Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Various Goings-on

Aside from being the first week of March (or, actually, because it's the first week of March), this week is notable because:

It marks one year since I left my last "real" job to embark on a career as a full-time dad and to bump my writing career (which previously had been just odd jobs, for the most part) up into gear. I'm now 12 chapters into my novel, I've written a draft of one short story (just for the heck of it) and am nearly done with the first draft of another. I aim to complete draft one of that second story today.

This week also marks nine months since I started playing the guitar. And just like that, I discovered this week that I suddenly no longer suck. No, that's not true. I still suck rather badly. I've been trying to attend a meeting of The Guitar League since December, but each month I've missed it up until now. Monday night I made it for the first time.

The League is a neat idea. It's a two-hour monthly meeting of guitarists of all skill levels. They meet at the Vineyard Church in Lakeland, NY (off Rt 690 west of Syracuse) which has a huge hall where the church has their services. Evidently music is a big part of their service, so they have a stage up front and a decent sound-system (from what little I know of sound systems). The church also has smaller rooms, which are used during the second hour's breakout sessions. These are divided up by skill level and feather an experienced guitarist leading an hour-long session on some guitar technique or style of music. The whole thing costs $5, or you can get an annual membership for $50 which entitles you to unspecified discounts (by which I mean that they weren't specified to me at the membership desk. I'm sure somebody knows what they are).

In perhaps the very first time that social networking has benefited me in any meaningful way, I actually discovered this organization through a link on a past co-worker's LinkedIn page. Yay for social networking finally being useful, I suppose.

Monday night's meeting was a mixed bag. I can't honestly say what I learned there, assuming I learned anything at all. The main act was pretty decent, though, so if nothing else I got to listen to an hour-long show by a group of professional musicians for five bucks. That's an okay deal in my book and worth going back for. The headliners were The Flyin' Column, an Irish trio who were quite good and demonstrated what 20-30+ years as professional musicians can do for you. They were clearly long-time members of the League (or as long-time as you can be with a 5 year old organization) and they took time between numbers to offer helpful guidance to the attendees on everything from stage presence to song arrangements to band dynamics.

There was also a fellow who was up on stage playing when I arrived as sort of an "opening act" keeping folks entertained until the meeting formally started. He was also excellent, though I missed his name.

The break-out session was less successful. I was a bit too far away from the group leader and he went a little too fast for me to clearly understand all of his instructions. As such, when the rest of the 30 people in the room were strumming away, I was just leaning on my instrument. His lesson, what I grasped of it (which was about 80% I'd say - there was always just one instruction I didn't catch), was good, but it wasn't anything Jim hadn't already taught me.

The League's having their big 5th anniversary bash in April and I'm not buying an advance ticket, so I'll probably skip that meeting. I'll head back in May, probably, and see how the instructional part goes. Meanwhile, I'm busy fighting with the B-minor chord, the first time we've used a real barre-chord in a piece of music. Specifically, we're using it in John Denver's "Sunshine on my Shoulders." My pointer finger doesn't seem to be long enough to cover all the strings and my other fingers find it impossible to get themselves into the correct position on the other strings. I suppose I'll get it at some point. Surprisingly, my "Dust in the Wind" intro continues to sound more and more like actual music, as unlikely as that may seem. Maybe by the time I get all the way to the 1-year mark, I'll be set.

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