‘When your music comes out, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to the world in it’s own spiritual journey’ – Adien Fazmail
Today I am celebrating my one month guitar anniversary, yaaayy!
My friend and teacher asked me to keep a journal and, obedient as I am, I did. Because today it is one month ago that I bought my guitar, I figured today is the perfect day to post it. And we finally have some sun here in Bali after days of rain which makes me want to get naked and throw all my cards on the table. So here it is my beautiful and sometimes frustrating journey. Please be gentle with me, I am showing some vulnerability here..
Two months ago I found a temporary home in the wonderful Ubud, Bali, where music is a big part of our lives. I got inspired by all the amazing musicians I’ve met here. Beside the joy I get from all the jamming going on here every day, I also got confronted with my lack of creativity. I am realizing I’ve put too much energy in my studies and jobs instead of my creativity. Beside that I am very good in bringing myself down when I start something new. I can’t stand the insecure feeling it gives me, it makes me feel so stupid. I used to say to myself that I am not creative and I don’t have rhythm, but I do! And I have come to realize from the heart, that feeling stupid for a while makes you less stupid in the end. And what you feed will grow no matter what it is. My friend said everyone with a heartbeat has inner rhythms, sometimes you just have to find them. When I met my now dear friend here in Ubud, she asked me if I play, I said I didn’t. She said “I am sure you do but you just don’t know it yet.” That really touched me. Here in Ubud I started to say that I don’t know how to sing instead of I can’t sing. I know I wasn’t born with music in my blood like some of the people I meet but that does not mean I can’t learn to play it. I won’t be a musical genius and I don’t want to, I just want enjoy the magic of creating music.
“I am sure you play music but you just don’t know it yet”
So I decided to stick around for a while in Ubud and asked my friend to help me buy a guitar. I was a bit nervous about it, I was exited but nervous. The tension I felt was about the fact that I was not able to play it. So I’m buying a guitar and I can’t even play it to see if which one is right for me. I felt awkward and uncomfortable, ashamed actually. I was lucky to have my wonderful friends joining me for some mental support for this stupid mindfuck and especially to play the guitars to find the one I like. They ended up jamming with each other in the music store and I got my guitar. I got myself a smaller size because I have to take it with me on my travels but she is lovely.
So there I am with my guitar..
The next day when I was in my room, I had no idea what to do with it. So I just sat down on my bed, with my guitar in my arms, just touching it, drumming it, pulling the strings to make some noises. This is going to be a long journey but I feel dedicated and motivated!
My friend is a good player and a teacher and he is so nice to help me out. He told me about the notes, the frets and told me to learn the fret board first, so he gave me some exercises to do on paper. So the first week I did a lot of exercises to learn all the notes. He gave me 2 chords of a nirvana song, and told me about the strumming. As insecure as I am when doing something I don’t master, I was trying to avoid playing the chords in his presence. I just wanted to practice it on my own, where no one could hear me. Because I hate the feeling of being insecure so much, I always try to avoid these insecure moments. So I boycott myself every time in learning new things. But as good friends and good teachers do, he pushed me to play. So I had to play it before I could practice alone in my room. I have to say, it was not as bad as I thought, well the playing was really shit of course but I didn’t felt as bad as I thought I would.
I have been practicing every day since I got the guitar. In the first week I played for ten or fifteen minutes until my fingers hurt and my wrist is cramping. Than I did some exercises on paper and play again. Some days I keep doing this for hours, sometimes just 30 minutes. When I am in my room I keep the guitar on the bed, this works for me to remind myself to play. So every time I put it away, a couple of minutes later I want to try again.
At the moment I’m living in a house with a lot of good musicians, and if I play in my room people can hear me because in Bali houses and rooms are pretty open. The first days I got the guitar I was ashamed of it and had some trouble playing it. But after a few days, I suddenly didn’t care that much anymore. Yes, I am learning to play the guitar, yes I suck and you know, I don’t give a fuck. I will work for it!
In the second week my friend gave me 2 other songs to practice, because the one of nirvana was getting complicated with powerchords and stuff, I have no clue of what that means.. So I’ll come back on that one later. My other friend from downstairs, also a very talented guitar player told me about the blues. So he said, if you can play that, you can jam with people and learn much more. So this week, beside my practice on my new coldplay song, I got lost in the blues, playing it and exploring it. The thing I struggle with the most is the transfer from chord to chord and placing my fingers right, not touching the other strings. Sometimes it goes pretty well but other times it doesn’t work out at all. At these moments I feel most insecure, maybe playing music is something you have or you don’t. But then again, I believe I can learn to play it as long as I work hard for it. So that’s what I do, I work the shit out of it. I found my mantra, a line which matches me perfectly. Well a friend gave it to me when I was complaining about the B7 chord, (I did censure it a bit):
“Just get it fucking done bro, don’t complain. Work hard, eat hard and die hard!”
