I mentioned last week my experiment that I created to improve my guitar playing by making a leap in my Picado technique (picking with my fingers). I wanted to give you an update particularly because I realized I've already some valuable insights to share with you that can help you with your own guitar learning process.
Just to give you a recap of what I've done, I made a 10-week commitment to practicing a number of exercises that I've chosen every day to help me improve the technique of Picasso, which is playing melodies with my index and middle fingers. This is a technique that is well known to flamenco guitar players. I've actually measured my starting speed and has set a goal to double that speed in 10 weeks. I'm really not concerned whether or not my speed is double but rather that I complete all 10 weeks and make significant improvement.
The Agony And The Ecstasy
As much as this experiment is to help me improve my own technique when playing guitar, I wanted to also put myself in a similar learning position to you. I find it very valuable to be in the midst of the action myself when I teach and not just remembering what it was like.
One thing I have come to realize is how much alive I feel when struggling with something that stretches me beyond my current abilities. Even though there's certainly a part of me that wants to take it easy there is nothing that makes me feel more human than experiencing the agony and the ecstasy of challenging my own limitations.
I know as a beginner it's hard to see how much of a blessing it is to be in the stage that you are. I'm telling you from someone who is both looking back and has chosen to continue moving forward that you never want to really get to where you know everything. It really is the journey that makes life an incredible adventure.
Frustration And Self Doubt
That said, I am experiencing both frustration and self-doubt. My initial progress was impressive. In the first week, I made leaps and bounds from where I started out, but then my progress began to plateau. Then I found after a few weeks it seems like I went backwards. I found it a real challenge just to get to where I was the week before.
I've also encountered a number of roadblocks so to speak. I want to share with you how I dealt with some of these roadblocks. I'm hoping it will provide some inspiration for you as well as possibly some solutions for issues you might be dealing with or come across in the future.
No Worthy Journey Is Without Difficulties
The first one is I keep breaking my fingernails. This was never a big problem when I wasn't putting a lot of attention and pressure on my two fingers. In the past when I broke a nail I would just resort to my pick until the nail grew back. Now because I want to make progress with this particular technique I have to do something about my fingernails.
My solution was to go to the nail parlor and have someone repair my nails using a type of resin. It's working so far though I have to go about every 10 days.
Another roadblock which I'm sure everyone can relate to is time. I committed to practicing quite a bit of time on just technique and I'm finding many things are getting in the way. There's no single magical answer for this issue and it will always come up when I try to make progress beyond my normal comfort zone. One way I deal with it is by making a small amount of time Sunday evening to recommit to how much I'm going to practice during the week and actually scheduling it into my calendar. Even though I know it's not going to be perfect I have a better chance of getting the time if it's actually on my calendar.
Big Difference Between Fall Down And Stay Down
I also have learned not to beat myself up when I “fall off the horse”. I get back on the horse and just take it from where I am. I know sometimes this is easier said than done.
I want you to know that I'm not going to give up. Every one of you who is watching my weekly updates is now also my practice partner. I'm committing to you that I'm not going to quit because I'm doing it not only for myself but also for you my students as well.
I'll keep you posted.
Here's a few other roadblocks I encountered and my current ways of dealing with them:
Sore Finger Muscles
I'm no spring chicken anymore. When practicing for speed I find my muscles get sore more easily than when I was younger. I developed a finger stretching routine that helps me a lot and you might find valuable also. Here's a short video of my finger stretching routine.
This has been an ongoing problem for many years ans can be a significant obstacle to playing guitar. I do manage it by doing yoga, regular massage and watching my posture.
I've also found an incline bench is a real help for me. I use it first thing in the morning for two minutes and sometimes later in the day if my back still sore. I don't know if it works for everybody and if you're back has some serious problems such as a herniated disc you might want to check with your doctor first.
I'd love to hear your comments – what roadblocks have you overcome?
What I'd like to hear is not just what your roadblocks are, but rather what solutions have you found to work through them. This is an important distinction. Please do not write a list of all the problems and struggled you're having with learning guitar.
Take a few moments and tell everyone who reads this blog what you found to help you get to your roadblocks. If you can't think of anything right now I encourage you to spend some time and think this out. Maybe others can give you some ideas as well. This is something that can benefit everyone here.
Thanks for being with me in this virtual space on Sunday. I look forward to our next time together. Bye for now
BTW – I found this unit on Amazon here
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We would love to hear your comments and questions. What specific things are you struggling with while learning guitar?