(re)Learning Guitar

I first learned guitar when I was in high school. I didn’t so much learn guitar as learn that there is a big difference between wanting to be a rock star and wanting to become a rock star, but some of it did stick.

It’s been kind of a love hate thing over the years, as expectations consistently outpaced my devotion to practice, but every so often I’d get back into it with renewed interest, relearn some old licks, maybe a few new ones, and then put the guitar back in the case until next time.

But having kids changes things, and now I’ve got little girls who like to dance and sing – why not learn some folk tunes for them to enjoy? Plus it would be nice to get them more exposure to music.

So I back at the guitar again, and this time it’s been a lot more fruitful. First, when I’m not trying to emulate some guitar hero’s best work the results are more satisfying and easier to come by. Second, I’ve put a lot more time into learning the fundimentals, which has really paid off.

The resources for learning guitar have changed a lot since the last time I did this, and there are some really good ones:

The iPractice iPhone app is good for practicing chord changes. I haven’t messed with using it for scales yet. It has a nice built-in metronome, and is adjustable for speed and number of repeats. I wish I could add my own chord progressions to practice as the library is limited. All the same, it’s a good app.

The Guitar Toolkit app is expensive compared to most iPhone apps, but it is worth every penny. The tuner alone is awesome, but the chord library and metronome make it a must have.

The Skeptical Guitarist books are really, really good. I learned more from them in a few minutes about music in general than I have in any other book I’ve picked up. Bruce’s Christmas song books are also really nice. I wish he’d make a book of simple family entertainment/campfire songs in the same style.

Susan Palmer at LeadCat Press has put out the Guitar Lesson Companion. It’s the prototypical guitar lesson book – that is, it has exercises. While the Skeptical Guitarist goes a great job of explaining things, it doesn’t really have any exercises. It also doesn’t really push you to learn to read music, which Susan’s book does. I’m finding the two complement each other nicely.

Last but not least, the NoteBrainer iPhone app has made learning to read music easier. In fact, I had the trebel clef pretty much nailed within a day or so of playing the app.

Between all of these I’ve made decent progress, and I’m looking forward to carols at Christmas time.

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