In Retrospect of Guitar Month

Okay, so the sideways looks I was getting from people when I said I was going to teach myself guitar in one month were well warranted.  I’m not a guitar god.  I didn’t learn a full song.  I can’t quite “rock out” the way I had envisioned.  So, I decided to break down guitar month into two months, the latter to be used at a future time.  This month was all about guitar fundamentals… procuring said guitar and figuring it out took a bit longer than anticipated.  The next guitar month will be about learning a song.  Maybe by then, I will pay for the ability to post videos on this site… but probably not.  I’m trying to save money.  Hey, wait a minute.  That’s a good idea…

Practice – Chord Changes

Apparently the hardest part for beginners is changing between chords.  I can assure you, this rumor is correct.  The callused fingers are nothing compared to trying to get your left hand moving quick enough to catch up to your right hand.  Justin guitar has an exercise called One Minute Change where you set a timer for one minute and see how many times you can go between two chords.  The goal is to switch chords 60 times in 60 seconds.  This takes time and practice to get to; most people start with about 15 changes in a minute.

I start off with D and A, set the timer on my phone and start counting.  It doesn’t sound quite as pretty, but I get through 29 changes in a minute.  Nice for the first try!  I switch to D and E and then E and A and get through a similar amount of changes.  Now I can switch between chords!  Now it’s time to learn a song… but wait!  It’s almost the end of the month!!  Nooooooo!

Practice – Anchor Fingers

So, I really haven’t been spending as much time as I should practicing chords and moving through the beginner program at, but have I mentioned I’m trying to buy a house, and I worked 6 days this week, and I’m very busy and important??  Oh.  I’ve mentioned that already?  Well, it’s true. 🙂

Today, I took 15 minutes out of my aforementioned very busy schedule to learn anchor fingers.  If you keep your first finger on the string, it’s easier to move your other finger to their positions when you change chords.  I practice the 3 chords I know while keeping my first finger down instead of picking all my fingers up and trying to find the right strings again.  It does make it much easier.

Practice – The A Chord

Alright, so Justin says you should be practicing 15 minutes a day, every day.  Well, I know I have 15 minutes a day and it should totally be easy… but I’m a busy girl… and I like the snooze button.

So, today ran in the Shamrock Run 5k in downtown Portland.  My girlfriends and I dressed up in tutus and knee high socks and ran on the Columbia Sportswear team.  There were so many people!  It way mayhem.  We finished in about 45 minutes and went to get our celebratory Saint Patrick’s Day free beer. We waited in line to get into the beer tent for about 10 minutes, only to realize that all the people in the beer tent were in line to get beer!  Another 1500 people stood in front of us and sweet victory.  Obviously free beer tastes better than beer you pay for.  Der.  But after calculating how much a free beer is actually worth… x > time/hungriness… carry the 1… fuck it.  Let’s go to Genie’s.  Bacon infused Bloody Mary’s, eggs benedict, and Stumptown coffee wins every time.  Sunday brunch > everything!

So, after a brief appointment with my real estate agent, a much needed couch nap, and a Girls marathon with Katie… I learned the A Chord.  Wahoo!  It looks like this:



Practice – The D Chord

The first chord taught in the beginner course of is the D Chord.  Pretty easy.  Looks like this.



Oh yeah, I know how to read that!  The line on the left represents the string on the top, going all the way down to the string on the right, which would be the one on the bottom.  The “X” at the top of the picture means you do not hit that string when strumming.  The “O” at the top means you strum it as an open string.  Then you place your fingers on the fret where the black dots are.  Now you know the D Chord, too!  You can strum it together, and then pic all the strings individually to make sure they are all clear.

Practicing is Easy!

So, I started watching the beginner section of all these Justin Guitar videos (  Took me a few to realize that these first videos don’t really need to have your guitar in front of you.  So, I took my iphone and headphones to get a pedicure and watched the rest while I ignored the girl next to me giggling annoyingly as if every touch of her foot was too ticklish to bare.

Step 2 – Practice

Okay, I got the guitar.  It’s tuned to the appropriate notes.  I even have a pick to play with.  Now what?

Seriously.  What do I do next?

A friend recommends a website:

There’s a bunch of short videos for beginners.  Guitar anatomy, body posture, how to read chords, getting in tune, etc.  It’s all hosted by a professional teacher who has over 500 hours of guitar lesson videos.  It’s completely free and based on donations.  Amazing!

Step 1 (Continued) – Buy Guitar Accoutrements

Apparently there is a lot of extra stuff you need when you want to play guitar.  Apparently hair barrettes don’t make appropriate picks.  Also, guitars that are in tune sound better.  This is all news to me.

So, I find a local music shop and ask for help.  He shows me a crazy awesome electronic tuner with an amazing display that costs $30.  I say that’s a bit expensive, so he shows me the same option with a less amazing display that’s only $15.  It clips on the head of the guitar and analyzes the frequency of vibrations.  Super easy to use. I take that and a bag of medium thickness Fender picks.


Step 1 – Buy a Guitar

Is there a better place to get cheap  stuff and have a weird experience than Craigslist?  I don’t think so.  Did a very limited amount of research about beginner guitars before I found one I liked.  It’s a mahogany wood Washburn D100.  Some dude was selling a brand new one for $85 with a case.  After a few emails, he asked to meet in his neighborhood at a place I had never heard of called John’s Market.  I say cool; John’s Market seems like an upscale, natural food store.  On the way there, I pass a bunch of cool, safe-looking places like cafes and hip restaurants before finally arriving at John’s Market.  It’s a shady liquor store.  Like the type of shady liquor store where you have to leave your backpacks and purses at the counter.  The type of shady liquor store where a white girl should not pull money out of the ATM.  A shady liquor store with an unlit loose gravel parking lot.

So I find myself here, alone, in this unlit parking lot with a pocket full of money.  As the sun begins to go down, I wonder how the hell I am going to look at this guitar, which I know nothing about.  How should it sound?  How should it look? What the fuck am I doing here.  Why didn’t I just go to a store?  Against my better judgement, I walk up to his red Grand Prix (as previously discussed in our emails (should have been my first clue.))  I am completely relieved to see a young, smallish college student who is probably just looking to get beer money.  I pretend like I know what I’m talking about for about 60 seconds before I blow through all the guitar knowledge I currently possess.  I’m not in the mood to haggle, so I hand over the $85 and run quickly to my car before anyone realizes how out of place I really am.