Before the weekend, I spent most of my non-working in Andrew's apartment sitting on his couch and messing around with my guitar. I made the (obvious, now) discovery that sliding hand shapes up and down the guitar transposes the chords therein, recalled that these were called barre chords, and went about trying to come up with a few based on the hand shapes I know for playing the few songs I've gotten down so far. I haven't checked it against lists of common barre chords yet, and I don't know what chord I'm playing (C? G? F#?) on what part of the neck, and I don't care yet - right now I am having fun, and learning how to learn things in Ways Other Than Reading Analytically.

While searching for a Sibelius-to-lilypond plugin for DJ (and our band, SuperCap), I found both a plugin (not tested; I don't yet grok lilypond) and a series of guitar studies/etudes from circa 1900 by A. Eggers, currently being transcribed into lilypond. I am extremely tempted. However, I haven't yet learned how to sightread sheet music on the guitar - I've been doing tabs, so while I can read music fluently and sightread on the piano very well, I'm not sure what notes are where for the guitar, nor how to figure out the fingering while sightreading when it isn't tabs (which string do I play on, what finger do I use, etc). So perhaps that's something more to work on; I should actually learn the chords and theory behind the songs I'm playing.

Not only have I learned (and memorized!) "Shoot the Moon" tabs on guitar - I finished that a little while ago - I'm almost through arranging it for fingerstyle guitar, which turns out to be my favorite style of playing. I'm very proud of myself, particularly since I figured it all out by ear. Now I need to learn some sort of tablature program so I can transcribe my first piece of guitar sheet music. Win! Also, I found this old post on special effects (not all that old) while searching for that reference. Mmm, stories and CG geekery.

But back on topic: I'm really liking the guitar. Portable instruments for TEH WINZ! I think my summer travels will be spent with two pieces of luggage: my little rolling yellow carry-on (in which I will place my backpack) and my guitar. At some point, I may consider making an acoustic guitar pickup because I like listening to blues and jazz guitar and it's difficult to imitate the sound with just acoustic-fu. However, it may be better to get a contact pickup instead.

I don't know anything about guitar equipment; I just have my guitar (which has a strap) and capo. I don't even own a tuner or a music stand or a pick (the history and variety of picks is boggling, by the way). I think getting a pickup should be a reward towards some milestone I want to work towards - perhaps recording all the exercises from A Modern Method For Guitar, Volume 1. The "recording" part would be to learn how to record and also to keep myself accountable via some sort of deliverable. I considered lessons (online, since I'm traveling a lot) but concluded that (1) I'm still at the stage where the ability to be spontaneous and inconsistent is important to my motivation, and (2) whoa classes are expensive. So... yay, self-study!

Stuff I can play from memory (equivalent to the list of "stuff I can play in general" in order of learning them):

  • Blackbird (Beatles)
  • Diamonds and Rust (Joan Baez)
  • Geile Zeit (Juli)
  • Green Eyes (Coldplay)
  • In My Life (Beatles)
  • Don't Know Why (Norah Jones)
  • Virginia Moon (Foo Fighters)
  • Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Green Day)
  • Shoot The Moon (Norah Jones)

Some of these are more impressive than others; for instance, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" consists of 5 chords (and I can only play the chords, I haven't done a fingerstyle arrangement yet), but the pull-offs and bends for "Diamonds and Rust" took a long time to nail, and I had to rearrange the fingering for "Shoot the Moon" a few times to convert between "I can imitate the guitar accompaniment to be played with a hypothetical nonexistent singer!" to "this is the only instrument going and now has to take the melody and bass lines too!" fingerstyle.

I've also given up on songs; I abandoned "Change the World" (Eric Clapton) partway through because it just doesn't sound as cool without the full orchestral backing, and wimped out on "Stop This Train" (John Mayer) because I can't grok the fingerpicking pattern for the life of me. I am surprised I haven't learned any James Taylor songs yet - but I'm having trouble finding fingerstyle arrangements for his stuff (and I can't sing, so the original arrangements don't work so well). I still want to learn this particular "Wish You Were Here" fingerstyle arrangement. So nice. But ridiculous compared to my current skill level (see the tab? yeah).

Then again, I do enjoy me a bit of masochism, particularly when it comes to learning stuff, so... we shall see.

I think that I will always love the piano, and consider it my primary instrument still - but it's just not pragmatic to study it seriously when I can't regularly access a keyboard. When I got back to Boston a few weeks ago from over a month on the road
never having touched a piano in the meantime, I sat down and played
scales and they were horrendous. Fingering was off, slow, sloppy, everything. Even if I kept up my mental sharpness, the muscles in my fingers turn to mush without the regular conditioning, and I can't make my hands play what my brain is thinking. Maybe when I go to grad school and can't travel so much due to classes for a year, I'll take it up again - I'll have a stronger grounding in theory and improvisation by then due to Happy Fun Times With Guitar.

And so in the meantime - I think I've turned (slowly and slightly unexpectedly) into a guitar player. Not a good one yet, but... learning!