Strumming the right notes!

Guitar Workshops with Most Entertaining …

I’ve always had an interest in music but only recently returned to the idea of playing and instrument. I learned cello during primary school and part of secondary school but gave it up as I lacked enthusiasm and interest in classical music. That was some six years ago. As I’ve matured, my love of music across the spectrum has grown; filling my music library with artists such as The Wailing Wailers, Neil Young, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Miles Davis and most recently Lynrd Skynrd. I’ve wanted to find out about all kinds of music and it seemed that one of the ways of increasing my understanding and appreciation would be to learn guitar.

Learning the guitar, for me, was a very spontaneous decision. I borrowed a guitar after seeing the magnificent Blues/Folk guitarist, Chris Smithersat the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh. I was so impressed by his effortless finger picking style. I wondered if watching a few beginner guitar videos on Youtube would be a good place to start teaching myself.  It was tempting because it was free!! Struggling to bend my fingers into seemingly impossible positions, I persevered for about a week…

Strum…strum…strum… change chord. Argh! It all seemed so hard. I decided I needed more than virtual help. I then heard about Most Entertaining guitar workshops. I have to admit, what first caught my attention was having access to a tutor without having to pay £30 an hour for a one-to-one lesson. So, one week after picking up the guitar, I turned up at the first session to find a very friendly group of people at a variety of skill levels. The class is led by Chris Day, who immediately put me at ease.

The first week we learned the chords for ‘I Feel Fine’ (The Beatles) followed by a finger relaxing Metallica riff that gave the two hour session a good mix. I spent the next week practicing the two pieces of material, attempting to speed up chord changes and improving pitch. I’m happy to say that I found it really fun to practice, fitting it in when I had a few free minutes or when bored, slowly but steadily learning chords and songs.

In the weeks since, I have learned several new songs, including my suggestion, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ (David Bowie). The group has been a great propellant for me as an aspiring novice. I look forward to completing the course, buying my first guitar and signing up for next term.

Art Farmer, 18 years old – will be performing with the rest of the guitar group and vocal group at their gig (FREE to the public) on 12th June, Circus – St Mary’s Street, Edinburgh from 7pm.

The Thorny Subject of Practice

Part 2    The Thorny Subject of Practice

The thorny subject of practice has been on my mind lately. I know I should practise playing my trumpet, little and often. I know that I’ll regret not practising when the time comes round for my next lesson. And not practising makes my goal of playing in an orchestra one day even further away.Just like exercise, we make excuses not to practise even though we know we’ll feel better after we’ve done it.

Recently, I haven’t been practising at all because my daughter has been in hospital. At times like those, playing the trumpet is the last thing on your mind! But usually, it’s the little things that get in the way.  Ironing, work, school, homework, shopping, life, chocolate…

But once those things are sorted, it’s all about finding the right time. The neighbours have to be out, obviously. Those you live with have to be out so they don’t complain about the awful noise and generally get in the way. You have to be feeling in the right mood for practice, too – positive and motivated to improve; not too tired or stressed. You have to find a quiet place where you can set up the music stand, get ready, think about what you’re going to play.

To me, choosing the ‘what you’re going to play’ is the best bit. Buzzing, scales, the higher register – I know I need to work on those. But the fun part at the end is what I really want to get to. Will it be ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘William Tell’? ‘The Wombling Song’ or ‘Theme from Beethoven’s Ninth’?

I think I’ll just have a cup of tea while I decide!