2 weeks experience, need some tips!

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ConnorMiller
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Posts: 1
Joined: January 10th, 2015, 6:51 pm

2 weeks experience, need some tips!

Post by ConnorMiller » January 10th, 2015, 7:20 pm

Hey guys.
I got an acoustic guitar about 2 weeks ago and have been playing a couple of hours on and off every other day or so. This involves watching YouTube videos, playing chords, reading tabs, just learning the basics since I've never played before.
After getting the hang of playing simple chords and playing the intros of a few songs, I've noticed a couple of issues that I can't seem to shake.
One, my strumming seems weird. I don't find strumming hard and it's fairly easy to get rhythm, but I occasionally find it hard to strum up and down, as if the strings are stuck in place.
After looking at what I was doing, I've noticed it's usually when one of my fingers accidentally mutes the string under it. However, even then, it seems unusually tougher to strum when either having the strings muted (i/e. power chords) or even when I'm even playing a chord as simple as the G chord. Is this normal?
Second, I seem to strum too hard. I've been practicing going a little gentler, but whenever I go gentler I find that I completely miss the strings on occasion. I either strike air or hit one or two strings if I'm lucky, and whenever I go back to my normal tough strumming, I occasionally find myself hacking at the strings. How can I go about strumming a little gentler?
Lastly, I can't play the G chord at all. My finger on the first string keeps muting the string underneath it, and it's especially prevalent when playing the G chord. It's probably the hardest chord I've been trying to learn these past two weeks. Are there any tips out there on how to improve playing chords?
Anyways, I'll include some audio files of me playing (poorly).
If you can spot anything sounding off/unnatural, or even if you just think you might have some tips/criticisms based on the recording, please share. I'm open to everything.
Thanks guys!

Wonderwall intro (poorly played) : http://bit.ly/1DwZvCR

Time of Your Life intro : http://bit.ly/1BO5jFQ

llamaslider
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Posts: 6
Joined: December 28th, 2014, 7:28 pm

Re: 2 weeks experience, need some tips!

Post by llamaslider » January 28th, 2015, 6:32 pm

Hi Connor,

When learning to play any piece, start slow and deliberate and then gradually increase your speed until you reach the piece's groove tempo. It is also important to have optimal ergonometrics - where the guitar is placed and how your hands are being placed on it. Some positions make guitar playing more difficult while others, the optimal ones, make playing as easy as possible based on your experience.

You might want to try a thinner more flexible pick as they are a bit more forgiving.

Although I can't tell from the recordings what chords you are playing, for some chords, playing all 6 strings is not optimal. For example, when playing a D chord and looking at how it is shown to be played with a string graph,
Image
the 6th string, the bass E, has an X above it because E is not in a D major chord (which contains D F# A notes). So that errant note (the E) when played in a D chord will muddy the sound.

Next, some strumming patterns include some of the strings when strumming down and some of the strings when strumming up and while these groups of strings may not be identical, they may or may not share common strings. On more complicated pieces these nuances are difficult for a beginner to have an awareness of much less the experience/skill to play them correctly. Not bad, not good, just is. A good example of semi-complicated strum is the song, All fall Down, by Shawn Colvin -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_haTCEwpXk
This song has a strum pattern that is slightly tricky because the strum pattern and string use varies in different parts of the verses and from one verse to the next - plus - she uses an alternate tuning.

Next, the closer you get to the saddle when you strum, the strings are more resistant to being strummed and the strummed sound will be brighter, conversely, the more you strum towards the neck, the more flexible and not-bright the sound will become. And between these two extremes is strumming over the sound hole which will give you the most volume - all strums being equal.

Next, if you are resting the neck in the crook of your hand between your thumb and index finger while you are trying to make chords with it, you may not be providing enough clearance while depressing your strings causing others to be muted. And, this positioning error may also place your fingers such that while some are pressing in the middle area between frets, other string depressions may be further away causing an under pressure making the strings buzz.

Try to position the guitar in a place where you aren't using your chord hand to hold the guitar. A strap is useful for this. If you use one it can be adjusted improperly making the guitar harder to play. With no strap, you might need to put your foot on something, I use my case when I don't use a strap. By resting the guitar on your knee puts it high enough. With the guitar properly supported you will be able to position your thumb more under the neck and give your fingers more room to work the fretboard.

Next, since you are a beginner, I'd recommend extra light strings as they are easier on your fingers to make chords with, AND make sure that your guitar has a setup where the height of the nut groove bottoms and saddle top along with the truss rod adjustment are all working together so that your instrument is set up to be as easy to play as possible.

I know that this sounds like a lot of stuff and it is, but putting all this together should obviate about 60% of your frustration. The other 40% of the frustration lies in the pieces you choose to play based on their degree of difficulty and how easily you are frustrated otherwise.

As far as the degree of difficulty - the first piece I ever took on took me a year and a half to learn how to play and another year to be able to sing and play it at the same time. I was driven - perhaps you are too and to this I'll tell you to try learning some easier stuff while you are learning the stuff you're driven about. You can alternate your practice time back and forth between easy and hard. You might also try some fingerstyle which will develop the muscles in you strumming hand to help give it the ability to accomplish more complicated strumming patterns.

Finally, I think Shawn's song title is germane here, we all fall down. The implied and unspoken point here is to get back up and keep on keeping on.

Best regards,
Steve

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