter 1 to Chapter 3. I spent a bit of time tuning the guitar with an electric tuner, which I had to firstly figure out how to use: (Eno, ET-3000+) – it was inside the guitar case and also belongs to my son. This is where I’m reminded what note each open string corresponds to, from the top: E A D G B E. EADGBE: Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie!
A Family chords -> A D E A progression
Because the CD that came with the book is nowhere to be found I’m using YouTube videos to help, so I tried to play along this one, couldn’t keep up though, then had to stop due to finger pain:
Day Two: Between day 1 & 2 I picked the guitar up for a few mins to go over the first progression.
So, still on Chapter 4, I practised the A D E A progression more, this time along this video
IMPORTANT LESSON LEARNED ON THIS VIDEO: keep strumming, don’t stop when changing chords, just keep on strumming! Also pleased to hear when I play along with the chords the guitar doesn’t sound massively out of tune!
Summary Basic Family chords:
A -> A D E A progression
D -> D Em G A progression.
G -> G Am C D Em progression
C -> C Dm Em F G Am progression.
When I was a teenager I’ve always wanted to play Wish You Here, so here’s a simple version of it, but I can’t quite play this yet, so I found a song I love with only 2 chords, C and Em:
Something in the way – Nirvana
Yesterday (Sunday) I mostly practised the Nirvana song by playing along to it on YouTube. I can sing it and play at the same time already, it’s that easy!
Found this chord reference website, a quick way to find chords:
My granddaughter is here today and I thought it would be good to learn children’s songs, here’s my first:
Learning twinkle twinkle
I got these notes out from above with the aid of the tuner…
C G A G F E D C
G F E D x2
C G A G F E D C
Various ways of playing the dreaded F chord…. I’ve been playing shape 7 today.
Started reading Chapter 5 on the book (Playing melodies without reading music!)
16 Jan 2018
Has it only been five days? 😮 I’ve lost the feeling on top of fingers 1, 2 & 3 on my left hand already. Quite surprised at how obsessed I have become by it as all I want to do is practice. I had decided to rest today as my fingers are raw after yesterday. But I failed at resting.
It’s only early morning and I already picked the guitar up to think a bit more about the F chord and how I’ll be playing it for now.
It all feels natural with the guitar, so those 6 months of learning are still in there somewhere. Do I feel that playing the berimbau helps playing the guitar in any way? I really don’t know… But at one point I did think the speed in my right hand is good, and it must be thanks the baqueta action: though the guitar is up/down and the berimbau is forwards/backwards with wrist flick. Also, annoyingly, playing the guitar aggravates my left shoulder impingement, just like playing the berimbau does.
This is for the future, I wonder how long it’ll take until I can begin to learn to play Aquarela.
19 Jan 2018
Dear Dolores O’Riorden, my contemporary (we were born in the same year) has gone and I feel quite sad about it, and nostalgic. I was at university when this song was released, I was already a Cranberries fan and I listened to it so much I got sick of it. But now I’m going to learn how to play it Em C G D
Putting this version with lyrics so I can try to play along
22 Jan 2018
As promised on literature I read about callous development: 10 days of playing at least 30 mins a day is what it took! I have played more than 30 mins a day though. Last night I was watching tv and just working on changing chords on my left hand. Today a capo arrived – although I still have no idea how/why use it. I even bought spare strings just in case. Going to spend the next week practising the following songs:
Something in the way: Em C
Zombie: Em C G D
Free Falling: D G G D A Capo 3
Wish You Were Here (main part): C D Am G D C Am G – Intro
Twinkle Twinkle (chords + notes): (C G A G F E D C)x2 G F E D
Sleeping Bunnies: A E D
I started reading chapters 7 & 8 in the book but I think I need to spend more time on the basics.
31 Jan 2018
Found Ultimate Guitar website, seems to have almost every song plus I can add my own -> Here’s a practice playlist created. You can also have it as an app on the phone and access the songs offline. Still sticking to the easier chords until I get better at changing between them.
Patterns to remember:
0 Nirvana – Em C
1 The Cranberries Zombie – Em C G D
2 4 Non Blondes Whats Up – G Am C G
3 Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here – C D Am G D C Am G
4 Eagles Hotel California – Am E G D F C Dm E chorus: F C E Am F C Dm E9
5 Tom Petty Free Fallin (Capo 1) – D G G D A
6 Bob Marley No woman no cry (Capo 4) – G D Em C
7 Toquinho Aquarela – G C D x4 Em C F… etc
8 Johnny Cash Hurt – Am C D chorus: Am F C G
9 David Bowie Space Oddity
21 February 2018
My practice playlist (only visible to users) has 30 songs now, which I’ve been practising regularly and I can play some better than others. The callous on my index finger has peeled and the one on the middle finger is about to.
