It has now been 6 weeks since I have started my learning project of enhancing my playing on the guitar and it has without a doubt been my hardest. I decided to attempt my last goal of learning to play the guitar: picking a song. I tried many other songs but I kept going back to Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, although I changed my learning plan a long time ago I was determined that I could at least finish some of what I set out to do. So I sat down and painfully and slowly learned the introduction riff/chorus of Shallow exactly the way Bradley Cooper plays it in the movie A Star is Born.
Image Via Amazon.com
Now, I am aware it doesn’t exactly sound the way it is supposed to because my fingers are a lot slower (and much more sore) and well, I didn’t have professional training the way Bradley Cooper did before he filmed this movie. In fact, I solely used a YouTube tutorial and the help of my brother to play this song. The video I used to play this song was by an account called Song Notes. The instructor was incredibly helpful and he uses both chord names, the tabs page and simple explanations to teach people how to play this song. So it does not matter your skill level, he is able to reach everyone in a way that they understand.
On the other hand there are guitarists out there who can simply look at the tabs sheet and understand how to play it. Here is a screen clipping I took of this song in tab form:
image by acarjev via Ultimate Guitar Tabs
Unless you are a fairly advanced guitar player with formal training you will have no idea what that means. I don’t know much other than that the letters and numbers correspond with strings and chords on the guitar and are somehow supposed to reveal to you how the song is played. Whereas for me, that might as well be an alien language. But in reality, it does not matter which method you choose to learn, whether it be professional lessons, YouTube, or sites like Ultimate Guitar Tabs you can pretty much learn the same thing. So here is my version of Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper which I learned strictly through YouTube:
I asked a couple of family members what song they could hear me playing and within the first couple of chords they were able to guess which song it was, so I think I did a pretty goog job. I still have some timing issues (obviously), I also have to work on the clarification of my playing style (to be fair my fingers were so sore that I couldn’t press down on the strings properly. This guitar is incredibly stiff and all the strings are metal compared to nylon like other guitars) as some of the chords were quite muffled or didn’t sound quite right. Additionally I have to work on some other techniques like muting, which is essentially placing your hand on the strings to mute out the chord and give it a nice clean sound. If you haven’t heard the song before, this is what it is supposed to sound like:
In this version, you can clearly hear the change of chords and how it is supposed to sound, but if you listen close to mine you can also hear those same chord progressions. The only thing that can improve the issues I have is more practice, a song like this takes months to learn and I only had a short couple of weeks. In fact, Bradley Cooper had to be given professional guitar lessons in order to get him to play at that proficiency. He did not play the guitar before the movie and it took him an entire year to learn.
Overall, I would like to think that my learning project has gone very well. Let’s recap all I have learned/improved upon:
-Proper picking techniques
-Alternate chords (Bm alternate, etc.)
-Using a capo
Some of these techniques are more for beginners (ex. alternate chords) whereas others like hammer-ons and pull-offs are used by more advanced players, but, they are all vital for learning how to play the guitar. At the very least I am going to be able to strum along with songs that I can teach to my students. If I could change one thing and go back I would like to use my resources other than a few websites, a few books and YouTube channels. Perhaps I would use my brother and my dad more as resources as my dad is self-taught and my brother has had formal lessons so between the two of them they are extremely knowledgeable. I did use them a little bit, but not as much as I would like. I would also like to continue my journey with the guitar by teaching myself to play and sing at the same time. The reason I want to develop this skill is that it would be incredibly helpful in the classroom. Other teachers have told me that being able to sing helps the students who rely on vocals to keep in time with the music because that is often what they are trained to do just by listening to music.
I am extremely happy with my progress so far on the guitar, I really have come a long way with the techniques I already knew and ones I haven’t known yet. I also do plan on using the guitar in my future classroom and I will likely need some more help in order to do so and now I have the tools to teach myself. I am also glad that I changed my original goal from only learning to play Shallow to cover a lot more skills because in the end, I learned a lot more valuable skills which will be way more helpful to me in the future.
I also have full intentions to continue to play the guitar on my own time. This project has sparked a joy for music I didn’t know that I had. Whenever a song would come together it made me want to get better at it so I can sing along to all of my favourite songs. It gave me a much bigger appreciation for the music I already listen to. I am hoping that I continue to get to the level that my dad has just by teaching himself. I have learned a very valuable lesson that the internet is an incredibly helpful tool for teaching yourself new skills. With the unlimited resources of the internet, one could easily be a life long learner of well, anything. I am very thankful for this opportunity to enhance my guitar skills and I hope that I continue to grow in this area like I plan to.