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Getting Started




My first thought, for several days now, had been to start a thread in the Guitar Open Talk Forum and name it "Ning's Diary." Having found there is a place for blogs here it seems that it is a more appropriate venue to do what I have in mind … so I'm here rather than there.

Since the beginning of the year I've been finding that activities I was quite willing to spend all my free time doing any one of, one after another, have lost any interest for me.  With the list of activities of interest to me becoming every shorter I found myself thinking, time and again, that perhaps I should once again pickup guitar … and so I have.

I'm unsure now how long ago it was before thinking made the transition to doing (let's say it was six weeks ago) … not that I actually picked up one of my guitars but rather I started putting everything together.  So much to do, I found myself frequently thinking it would have been easier starting over with nothing than rummaging around the house trying to find all the guitar related media that had gotten scattered around the house mixed in with (or literally buried under) media from other interests, woodworking, stargazing, chess, then assessing its value and coming to a decision about which I wanted to make use of, get a count on my guitars, check what condition they were in, make some additions to the spreadsheet where I keep track of the changes I make to my guitars, find my guitar tool box, get the practice area setup and ready for use, ponder how I wanted to go about getting started, find all the files on my computer I had amassed while being a L&MG student 5 or 6 years ago,  agonizing over whether or not my interest in guitar was sufficient to justify giving in to an attack of Guitar Acquisition Syndrome, refreshing my memory as to the internet sites I liked to visit (which had the unexpected benefit of making me aware that there was once again an active forum for Learn and Master Guitar) … this went on for about a month.

During this time I was conscious that my actions, though guitar related, was time that would have been better spent at practice, but that finally changed with a New Guitar Day.  The arrival of an Epiphone Casino Coupe, my first hollow bodied guitar.  I have an Epiphone SG and back in the 70s I had purchased an Epiphone dreadnought but neither had left me with the impression that Epiphone was company one should expect great things from.  The Casino Coupe has changed that, in Cherry Red it is a beautiful instrument and I believe it to be just a wonderful guitar to play.  Out of the box, tuned up, I took and logged measurements for relief, action and string height at the nut.  A small adjustment (~0.005") could be made to the relief, if anything the action is low but since the strings don't buzz I can find no reason to bothering with raising the saddle, the low E could stand to have its nut slot filed, and the intonation is as perfect as a Snark 2 Tuner can measure. I'll wait a couple weeks, remeasure and make a decision about what should be changed.  The Coupe has been quite the educational experience as I'd never experienced feedback before.  So the Stratocaster was sent to its case and the Coupe took its place in the practice area.

Having finally cleared all the preparatory considerations, that had been distracting me, I was ready to start.  However, I am deeply aware that at my age (approaching 70), that even the slightest injury could cause an unwanted and lengthy delay, I resolved not to give in to any desire to practice as much as I might like to.  So the first priority went to callus building and doing it carefully.  My current daily practice (perhaps totaling as much as 30 min a day) occurs in several brief segments.  First, some fingering of the first string to stimulate callus growth on the tips of all four fingers.  I made some effort to find, via the internet, information about stimulating callus growth but apparently no individual with this knowledge has every contributed what they know to the discussion.  So I made what I think was the intelligent thing to do, avoid practicing so much that I damage the fingertips thus avoiding the necessity to heal when the energy being used to do so would be better directed to growing calluses.  Second, practice a few chord changes, particularly E, D and A (fingered 213) along with the occasional C, G, G7, Em, D7, whatever I remembered.  At this point my first finger lets me know its had as much as is likely good for it.  Third, resume what I was doing from the beginning while active in L&MG, bar chord practice, in particular the single shape progression found in the arrangement of (Sittin' On) "The Dock of the Bay" in Hal Leonard's "'60s Pop" Easy Rhythm Guitar. And fourth, pick up the bass and play a few bars on the low E string from Hal Leonard's "Bass Tab Method."  Though my primary objective is callus growth I do not neglect paying attention to form and timing.  Amazingly, after just three days I can run each thumb over the fingertips of its corresponding hand and tell that there is a noticeable, albeit slight, difference in the fingertips of the fretting hand compared to those of the strumming hand.  It would seem I'm accomplishing my first goal … get the calluses grown and ready for practice.




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Hi Ning,

Growing calluses has never been a goal on its own for me. I even dislike thick calluses on my fingertips, as they can cause unwanted string noise when changing chords.

I would suggest to just focus on the L&M course materials and exercises, and the calluses will come automatically.


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