Since last week I started doing the FREE lessons on this website by Mike Kennedy, which I came across when looking for easier versions of B and F notes for beginners. It’s an email subscription site, but you can also cover things independently, this is what I covered so far:
* First Lesson – How To Learn Guitar: An 11-Step Programme For Beginners
* 7 steps to guitar mastery and the video: 7 little known guitar tricks
* Beginners Guide to guitar notes
* How to strum a guitar Video 10 Strumming Secrets That Boost Your Musicality
* 10 easy songs for beginners
* Country Guitar Lessons
12 March 2018
Started Udemy Guitar Course Complete Guitar System Beginner to Advanced (Erich Andreas) (£19.99)
It has A LOT of content, wonder how long it’ll take me to get through!? I’m guessing quite a few months.
10 April 2018
Going through Udemy course most days. Important questions asked in the course…
Why do I want to play guitar? Hobby
Acoustic only (not going to buy electric guitar)
Rock & Pop – Blues – Folk
MPB – Samba – Forro
Practice schedule – 1 hour a day?
What level do I want to get to? NOT PROFESSIONAL BUT ABOVE MEDIOCRE!
Current practice schedule
1) Metronome strumming practice Level 1, L2, L3, L4, L5, then strumming changing to these chords
2) Dexterity (right hand)
3) Scales – Major/Minor/Pentatonic (scroll to page 5)
4) Chords (Alphabet chords warmup) & Chord transitions/strumming/finger picking
3 Basic Inversions/slash chords to practice
Am G/B C
G D/F# Em
F C/E Dm
“Speed is a matter of how many times you do something slowly.”
Kids finger picking – Capo 2
Em – 6&4 (thumb, index + middle&ring for melody)
C – 6&4 as above
G – as above
D/F# – as above
The song itself is 4/4 Em, C, G, D/F#
e – 8 5 b – 8 e – 5 b -8 5
Boogie Woogie lick
16 July 2018
Still going through Udemy (currently on this lesson) and picking up the guitar most days for practice. A couple of days ago I found this website as I want to get good at finger picking
I added it to my tabs on Ultimate Guitar too
25 Sep 2018
Completed Complete Guitar System – Beginner to Advanced (Erich Andreas) on 25 Sep 2018 (Took 6 months in total, 310 lessons – I intend to revisit a few of those lessons every now and then).
20 Nov 2018
November was the month I started getting more into classical guitar and I actually bought a classical guitar(Yamaha C40M, £118). Compared to metal strings it’s so much easier, but I’m used to the narrower frets and shorter spacing between strings, so when I move from one guitar to another I get a bit lost and have to look at my hands more. I want to play samba, bossa nova and classical songs so it made perfect sense to get a classical guitar. I’m glad I started with metal strings though, it was good for my fingers. Going from nylon to metal is a lot harder than the other way around. The way the strings vibrate more and feel so much looser still disconcerts me!
I now have two playlists on Ultimate Guitar, one with songs and another with exercises I do regulary (Scales/Fingerpicking exercises playlist) – once again, these links are more for benefit, when the playlist is shared most of the content isn’t visible for reasons I haven’t yet investigated. All the tabs are here in txt format.
* Started Music Theory Comprehensive on Udemy (Jason Allan) 30 Sep 2018 – £10.99 Pure theory, using keyboard. Will I ever finish it? (Next Lesson here). Once I realised I was learning to read notation more quickly with the guitar I stopped this one.
* Worked through in about 6 hours? (11-13 Nov) Classical Guitar Method Volume One By Bradford Werner wernerguitareditions.com, downloaded from thisisclassicalguitar.com and
added the practice sheets to my google music album. I can now read the music notation in the songs in this album! (It’s very basic stuff).
* Started Classical Guitar Essentials Pt. 2 on Udemy (Hani Gamal) 15 Nov 2018 – £9.99 (purchased intermediate 1 & 2 on the sale, also £9.99 each)
22 Nov 2018
I woke up with the introduction to Asa Branca in my head yesterday, and finally I’m at a level I can actually try to learn how to play it (I looked into learning it a few months ago and thought ‘not yet!’). One of the most famous songs in Brazil, the introduction needs no introduction! I wonder how much practice it will take me to play at full speed, but the notes and chords themselves are not hard. The other challenge was the pattern when picking the strings, but after about 10 minutes I got the pattern(I went through this lesson). Because I had the samba pattern in my hands I had to override that with this one, so it took a bit a few minutes of drills: Baião (great class in Portuguese).
