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Copyright 2007 Christina M. Guerrero

Late fall 2007

Concert update:
Paid for one: Phil Collins. Superb sound.
Saw one for free: !!! SCORED!!! Free tickets to Maroon5!!!

I'm guilty of playing with the cute little guitar amplifier. Over and over. And over. Now I'm sorry for wanting to kick the guitar store clerk in the butt.

Mid-fall 2007

I decided since I couldn't have him, I'd get the electric guitar and the cute little amp.

It was a lousy plan, and an equally lousy substitute. The guitar is small, flat and angular, and nothing at all like him. And it certainly doesn't have his smile.

For about a week, maybe a week and a half, I didn't go anywhere near the guitar or the amp. I even thought about taking everything back to the store.

But what my spirit refused to focus on, my body did. My hands picked up the instrument, tuned it to the best of my ability, and started practicing.

By the time my spirit had returned to me (I pilfered that quote from the Bible, and am shamelessly using it ), I had achieved some proficiency on the electric guitar, and no longer felt like getting rid of it.

I may write a song about him some day called "Your Smile." It will be about the day he showed up, clean-shaven, happy, and perhaps present only to flirt with the lovely woman nearby. As usual, I was invisible. The other woman was quite visible to him. He smiled ... and the world brightened with colors and light.

Not sure how to translate that into music, but I'm learning ... slowly.


Concert update: Paid for one: classic rock.

Yet another musician was very kind to me. Of course, that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and more than willing to support him by buying his music and attending his concerts as my schedule and budget permit.

As for practice, lately I have to fit it in around life changes, work, caring for my child, other responsibilities, etc., etc. After just a few more pages in the acoustic guitar primer, I'll be ready for an intermediate primer, and, hopefully, that electric guitar from that enthusiastic clerk at the guitar store.


Regarding "Januaryish 2007" from earlier in the blog: It's called alternate picking, not up-and-down strokes. The reason a guitarist should master these movements: for better control over the strings. After six more months of regular practice, I have to admit ... I've been converted. Alternate picking was difficult at first, but now it's a fun challenge.


I talked to a musician whose performances I enjoy on a regular basis. He didn't play any games or pretend he didn't understand what I was saying or try to change the subject. I asked him a question about music, and he was more than happy to answer my questions, and even volunteered information. That was sweet. I wanted to talk to the person who appeared to be his band leader, but chickened out. However, I had more questions for the second guy, so e-mailed him. He responded the same way -- answered, and then offered extra information. Very nice people. I'll continue to support them.


Friggin' blues chords.


Disappointment drives me.

I pointed out "Take 5" to someone who claimed to be a musician. She gave me a blank stare and said something like, "Huh?"

"'Take 5'," I repeated. "You know. It's a famous jazz tune. Been around forever. It's in five-four time. Has five beats in each measure. You know ... Dave Brubeck."


I stopped talking and waited, hoping to hear something like, "Oh. Sorry. Never of it." Or perhaps, "Oh yeah! I knew the tune, but not the title!" Or, "Go to hell."

I wasn't even worth the "hell" comment. She just stared at me as if I might have morphed into a bright purple stegosaurus. Then she gave me this this odd patronizing look -- as if I might have wasted the last minute and a half of her life.

That was odd and disappointing.

Then, with a different alleged musician, I mentioned the possibility of getting together to talk about music.

He seemed fine with that.

And then, a few weeks later, he started joking about the reason I wanted to get together. Did it have something to do with dating? He seemed to like this idea Uh. NO! I said. Music. M-U-S-I-C. I want to talk about MUSIC.

Of course, I was dealing with a couple of game players. Not sure why they thought the games were more important than intelligent, in-depth conversations about music, but to each his own, as they say. If that's what enhances their lives and makes them feel good ....


Concert update: Paid for one: A nice little gathering of blues musicians.

I went out to buy some guitar picks, and ended up holding an electric guitar for the second time in a year. This time, it was fun. The first time, I didn't like the sound; with the second guitar, everything felt and sounded awesome.

As I played various scales, notes and tiny portions of songs, the salesman kept talking to me as he adjusted the amplifier.

"... and if you turn this knob, you get this effect," he said.

"Cool," I said as I attempted to play part of "Wildwood Flower," a song in my guitar primer that I'm trying to master--

He changed something on the amp and said, "And if you turn this knob ...."

"Thanks," I said as I tried to play the same part of "Wildwood Flower"--

He did it again.

"Thanks," I said, a bit more testily--

And he did it again. And again. At one point, he bent over so he could adjust something else. I wanted to kick his ass really hard, but figured I might be doing a lot of business with him, so held my peace and my foot ... just barely.