The beginning of week 3, still going strong! Practicing everyday, some times longer than the others but there is not a day I don’t touch my guitar. I am repeating over and over. I always start with some finger gymnastics, just the first 4 frets of all the strings to stretch my fingers and train my movements. Than I start with the songs. I am still trying to memories the notes on the fret board. The transfers go a bit quicker than the first 2 weeks but some transfers are still hard. I have to listen and go with the song in my head, than the transfers go better but when i think about the chords, I get confused. My fingertips don’t really hurt anymore and the skin seems to get thicker. My practices become more fun, so I play longer before I need a break.
At one point I was sitting in my favorite coffee place and I was almost alone. They have all kinds of instruments for use, so I was just talking myself into getting the guitar to practice. I almost was about to do it when people came sitting around me, so I chickened out. But it made me think, if i get the transfers of these chords and I am sure I can do this in a week, I want to bring my guitar and practice wherever I am. It will still suck but it will be good for me to step out of the comfort zone and it gives me the opportunity to practice a lot more during the day. And most important I can learn so much from the people around me!
A lot of times I am really wondering if I will ever be able to play it properly, that seems almost impossible from this point of view. But then again, I know in every learning process you will go step by step forward.
Well, it is week 4 but I didn’t make the goal I set last week. I am not taking my guitar everywhere, I guess I’m not ready yet. Some days I love to play, I really feel like playing and some days I have to push myself to get the guitar. A lot of times, when I start playing, i loose myself in it and enjoy it a lot. This week I started with a new song. I tried to figure out the chords on you-tube and google, listen to the song a lot to try to understand it. My friend gave me the advice to listen en imagine to play the chords, well, that’s a lot harder than it sounds.
What I am experiencing is the fact that with playing music I use a different part of my brain. No logic like i am used to and the part I need for music has not been active and trained for a long time. I can not just switch, it seems to just happen. And I think I am writing it all wrong here, because I know music comes from the soul, so I have to open the gateways to let it trough. I think I can do this by stop thinking, but then again I need the thinking to remember the chords, strumming and rhythm. So this is a contradiction in my head, but I think at some point it will find its balance. I am thankful my soul is open to receive music, now I have to find the way to let it flow back.
I like it to just try things, playing with the chords and rhythms. But what the hard part is, is to keep the rhythm. Beside that I am having trouble with switching the rhythm when I have to in a song. I keep on forgetting what the other rhythm is when I play this rhythm. So I create something in my head to remember myself about the rhythm. For example the way the strumming goes ‘ up up down down down’ so I just do that and a lot of times the rhythm just comes to me.
I went by a friends place, he asked me to play something, so I blocked. But I tried to keep calm, found my peace but I needed to look up the chords and the song to remember the rhythm. It felt so awkward to do this but it was of course good for me to do. I got some good advice from him. He said I should give my eyes to my fingers, try to play without looking. Try to remember the chords based on the sound and feeling, not looking at how I place my fingers but feel this.
“Give your eyes to your fingers”
I talked to another amazing guitarist, who gave me the advice to use a metronome while practicing, so I learn to keep the rhythm from the beginning. So now I even do my finger gymnastics with a metronome. This is why staying in Ubud is the best choice, I have many guitar players around me from who I can learn. The beautiful thing is, everybody wants to help each other. Music is sharing and connecting, I love it!
Two days ago I was practicing at home. The day before a pushed it maybe a bit too far, so when it didn’t really work out this morning I got angry and frustrated about my guitar. I felt so stupid and lost my faith in me ever being able to learn it. I put the guitar away and went to my favorite coffee place . A friend came by to play the guitar. He asked me to play but I didn’t want to because I am too insecure about it and beside that, today me and the guitar don’t get along. But he kinda tricked me in it with his kindness, comforted me and gave me some chords to play, guiding me with his voice. It was actually really fun, another beautiful soul joined in on the drums. It was a new, cool and very scary experience which I wouldn’t have had when my friend didn’t pushed me. He gave me some good advice which I wrote down,yes I write everything down.
Every week I record what I am playing so I can hear my progress and no I am not ready to share that, but I will in the future. For now, enjoy my openness and stay tuned for another update!