January, 2024

Start of the new year seems like a good time to start a new blog about a new hobby, for this is the year I decided to finally properly learn how to play the guitar.

See, I’ve had a bunch of different guitars in my possession for over the past 20 years, from a starter no name archtop to an Epiphone Casino, then a Jag-Stang down to a Squire Strat, but I never really learned how to play any of them. I could do parts of Layla, a few Beatles and Pearl Jam songs, a few various other songs plus a few things I made up of my own, but I never really knew what I was doing…

Now I’m 44 and a proper old man, but rather than the typical mid-life crisis of a divorce and a sports car, I decided to do a blog about learning guitar.

Yes, this is probably leading up to a couple large (for me) mid-life crisis purchases, but rather than just wasting money on gear I still don’t know what to do with I’ve set myself some milestones in order to justify to expenses!

First, the gear: I currently have a red Epiphone Dot that looks like it’s been modified by the previous owner, and a sunburst no name Esquire I bought off eBay for $89 that I modified by replacing the pickup with the Brad Paisley Tele pickup. Both of these purchases, as well as the original Casino, were inspired by my love of Paul McCartney and the Beatles. Paul in particular since I am left handed (hence also the Cobain Jag-Stang) and could not get the hang of doing anything right-handed. I also have a Fender Frontman that a friend gave to me when he outgrew that amp, which I hardly ever plug in to since I’m constantly playing the same riffs over and over and don’t need to broadcast to my poor wife how bad I am with the instrument. Lastly, I have a FuzzFace pedal which I bought to try an learn how to play Paul’s solo from Taxman!

Continuing with the gear for a moment, I mentioned my inspiration being Paul McCartney, but I’m also at the point in my life where I want something that is mine, that I picked out myself and did because I liked it, not because of someone else. So, the first gear purchase I would like to make first is a Fender Strat in Tidepool blue. Why? Cause I like the color, and over the years I’ve decided I like the sound of single-coil pickups best, plus of course the Strat is versatile enough to play everything I want to play! One day I’ll go to Guitar Center and try one out, but not until I can rip off a decent Guitar Center riff!

The second purchase I’m looking to make is a proper amp. I’m thinking a Marshall for that, because again they are the most versatile, and I saw a YouTube video saying they are the best value for my budget…

Now, you must be wondering what exactly is the end goal for all this? Obviously it’s not to join a band—No one wants to be in a band with grandpa who just learned what he’s doing, unless of course they are underage and need someone to get them beer, but honestly it’s just for my own enjoyment. I want to be able to sit down and play along with some blues songs and just lose myself in playing. Everything else I do has some other purpose, like drawing or painting is more work than anything and I don’t do those to relax, but I do want the guitar, and music in general, to be an outlet to relax and just have fun.

So yeah, thank you for checking out this first post! I’ll update the page here as there is more to talk about, a technique I’ve learned or a scale or something that I now understand, or a song I’ve learned from YouTube videos until I can start taking proper lessons!

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

My wife and I were watching music videos on YouTube and came across the all-star version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps where Prince just goes off and plays the hell out of a solo and we both commented about how much we like that song. So, I figured I would go upstairs and try to learn it.

No, not the Prince part!!!

I found a video from a guitar instructor I’ve followed for years, Marty Music, and he broke it down very simply (as I would need it to be) but there was one thing bugging me. There’s this “walk down,” (some descending notes) in the very beginning over an Am chord. For the first note you have to use your pinky, which despite mine being broken I was able to do, then there’s this sort of complicated move to re-form the Am chord with your fingers while you put one finger on a new string. Then, if that wasn’t hard enough, you have to do it again for the final note of the walk down. And, as you could probably infer from this being something that actually has a name, you’re supposed to do it fast.

“Nuts to that” I thought “why not just use my thumb to do the walkdown?”

So I tried it and wouldn’t you know, in the end it was much, much easier. All the same notes played, just a little differently than the instructor was showing how to do it.

Well, I say easier, but this is the first time in my 20 years of putzing around with the guitar I was able to play notes with my thumb! It’s something of an advanced technique to be able to play with your thumb so I was, and am, both surprised and rather proud that I was able to pull it off.

Now, there’s another part of the song where I’ve been playing it with my thumb, cause I’m now something of a guitar god, but I can’t seem to get the transition down to playing the next chord in the sequence, which of course puts me back in my place…

I’ll get it eventually, with practice, it’s just going to take time.

February update!

Sometimes, practice is hard…

Sophie doesn’t always join in, but when she does she really gets in there!

Not much to say in this update, but I didn’t want to go too long without updating the page here. The next update though, we’re in for a treat…

I have been playing around with a couple Eric Clapton songs in my continuing quest to master the Layla album, Bell Bottom Blues and Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, which brings me up to three whole songs from said album that I can play! One of my big hurdles is remembering the chords, then my wife suggested I actually write them down which did seem to help! As always, don’t argue with Moogie…

It also doesn’t help that I get distracted by other songs too. While listening to a Clapton concert on YouTube he played a song I’ve had stuck in my head for days now, I Got the Same Old Blues by J.J. Cale. This one was easy enough to learn, it’s only 4 chords, but it being a new song to me I don’t “know” it yet, ya know? Got to put it on repeat and really let it sink in.

OH! and after years and years of, well, not knowing how the play it all the way through, I’ve finally gotten down The Wind Cries Mary! That’s another big one to cross off the list 😀 Well, I’ve got the chords down, I just need to get down how to Jimi them up… Again it’ll come to me, it’ll just take time…

Change of plans

Remember how in my first post I mentioned the guitar I wanted to get once I could pull off a Guitar Center riff? Well, in doing some late night Googling, I came across what I can only describe as my “dream guitar.” I’ve always wanted one of these (always being since I was I think 14?) but could never imagine even being able to find one, let alone afford it when I did… And forget about finding a left-handed model!!! Even Kurt Cobain, the first person I saw with one of these, had to play a right handed model re-strung for a lefty. So what were the odds that little old me could find a lefty? Did they ever even make a left-handed model???

My search led me to a company called Eastwood Guitars, who makes replicas of hard to find instruments, and they were coming out with a left-handed model Univox High Flier! Not only that, it was even going to be in my preferred white, with a maple neck, literally everything I wanted if I were to design my own High Flier. And best of all, not only was it in my budget, but it was cheaper than the Fender Strat I originally had my eye on! The only issue I could find was, based on some of Eastwood’s social media posts, was that they made a limited number of these instruments. Like seriously limited. Like 12 limited…

So now the only thing to do was convince my wife that I couldn’t wait till my Guitar Center riff materialized.

Thankfully, she’s a very understanding person, and wants me to not miss out on stuff like this, so it was an easy conversation.

And it arrived today! Everyone, meet Jodie

Jodie of course for my childhood crush, Jodie Foster 😉 Think it’s a good name for another childhood crush, don’t you? Plus, I can’t very well call it Moogie, for my current and final crush, cause that would just lead to confusion around the house!!!

After tuning it the first song I played on it was “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” because that is always the song I play when checking if a guitar is in tune, then a brief “The Wind Cries Mary” since I’m so pleased I know what I know of that one. First song I’m going to learn on it? “Cold Rain and Snow” by the Grateful Dead, because while waiting for the guitar to arrive I was listening to a Black Crowes concert on YouTube and they played that song and I really liked it!

Next, I still need a decent amp…

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Now before I get into anything here, I can not play anything by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Yet. I have neither the speed or the rhythm to do so, although I am trying…

My poor wife, who is so supportive, had to listen to me strum the rhythm to “Pride and Joy” for like 2 hours straight the other night, terribly at first, then slightly less terribly by like hour 2. Not even broken up by playing the second chord of the rhythm, just the first bit. Over and over.

It’s still not there, but like I said, I’m trying.

But speed and rhythm seem to be a good description of my deficiencies as a guitarist so far. That, and a poor memory. It takes many repetitions of even the simplest lead lines for me to get it right, then the speed problem comes into play– I just can’t seem to speed up the tempo to play the lead lines so they sound right.

As for rhythm, I just have one. Thankfully it works for most songs, but some that I want to play take two, maybe even three rhythms to make up the whole song! “Got To Get Better In A Little While” by Eric Clapton is a perfect example. The beginning has a quick tempo, then the verse and the chorus have another “regular” tempo. I can play that part fine, but I struggle to play the intro to speed. One day I’ll get it, but it’s been slow going.

Which comes back to Stevie Ray Vaughan. All of his stuff uses a sped up tempo, with quick finger changes to remember and do, and other techniques like muting, basically all the stuff that I struggle with. Some nights when I sit down to practice I’ll go to YouTube and watch one of their lessons on SRV, get discouraged, and go back to just playing the couple of things I know instead of trying. It’s bad, I know, because none of this stuff just comes to you, you have to work at it, but I’m being honest.

But like I said the other night I did try, and eventually it did start to “work,” it just took time. And with more time, it’ll work better and hell, I might even get to the second chord (perish the thought)!!!

I guess this particular blog post is just a reminder to myself that I am not a natural artist with anything (drawing and painting for me is still quite a struggle), so why would guitar be any different?


So, I’m sitting here, speechless, about what just happened.

I was on Reverb the other night looking at gear, cause I’ve found out through this process I’m totally one of “those people,” and I came across a left-handed Martin D-X2E that was on sale. Problem being I just bought Jodie, who I love dearly, but that means my guitar budget has been totally spent for the foreseeable future. But, to get a Martin? An actual Martin???

It was listed as being for sale in Hicksville, a few towns over from my mom on Long Island, so of course mom came to mind. But I couldn’t ask her… Could I???

But I thought what the hell, I’ll give her a call and see what she says.

Turns out, she’s also super-supportive of this “new” hobby, and is glad I will be taking actual lessons soon, so when I asked if this could maybe be my combined birthday and Christmas gifts SHE SAID YES!!!

So, as of this typing (3.12.24), I own an actual Martin!!! I’ll post a pic when it arrives but yeah, for now, I’ll just continue to sit here in shock that I actually will have a Martin.

But, what to name her…

Meet Louise

Everyone, this is Louise! Named after my mom (her middle name anyway), it seemed fitting since of course my mom got her for me 😀

She arrived on Thursday, then was set up by our new friends at Piano’s ‘N Stuff over the weekend, and I just got her back home today Monday! First thing I played on her was of course “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” and she was perfectly in tune, then a few blues riffs I could remember. Then, well, she went back in the case so I could get some work work done today! After work though, it’s on!!!

I know this is a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how much different everything sounds on an acoustic. The sound just resonates and projects so much better than it does with my unplugged electrics. Unfortunately that also means you can very clearly hear my mistakes!!! You can be so much “sloppier” practicing on an unplugged electric than you otherwise can be– It’s all a learning process, and today I learned I really need to plug in when practicing if I hope to improve.

Leave it to mom, or mom’s namesake, to teach me a new thing right away!!!

Lesson #1

Just had my first guitar lesson! It’s actually been a Bryce-filled weekend having hung out at Dan’s birthday party on Saturday, then we saw his band Small Hours play on Sunday, and now Monday our first lesson…

It started with a little show and tell, where I first showed him a song I know, which of course had to be “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” since it’s not only one of the few things I know all the way through, it’s got a few different chords in it. I then told him what I wanted to concentrate on, learning the blues, and we were off to the races!

Next, he made me sing!!!

That’s right, me.

I guess it was to see if I could keep time by singing, so I played and sang Driftin’ Blues, the Eric Clapton version of the old blues standard I had been working on learning through YouTube videos. I did my best to not choke, and made it through one verse which was enough for everyone to see where I needed work!

Next we worked on a couple scales, the major scale and the blues scale, both in the E position, practicing my fingerpicking along the way too– Thumb for the top three strings, and pointer and middle for the bottom three. This also was new for me, fingerpicking correctly, so it’s gonna take a little time to get it under my fingers. Also had never played the major scale before either– more to learn!

Oh, and I was introduced to my new friend, the metronome. At points I was playing too fast for it, but as with everything it’ll get better with some practice. Will download one to play along with tomorrow for my practice session after work!

Lastly, I must confess, I painted myself in a corner I don’t think I can get out of.

I’m so, so embarrassed to sing. I can’t believe I was able to do what little I did today, and in that delirium I made the mistake of telling Moogie that I sung. This was game on for her, now DEMANDING that I sing for her.

For our entire relationship I have not sung a single note for fear of her leaving me, and now as I said I’ve painted myself in the corner of “well, you sang for him, so…” I’ve bought myself some time, saying I need to re-learn Driftin’ Blues correctly, but not much time– I’ve got to show some improvement for my next lesson next week, so she’ll be waiting…

If the next update is posted from my new home on a park bench, you’ll know what happened.

She’s Leaving Home

I just sang to Megan!!! And, best of all, she’s not leaving me, despite what the title of this blog post says 😉

Today was lesson #2 with Bryce where we concentrated on Driftin’ Blues again, working on timing and song structure. Turns out, I was practicing it with an extra bar in it (a 13-bar blues if you will) so we corrected that, and worked on the turnaround (where I was adding the extra bar) as well. Then there was more singing, where I confessed about the painted corner situation. Bryce, sweet guy that he is, said my voice wasn’t bad and that I just needed to not clip myself off and allow the voice to ring out (basically, sing with more confidence), so I tried that with our next couple goes with the song and yeah, I felt better about it. Still not gonna just randomly belt out a tune like Moogie does all the time, but I felt confident enough to promise her a version of the song sometime tonight.

That time came when we had finished dinner and had to wash the dishes. She said she would do the pans if I sang her a tune right now, so I went in the other room, grabbed my guitar, and knocked out probably the best version of Driftin’ Blues I’ve done so far!!! Bryce will be proud…

And again, best of all Megan has promised not to leave me, which I take as a good sign!

Bryce is on tour next week in the Portland area so no lessons then, but he’s given me extra homework to practice the A blues scale and start noodling around with that so when he gets back we can try and jazz up Driftin’ Blues with some riffs!


Lesson #3 started with another run through of Driftin’ Blues where Bryce said I’ve pretty much got it and we can move on to something else. I told him in the couple weeks we were off I had started messing around with the acoustic Layla, but I never practiced singing it so there’s no way I’m doing that 😛 Bryce said this was a good song to take a deep dive into so we’re going to continue with Layla for the next little bit!

After our lesson Bryce then invited me to a concert/recital for some of his students, so I went and damn if it wasn’t the cutest thing!!! Watching the little kids stretch their little fingers to hit the right notes on the piano or later guitar was just so fun, and Bryce invited me to perform at the next on in the fall!

Will take lot of practice, and potentially a lot of drinking, for me to sing in front of a room of people…

You’ve got me on my knees

Lesson #4 included singing… I knew this was coming so I practiced it the best I could, and did my best not to embarrass myself in front of Bryce. He gave me a couple tips to make singing a little easier (posture is a bit thing, apparently, and I was sitting “like a guitarist”) which I used to belt out Layla as best I could next time around. Bryce said it sounded alright and was perfect for my vocal range so yeah, think with these Clapton songs I’ve hit on the right stuff to focus on. I also wasn’t playing it too badly, having watched a few Clapton videos and making some changes to better match how he’s playing it live since last week. Still have a little ways to go with the playing, and of course a chasm to cross with the singing, but Bryce was very encouraging so I’ll keep going!!!

Then, while writing out my assignments for the next 2 weeks (he’s away with Buffalo Rose on a writing retreat next week!), we decided on writing down some concrete goals to aim for with my playing. This actually was the first time since I really started concentrating on guitar that I thought about goals past “getting good enough to play along with some blues songs” or whatever I said at the beginning… Now that I’m 6 months into it, I feel like I have a better grasp of what I actually want to do!

Goal #1 was to get proficient at playing and singing Layla.

Yeah, you read that right, playing and singing. Working with Bryce has really like confirmed that playing and singing is where it’s at really, and with this one song at least seems a reachable goal for me, so why not try?!?!

Goal #2 is to get better at soloing.

This was of course an original goal, getting to play along with songs on my own, so seemed a good time to put it in writing.

Goal #3 is to pick a third song to work on.

Still have a long way to go with Layla, but why not look ahead some and pick another song to work on after it.

So, to work on goals 1 and 2, my homework for this week and next while he’s away is to come up with an introduction to Layla. Clapton always plays a little noodling around/intro, so I’m going to sit down with the blues scale and see if I can’t come up with something that works for me. I have an idea where I want it to go, so we’ll see how it goes!!!