Welcome to a new Monday post with 3 random thoughts on all things guitar, music, and life. It’s a Christmas special today, featuring thoughts on the ghost of Christmas present, the Grinch’s gig, and more…
#1 – The Ghost of Christmas Present
Last week, I talked about the tale of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Today, let’s talk about the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Transporting ourselves back to Victorian England, this spectral guide will shed light on your current musical journey and where you stand with your guitar playing.
In the spirit of Dickensian introspection, let’s think about the following:
- Where do you find yourself in your guitar-playing journey at this very moment?
- What aspects of playing bring you the most joy, and which ones present the greatest challenges?
- Can you honestly say you remain fully focused and “present” during your practice sessions?
Reflecting on these questions allows you to gain a better understanding of your musical present – much like the lessons Ebenezer Scrooge learns about his life in A Christmas Carol.
It’s not uncommon for individuals to lack clarity on their guitar-learning goals.
So many navigate their practice sessions without complete focus, neglecting the importance of being wholly in the moment.
Achieving musical proficiency requires an acute awareness of where you stand and a clear vision of your daily practice objectives.
So, embrace the present moment during your practice and, before you pick up your guitar to play, try to define your practice objectives with clarity.
It all helps. Do this and even Tiny Tim would be impressed.
#2 – The Grinch Has Got a Gig
The Grinch called last night.
He doesn’t want to ruin Christmas anymore.
Instead, he wants to put on a concert for everyone. He needs advice though. He wants to play something impressive. What should he do?
I told him he should play for his own joy first and foremost, but if you ever want to impress others, do something that impresses you.
If it impresses you, you’ll likely find others love it too.
Often, this means playing simple music that is recognisable and which sounds great to your ears.
A scale isn’t going to impress the Grinch’s audience, just like it won’t impress the family on Christmas day.
If anyone asks you to play guitar over the holidays, what would you do?
You might tell them “No,” as you casually kick back with a glass of mulled wine.
If so, that is great yet if you do want to play for others this Christmas, get prepared in advance and practise your best piece.
Above all, remember, people love to hear simple melodies that they recognise! This means things such as famous guitar riffs, the 12-bar blues shuffle, a well-known fingerstyle melody version of a Christmas carol, etc.
Those all work great!
Good luck Grinchy and to you too!
#3 – Barre chords are coming to town
Speaking of impressive, there’s one thing that impresses students of the guitar.
It’s the ability to play barre chords.
The benefits of mastering them are vast.
Yet a lot of guitarists really struggle with barre chords for a whole variety of reasons.
One is simple.
It’s the way they practise barre chords.
My way of teaching barre chords is about precision before power.
Forcing the issue is so common.
Many try to fret the shape, pick the notes, and keep squeezing for dear life with the fretting hand.
And then they keep picking the notes over and over again.
…But when you do this, your fretting hand just aches more and more. Your fingers get more and more sore.
So, one thing you should do each time you play a barre chord is:
- Do not hold the shape with pressure for more than a few seconds.
- Get the fingers in a good position without adding pressure.
- Adjust them so they are in an ultra-precise position.
- Add just enough pressure.
- Pluck the strings to check the notes.
- …And relax.
Don’t keep trying to squeeze your barre chords like Santa holding on to his reins for dear life while battling through a wild snowstorm this Christmas.
Many of you know this already but may need a little reminder.
For some, it will be something new to ponder.
Either way, for the next 24 hours, as part of the “Danta Claus is Coming to Town” sale, you can get my barre chords course with a hearty discount.
Have a great day and I hope you’re enjoying the festive build-up!
P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming, and learning guitar more enjoyable (especially if you are over 40) join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE.