August 25, 2011

Awesome and awful year so far

This has been a really strange year so far. I hadn't blogged about it, but my oldest sister Merls was diagnosed with breast cancer a few weeks after our mom died. She had a lumpectomy and is going to have radiation and Femara, so her prognosis is very good.
This means both of my sisters are breast cancer survivors, which is scary. I can't do anything about it except go to get screened every year (and I do and am clear) and just keep doing the things that make me happy.
Crossfit keeps improving my boating. Now that sounds like a trivial thing in the midst of the subject of cancer, but it is completely relevant. It is one of the reasons this year has been awesome at the same time it has been extremely sad and painful.
I am boating better this year than I ever have. Thank you crossfit.
Middle Fork of the Salmon was the best trip I've ever taken, ever. ever ever. ;-)
Week of Rivers was awesome as usual. Wish I lived closer to some folks...
I'm going skiing in Utah this December.
And I'm tinkering with violin.
I suppose the message here if there is any, is to keep busy doing the things you love, and find new things to love as well.

August 6, 2011

Quick post on guitar stuff

If you play by ear (like me) and need to work on memorizing the fretboard (like me) and you want to improve your soloing on guitar (like me), and improve your chord knowledge (like me), get a ukulele.

A ukulele forces you to make chords out of, at the most, four notes. This simplifies the chord shapes in your mind. You start to see the patterns of, for instance, the relation of the other notes near the note you are playing on the C string (on guitar this would be the G string) and then, when you are back on guitar, the pattern is there. I'm telling you, for me, starting to play ukulele provided a real boost in my soloing and my chords.

Another thing that will help your soloing is to be mindful of your hand positions. If you are making an extreme movement to get to a note, well, you're getting out of position and you are going to hit a wrong note. Everybody learns how to play a scale vertically - without moving your hand up the neck. Start practicing scales in the pattern of two strings, slide up a fret, all the way up the scale, maintaining your hand position. If you start your major scale from the first note, then the second, and so forth, you will be covering all of the modes.

Finally, if you can get your paws on a copy of The Alchemical Guitarist vol 1 DVD, which consists of lessons by Richard Lloyd, which originally came with Guitar World magazine as a column, you will find a wealth of information that will be helpful to you in ways that no other guitar instruction I've come across has possessed. I didn't see it for sale on Guitar World's site, though vol 2 is there (I just ordered it this morning), nor on Richard's site. Perhaps if enough people requested it it would be put on sale again.
I cannot stress enough how much Richard's lessons have helped my playing. There is an example lesson on youtube, how long it will be up there I don't know. When I first watched this lesson I had to rewatch it about 20 times to understand what he was saying, and then it was like a light bulb went off in my head. Here it is: sample lesson from Richard