Here’s the tab I added to Ultimate Guitar.
UPDATE 18Jan2019: Asa Branca has become a regular practice song, I can now play it full speed and sing along. I practice using the baião pattern which means I can simplify the chords (i.e. for the G I just need to fret E3, for G7 E3 & D3) and also plain strumming where I fully fret the chords.
08 Dec 2018
Occasionally getting achy wrists (especially on fretting hand) made me think about the importance of warming up and also having good posture while playing. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, time to make a note of it, as it’s very important.
Warm up: I used to warm up on the guitar by doing some scales, but it’s important to warm up even before getting to the guitar. I put this together as my own routine, it’s what works for me, it takes 6 minutes. There are lots of websites with stretching exercises out there.
1) Rub palms of hands (as you do when you’re cold) for about 20 secs – this is also how we start our Capoeira warm up 🙂
2) Hand clasped, wrist twists, 10 rotations each side
3) Open wide and close hands into a fist, using full wrist motion, slowly 10x
4) Finger stretch (at the base) x2
5) Tip of finger stretch x2
6) Grab hand and stretch wrist downward. Hold for 20sec
7) Pray stretch up & down hold 10 sec
8) Laced fingers stretch front & back hold 10 sec
9) Tricep stretch hold 10 sec each side
10) Shake arms to make them loose, massage hands.
I like to give my hands/wrists self massages whenever they are idle, to keep them supple and injury free.
22 Dec 2018
On the 18th of December I finished Classical Guitar Essentials Pt. 2 on Udemy (Hani Gamal) and will start the intermediate in the new year. Just need a bit of time to practice what I learned in the course and also do some of the exercises on Giuliani’s 120+
04 May 2019
I’m practising the songs on my playlist regularly, but I narrowed it down to songs that cover what I think I need to practice more, for example: barred chords (currently I only do two Bm, F#m) – so this list will vary, depending on what I’m currently working on. I can sing and play along to these songs too. Shame my voice is just meh. But it’s ok, I’m not singing in public.
Regular Practice playlist
I finished Udemy Hani Gamal Classical Guitar Essentials – Intermediate Part 1 on 30 Jan.
I’m currently more than half way through Hani Gamal Intermediate Guitar Part 2 – this is equivalent to Grade 2. I’m going to need to settle down here for a while to work on my speed. Pieces I memorised and practice all the time:
Canario – Carlo Calvi (LCM Grade 2)
Is there anybody out there – Pink Floyd
Greensleeves (LCM Grade 1)
Waltz – Ferdinando Carulli
Scene from Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky (LCM Grade 1)
Malaguena (Traditional Spanish)
Andantino – Mateo Carcassi
On top of that I go over previous pieces I don’t know off by heart, about once a week, to practice music reading. Also I go through various scales.
14 May 2019
Still going through Hani Gamal Intermediate Guitar Part 2 as it requires a lot of practice. I’m in the final section but I’ll be here for a month I think, just learning/practicing the pieces.
Something about backing tracks and scales from National Guitar Academy popped up on my Facebook feed yesterday. So I started with the G Major scale yesterday, played along to this then today I did Em (basically the same a G) and played along to this . It’s 16 minutes long, but I got so lost in the music and ended playing Em scale all over the neck, without even thinking in the end (had to think at first). I felt amazing when I finished. I’m going to go do it again. I observed that scales are better played with a pick, for me anyway, seem to go faster using a pick. I did try both.
So, little note Em scale E F# G A B C D E(W H W W H W W) and some theory on scales and keys…
17 May 2019
Toque de Iuna on guitar -> A Bm7 E (or any 1st 2nd 5th combinations, i.e. C D G)
08 October 2019
Currently going through Classical Guitar Essentials Advanced Pt. 1 with Hani Gamal on Udemy.
Still regularly practising my usual songs, plus some new ones (Macy Gray, I try. Tom Petty, Face in the crowd and it’s allright for now) – the list has 58 songs at the moment.