"And if you turn this knob," he said happily.

I played as quickly and as accurately as possible, desperate to hear more than a few measures on an electric guitar hooked up to an amplifier that was making me sound like a rock star. I managed to play something that sounded like deedledeedledeedledeedledeedle before the salesman started up again, "And this knob ...."

I wanted to have a screamin' shoutin' rootin' temper tantrum. THAT'S IT, I almost screamed. I decided to think seriously about buying the guitar and the amplifier.

And if I get both, I'm going to play that mother at full volume for as long as I want, when I want.


Concert update: Paid for one: Eric Clapton/Robert Cray

I was at Clapton's concert and guess what I saw when the camera focused on his right hand? Perfect up and down strokes. Wonderful. Do I seriously have to do that? I'm getting closer and closer to the alternate picking exercises, and skip ahead once in a while and attempt the movements, but it's difficult.

All of this is giving me a deep respect for professional musicians.

Also - I've decided to change my treatment of musicians who hang out along promenades and at fairs and places like that. I usually put $1 into their little containers but I'm thinking of upping it to $2 or $3. I admire anyone who even gets THAT far. There are talented street performers out there.


Concert update: None since late 2006.

I was at work, doing what I love to do: newspapers ... journalism ... when I suddenly thought, "I'd rather be practicing my guitar ... so I can develop enough proficiency ... so I can start auditioning ... so I can join a band and give back to the world by performing music that people can sing along with and dance to, whatever the size of the venue. If I had enough experience, I could walk onto a stage right now, and be perfectly content."

I've had that thought before, and it was nothing unusual before. Previously, within a few minutes, other thoughts have forced me to think rationally about music as a profession: money needed to buy and maintain instruments, recording gear, etc.; the amount of practice involved before becoming proficient, which is still considerable; working a night shift on a regular basis,whether going solo or performing with a group; the logistics of preparing for life on the road whether in-state, along the coasts or nationwide; and, quite frankly, feeling the goal of being a professional musician is more appropriate for a teenaged boy.

But this time those thoughts surfaced then vanished quickly and I was left feeling much as I did many years ago at age twelve when I firmly decided I wanted to go into journalism -- and did.

There's also the fact that hours are passing as they used to when I first started learning music. The practice sessions are less like practice, and more like learning experiences. The ostensibly tedious exercises are leading to dexterity and proficiency and a confidence that I never quite felt as a teenager and young adult while practicing.

Also, I checked out one of those books again -- a giant collection of 70s hits -- and played around with it for about a week, attempting the sheet music from cover to cover. I'm getting better, I must say, especially at "Oye Como Va." That stuff isn't yet a formal part of practice, so I just mess with it after the real lessons. I'd love to be able to play one of those long complicated Clapton or SRV or Santana guitar songs with the solos. I'm also observing a lot of musicians and reading about them.

It's an interesting transition -- perhaps mental preparation for what may lie ahead. We'll see what happens, eh?

Januaryish 2007

Concert update: None since late 2006.

So I was going through my warmup exercises and I got to the one where I have to strike the strings with up-and-down strokes AKA alternate picking. Precisely up and down. I can use my fingers or I can use a pick. I prefer a pick.

So I was doing my best, but screwing up, and then wondered, "Is this really necessary?" I flipped through the book to the last few exercises, which included the alternate picking instructions. I couldn't believe it: the first stroke needs to be down; the next needs to be up, and so on, etc. It seems pointless and difficult. Why not hit the strings in a way that feels good? It's hard enough to form the chords and hit the notes in sequence. Whatever.

So with that in mind, I went about life: working, taking care of bills, exercising, watching my daughter act like a classic-rock-obsessed hippie and wondering what happened to the girly girl she was at age eight ... and watching my concert DVDs.

So I was watching Stevie Ray Vaughan live in Montreux, Switzerland -- well, live in Montreux, Switzerland on DVD -- and happened to look at his right hand. Yep ... looked like he was using perfect up and down strokes.

So ... this other time I was watching Neal Schon live in Houston on DVD; Neal Schon live in concert about fifty miles from where I live; Neal Schon live in Las Vegas on DVD; Neal Schon on various music videos and live performances on Journey's Greatest Hits DVD ... and guess what he was doing with his right hand ... despite the fact that his fingers move at the speed of light ... on crack.

Neal Schon uses perfect up and down strokes.

Well, so what? I don't wanna use up and down strokes. I'm gonna go have a temper tantrum now. Bye.