A Weekend Retreat

A wonderful, creative weekend!

As many of you are aware, last weekend I was at a guitar workshop for the entire time.  Even though I have only been playing for about 3 1/2 years, I wanted to see what the experience of focusing on guitar playing for an entire weekend would bring.  It was truly enjoyable, as well as educational!

The weekend started on Friday, as the five students gathered at a wonderful location near the coast of Massachusetts in Essex; after a wonderful dinner (the chef did a great job all weekend), we gathered for some informal jamming, playing an assortment of classics ranging from Tom Petty (what a loss) to the Beatles.  This was a great way to start and Janet, our teacher, talked about her plans for the weekend.

Early Autumn

On Saturday, after a jog and breakfast, we started on songwriting skills with an excellent variety of exercises to get our minds engaged and open to writing lyrics.  With a bit of time spent on song structure and the narrative of songs, we created some rather interesting songs by writing a line at a time and passing the task on to the next person in line; this underscored the benefit of clarity in getting the idea across in each line.

The second part of the morning, included an exercise in co-writing, which was highly enjoyable.  In this exercise we first wrote the lyrics, after which we worked on the melody; melody is best worked on without the guitar by singing the song in an effort to find what sounds good.  Once we had the basic melody, we worked on the chords that would support the melody.  A great exercise, and even though our song is not likely to be a hit, I felt pretty good about my first song, and really excellent about the process and interaction.

In the afternoon, we focused on performance skills, which was in preparation for open mike in the evening.  Set structure, audience interaction, how to start that first song in your set and others were the topics of this session.  The level of this session was likely to be a bit too advanced for where I am in my guitar development, but still had a lot of valuable learning in it.

On Sunday, after another light jog and breakfast, we started on voice maintenance and development; as I’m one of those people who were told that they couldn’t sing as a kid (and told to mouth the words), this was very interesting and probably most useful of all sessions.  This led us to singing harmonies and playing together as an ensemble, in which we played different voicings on our guitar to create a more interesting palette within a song.  After a number of exercises, and lunch, we took what we learned to play and sing a number of songs together.  My favorite among these is Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Helplessly Hoping, in which our harmonies came together pretty nicely!

All in all, this was a great weekend!  If anything, I would have liked to have worked more on guitar playing skills, which is something that I will look at more closely with any future workshops.

Sunday Time – Circle Game

Seasons go round and round

On this nice relaxing Sunday, I’m working on getting ready for my first public guitar performance, which is coming up this Thursday.  It’s not a solo, so there’s definitely some safety in numbers, as there will be a fair number of us guitarists.  We’re doing two songs: We’re Going to be Friends by the White Stripes and Circle Game by Joni Mitchell.

There’s still quite a bit of work to be done to get it to the level that I want my performance to be at, but I have plenty of practice time available, as I’ve taken the rest of the year off.

Cupcake Delight

These little circles will definitely keep me in the mood to keep practicing!

With these little snacks it’s time to get back to this beautiful song.  Here’s a great cover that I found:

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Sunday Morning – Vincent

Starry, starry night!

It’s a beautiful morning this Sunday, as we’re enjoying a long weekend in the United States with Labor Day giving us Monday off.  This morning is starting with watching the Italian Grand Prix at Monza for breakfast, and then doing a bit of yard work before tomorrow’s expected rainfall; as Hermine makes her way up the Atlantic coast and depsites a bit of leftovers in New England.

After all that, I will focus on spending some quality time on guitar practice and working on a new song to learn.  Today, I have selected Don McLean’s wonderful song, Vincent, which should give me plenty of challenges.

This song should be a lot of fun to learn with the help of Justin Sandercoe, whose Justinguitar videos are a boon to learning guitar.  I will be using his video on learning Vincent for this effort:

Have a wonderful day!

Sunday Morning – Killing the Blues

Mother’s Day edition!

Of course, the most important thing to do today is to give my mother a call to wish her a happy Mother’s Day.  As we live on different continents, the phone is our main method of contact and it’s great to have our chats.

As the Premier League season is well under control and the sun looks to be breaking through for a while, this may be a great day to reconnect with jogging, as my right knee feels up to the test and I’m ready!!  Then a bit of yard work, if the weather holds up.

Light Streams

One of the rather cool things that happened over the past week, is that I was offered the opportunity to do a small exhibit of my photography at my place of employment; as we’re updating the art work and photography that hangs in the building, one of the ideas was to provide a space for employee art exhibits/contests in the cafeteria, where we have unused wallspace.   So I was volunteered to kick things off, which is exciting.  I’m thinking that abstract might be the way to go for this.

The other item that has me excited is a guitar workshop that I’m attended once a week for the next six weeks.  As I’m looking to pick up some fresh skills and improve my still very rudimentary capabilities, I was pleasantly surprised by the approach in the first session.  Adding new strumming skills right away and working on a song that is new to me: KIlling the Blues a song written by Rowland Salley.

So you know what I’ll be working on!


Hope you have a wonderful day!

Sunday Morning – Yesterday

A little nature and nurture

Today is definitely starting with some Premier League football, as I’m currently watching my favorite team, Liverpool, and plan to watch the Leicester City game, as this Cinderella story has sofar exceeded all expectations.  The next order of priority will be to take the final to the MITx on-line data science course that I’ve been taking and then practice some guitar.

Simple Beauty

Yesterday, I went with my wife to Connecticut to have our little Dora practice a bit of herding on ducks in anticipation of her herding trial next weekend (today, she’s doing agility, so it’s a busy weekend for Dora).  I brought my camera along with a macro lens attached; I have been dabbling with a bit of macro photography over the past couple of weeks, and was in the mood for some more exploring.

Spring’s Here!

Tree blossoms were everywhere as well.  There were also some other subjects that attracted my attention, which I will hold back until the Tuesday Photo Challenge post.

Guitar practice time will include two songs today.  The Beatles’ Yesterday will be my main focus, as I need to work on the (for me) tricky bass-line integration with the melody of this song.  Combining that with a couple of interesting barre chords has its challenges for me.

The attentive reader noticed that Sir Paul McCartney is playing at Liverpool’s home stadium.  Oh yes, the other song: Purple Rain, for all the obious reasons.

Hope you’re having a wonderful day!