This is a tip that I’ve been meaning to share with you for a while. I consider myself pretty computer-savvy, but I didn’t even know about it until my guitar teacher showed me a few years ago.

Every so often I decide to hunt down a new song to learn to play on my guitar. Yesterday it was “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan–I heard it on the radio and thought to myself that it might be a good one to learn to play. Since I’m a sheet-music kinda guy, I found an arrangement on SheetMusicDirect. I always like to have a recording, too, but it wasn’t in my collection.

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I think I got my money’s worth during last night’s guitar lesson. At my previous lesson, Charlie Hall (my guitar teacher) had given me a neat little arrangement of Here Comes the Sun (written by George Harrison) to work on. One of the things I like about Charlie is that he keeps me supplied with interesting music to use for learning and practice, and I had no trouble motivating myself to work on that piece for the past two weeks. I got it down, too, more or less–I never play anything without making a mistake or two, and I could certainly stand some improvement, but I could get through most of it and feel like I was making music.

So I showed up to my guitar lesson yesterday evening, and while I was waiting for my turn with Charlie  I played through the song a couple of times for warmup. No problems there.

Then it was my turn with Charlie.

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I’ve been a guitar owner since about 2003. I’ve been a guitar player since, well, about now.

When I first bought my guitar, I was convinced that I could teach myself to play it. After all, I could already read music. It was just a matter of finding a suitable instruction book and putting in the practice time. I bought the Hal Leonard Guitar Method book and began working my way through. Generally, that book was decent, and I learned the notes on the strings, some chords, and was able to begin playing a few songs. It taught my left hand (the chord-fingering hand) how to play the guitar. But it didn’t really teach my right hand (the strumming and plucking hand) what to do.

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I’ve been taking lessons from Charlie now for over six months, and it’s really been paying off. Charlie introduces me to new concepts and skills at a good pace and provides me with interesting music to learn. All that provides ample motivation to practice my guitar playing every day. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not ready for the coffee house circuit yet, but there’s no question I’ve made significant progress since I began.

My enjoyment of guitar playing has grown right along with my skills–so much so that I’m beginning to seek out more music to play. Not that Charlie doesn’t give me plenty to work on between lessons, but playing for the sheer fun of it is important, too. It’s challenging, though to find guitar music that (a) I’d be able to play (with some practice), and (b) I’d like to play.

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Two lessons ago, Charlie gave me an arrangement of Amazing Grace to practice. To be more precise, I only needed to work on the first half of the arrangement. It wasn’t terribly challenging to get the mechanics down, and by the time I returned for my most recent lesson, I could play Amazing Grace like, well, a mechanic. Charlie gently pointed out that I could stand to work on making the melody stand out over the harmony, which was a good point. I needed to work on playing it like a musician.

Along with some other stuff, Charlie assigned the remainder of Amazing Grace for me to work on for my next lesson. The second half of the arrangement uses a barre chord (F played as a barred E) in a couple of places.

I hate barre chords.

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Charlie’s had me working on Deep River Blues for a few lessons now. It’s a fun song to play–definitely more challenging for me than a straight Travis pattern or arpeggio picking pattern with standard chords like what I’ve been playing up to this point. (If you want to hear me play it, there’s a link to an mp3 at the end of this post.)

The Delmore Brothers wrote and recorded this song as Big River Blues,  and Doc Watson played this version (from YouTube):

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