Sunday, 21 July 2013


One of the things I have been doing with my time is trying to learn some new skills to keep my brain active. One of these skills was learning to play guitar. I took guitar in grade 9 for the few weeks in music class that involves learning an instrument but for some strange reason (*ahem* public school's lack of interest in the arts), I never really learned anything. So I thought will all my free time it was time to learn again, and by 'again' I mean learn the first time. 

Enter Coursea. I had heard about their online courses but I never thought about actually doing one until now. I signed up myself and my partner for the 6 weeks "Introduction to Guitar" course. So I dug out my clipboard and some looseleaf, dusted off the guitar we had under the bed, and prepared become the next Gordon Lightfoot (the female version, Gordena Lightfoot). 

Week one and two were quite basic, 'get to know your guitar' and 'how to tune a guitar'. I breezed through it and thought maybe I had learned something in high school after all. Then came week three. The homework involved actually playing the guitar (shocking I know) and upload your playing for peer-review. This was terrifying. I played the same three scales over and over again with the metronome as instructed until I wanted to smash the guitar into the floor (I can only imagine the curses the downstairs neighbour was sending my way). My fingers developed crazy blisters and I became focused on cutting off all my fingernails on my right hand. I actually got pretty good feedback from the assignment. The main complaint was to turn down the metronome as the reviewers couldn't really hear the guitar. Oops.

Week four was about learning basic chords and the theory behind all of the chords. I was following the instructor until he then started lecturing on music theory. He went on and on about tuning your guitar for the group you are playing with and how you can find each note on the guitar and make chords accordingly. I was beyond lost at this point in the theory but I carried on with the practical part and played the chords that were assigned for homework. Really, who needs to know the theory anyway. I just want to be able to play some Dylan. 

Week five was a huge jump in the level of difficulty. That was the moment where I basically gave up on the course. I took one look at the homework and said 'well, that was a good run'. To be fair, I did practice the basic scales that were assigned but I could not play a bar chord that did not sound like death of a hundred animals. For those who do not know the guitar, a 'bar chord' is a chord where you have to dislocate the bones in your fingers in order to be able to maneuver them into place while maintaining iron-man strength in your index finger to hold down the entire row of strings. All while strumming in perfect rhythm. And you figure since you basically broke your fingers playing the chord, maybe you could hold it for a beat or two but no, you must quickly move onto the next note. I couldn't even bring myself to upload anything for peer review because everything sounded like a cat playing the guitar. Not even a cute cat. A cat that has been outside its entire life and has sworn revenge on the eardrums of humans everywhere.

I struggled onto week six and was surprised to see that the homework was a bit easier. It was still too advanced for me but there were only two bar chords in the final song we had to learn instead of being every single chord. Thankfully week six fell on the week when I left for Newfoundland so I did the online quiz and then left the province.

So what did I actually learn? Well, not much. However, it was something that was fun for my partner and I to do together (until week five) and it did force me to learn some new guitar chords. I think the trick to learning the guitar is mostly persistence and practice so any motivation to do so is beneficial. That said, I have not touched the guitar since returning from Newfoundland so I don't think I'll be headlining Massey Hall anytime soon.

Garden Update: The first pea!

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