But the exciting news is that I wanted to get a keyboard for my gd to play on, being as guitar is perhaps too hard for 3 year-olds. Got a “Casio CTK-6200 Full Size Piano Style Keyboard” about 3 weeks ago (18 September) and have been playing some of the classical songs I play on the guitar on the keyboard. Slowly :D. My favourite is ‘Is there anybody out there’ by Pink Floyd. On ‘The Wall’ it’s played on the guitar. I used MuseScore 3 to put the notes into a music sheet, as I only had a guitar tab for it. It’s not 100%, but it sounds ok when it’s played via MuseScore, except the jumps and repeats I can’t quite get them right…
15 November 2019
Almost finished Classical Guitar Essentials Advanced Pt. 1 with Hani Gamal on Udemy. Taking it slow, as it’s getting harder at this level. Especially barred chords, which I’ve been practising a little bit every day.
I recorded some of the songs I practice regularly this month. Here they are:
08 May 2020
UK has been in lockdown for like seems forever (March 23rd)… I actually have had less time to practice, as my grand daughter is staying here, but I’ve started Hani Gamal’s Classical Guitar Essentials Advanced Part 2 on the 18th of April – this, in theory, should take me up to Grade IV LCM, but I’m not taking the exam.
Blackbird is my new obsession song, when I’ve practised for longer I’ll record it. Meanwhile, I recorded this video, where I only made one mistake towards the end (can you spot it?). I still play this one regularly as I love it so much.
18 May 2020
Blackbird: still needs work but here’s the first recording of it which I’m reasonably satisfied with. In case I die or never play guitar again or whatever, at least there’s one recording of me playing it! 😉 So it’s taken me, let’s see, I first found it and started learning it on Jan 7th 2020. I play it for about 5 minutes most days. So, about 4 months to play it like this…
And here, 6 months later in November 2020 – I usually play it along the original these days and been working on singing it at the same time (it’s hard!)
20 June 2020
Finished Hani Gamal Advanced Guitar Part 2 Certificate (LCM Grade IV). Coincidentally, Blackbird was part of the repertoire! (slightly different version), as well as Game Of Thrones and Joy by JS Bach.
26 July 2020
Been concentrating on barre chord progressions found on the songs I play regularly for the last week or so, spending about 5-10 mins a day…
This is one of the most beautiful songs every written about friendships… This is a simplified version, easy to play and sing along to. It’s a bit rough, couple of mistakes and off key moments, but it is what it is. If I wait for the perfect take I’ll never record anything.
I set myself a mega challenge of learning Pixinguinha’s Carinhoso. They day I can play that song smoothly will be the day I’ll say I can play the guitar.
16 December 2020
Finished Hani Gamal Advanced Guitar Advanced Pro Certificate (LCM Grade V). A little sad but also feeling good! It’s been 23 months since I started this series of courses!
I absolutely love the songs on this final chapter of the series:
Lagrima – Francisco Tarrega
Allegro Op.40 No. 6 – Mauro Giuliani
Romance – Anonymous
And I’m going to finish sharing this version of Romance, which, well, see for yourself. We were told to go watch a few people play it, as it’s one of the most famous & quintessential classical guitar songs and very much open to interpretation. I only started learning it today, wonder how long before I can play it reasonably well, if ever! It’s been quite interesting to see how I started playing chords and wanting to play pop/rock songs and then ended up falling in love with classical guitar! I barely touch the acoustic guitar these days.
Also, I got this ErgoPlay guitar support because using the footstool was aggravating my hip and wasn’t that comfortable either. With this I can keep my legs on a normal sitting position. I got used to it very quickly as well, so I recommend it.
And here’s my guitar practice schedule. I don’t always follow it, for example right now I’m spending most of my time practicing Lagrima, Allegro and Romance. But it’s a useful guide and summary of what I know and what I should be working on.
19 March 2022
Hani Gamal has added extra courses and I’ve been slowing getting A guide to master classical guitar part I. This has Grade 6 theory and pieces and it’s a big jump from previous course, in terms of difficulty.
The other reason it’s been a slow thing is that I’ve been learning the keyboard since January and I’m obsessed! I’m using Simply Piano/Piano Maestro and it’s so much fun! The gamefication of the keyboard learning really works for me. I originally got it for my grand daughter but it was me who got sucked in! She’s also learning but she doesn’t practice as much as I do – BUT she can ready basic music so it has already been useful. I love music so much!
Hani Gamal has gone up in the world and has a brand new website: https://www.classicalguitaressentials.com/
I learned so much from his courses so I’m recommending his wholeheartedly.
Videos of me playing guitar. Just like Capoeira, recording yourself is very useful. As well as being something your kids/grandkids can be inspired or embarrassed of one day 😀