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February 11, 2008

Stormy Monday Blues

It's Monday. Ugh!

The weekend was a real mixed bag of highs and lows. This blog entry may reflect that somewhat. I'll try to stick to guitar stuff as much as possible, but not exclusively. What sucks is that 'real life' is so incredibly stressful at this time that its influence seeps into everything.

I had my second Guitar Improvers class on Saturday morning at Westminster Adult Education Services. I arrived 15 minutes early, much to my surprise. My brain arrived about half an hour late. My stomach never made it out of bed. I was hung over. Do you ever have those nights, where you're not going to drink but you have to go to a dinner party and you're not even through the door before a cocktail has been shoved in your fist. Next thing you know it's 5 hours later and you're finishing off the last of the brandy because no-one else wants it?

Hung over, but happy. Bloody gorgeous morning. A beautiful Spring day in February. For once climate change was working for the UK.

Covered a lot of ground in class, but the two things that I'll be taking away and working on this week are:

A second extended pentatonic run. The first picture is the one that everyone knows, using the G minor pentatonic in the example... the thing that I need to focus on is changing position at the best time, which is usually by sliding with the index finger as shown

The second run has its first root in the 4th box position on the 5th string.

Again, I need to make sure I focus on the best moment to shift position during practice.

The other thing I'll be working on is both playing chords and also noodling around them to add interest to songs.

I think I've settled on Jack Johnson's "Taylor" as the song I'll learn for the end of term. "Teach" wanted to know whether I'll be singing it as well as playing. I said no. No, no, no, no... NO!!!

"Teach" had to cut out early this week, so I coerced one of my co-learners into going for a coffee after class. He's obviously the best of the other players and it turned out that he plays piano, does sequencing etc in addition to learning guitar. It was very cool to swap musical perspectives with someone who knew what they were talking about... at least as much as I do!

At around 1pm I dropped Blackie back home and headed into town. Ran some errands, grabbed a latte from Cafe Nero on Old Compton Street and parked myself on a bench in Soho Square with a copy of February's "Acoustic Guitar" magazine. As I sat there, basking in the glorious sunshine I made a pact with myself that over the summer months I'll bring the guitar with me on such trips and jam. Looking around I saw that a couple of other folk had already had the same idea, which gave me heart.

Saturday night was a low spot. No details offered. Relationship stuff. The sun rose on another beautiful spring-like morning and Sunday was a brand new, better day.

Sunday didn't really start until lunch, which was a full roast dinner at the local pub, washed down with a couple of pints of Stella. I hadn't eaten since lunchtime on Saturday and even the small amount of alcohol in the beer laid me out. I'd planned on taking Blackie into the churchyard next to the loft to practice under the trees. Instead I wound up flat out on the couch, watching the "Classic Albums" DVDs that I bought recently, occasionally jamming along. All the shows were okay, but the stand out for me was probably Cream's "Disraeli Gears", which was a bit of a Ginger Baker love-fest, but included interviews with Eric Clapton in which he talked about how he'd taken inspiration from old blues songs, straightened out the shuffle rhythms and then just played them loud.

The show that was probably the most disappointing was the one about U2's "The Joshua Tree". I'm not a U2 fan, but I respect the impact they had. I just couldn't get my head around how simple some of the stuff they played was. I mean, The Edge was showing how one rhythm track was just him strumming an open D chord then lifting his finger off the high E making a kind of A sus chord (I think). Repeat ad nauseam. Hit song! I mean, it made that bing-bong-bing-bong "Chasing Cars" song by Snow Patrol look complicated!


(that's an envious growl, by the way, not a dismissive one!)

As I rode the train to work this morning I couldn't help but think back on the events of the weekend. As I did, the following idea for a lyric popped into my head. Thought I'd better write it down before I forgot it.

How many times
Will we reach the end
Turn around
Look back again
Down the path
We came along
Smile inside
And carry on

You know, sometimes you listen to a song and it hits you right where you're at and you get this overwhelming feeling of emotional resonance, like the artist is singing directly at you, about your life. I get that all the time, but it has never happened to me in reverse before. I've never been feeling a certain way and been hit by lyrical inspiration. Okay, so we're not talking great art here, but it's a start...

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