I deserve a gold star


This past Thursday, Danny and I spent an entire hour working on the Simon & Garfunkel piece. Not because I didn’t practice. Not because it was difficult. But because he was delighted to see my progress and gave me page 3 and 4 for homework. Which means I’ve completed two-thirds of this fingerpicking song!

It felt really good–I mean, really, freakin’ good to have Danny proud of me. “Now, didn’t I tell you-you’d be great at fingerpicking if you just practiced?” he said in his twangy South Carolina accent.

Typically Danny’s lessons are complex due to his “pop quizzes” and ability to fly through an extensive amount of material but last week it was 100% fingerpicking. But even he said it was worth it.

Although, my performance was nearly a 180, there were a few errors Danny teased me about (that’s the kind of relationship we have). When reading music, I tend to skip measures when I get bored/zone out. And secondly, I often neglect my pinky. The latter is most difficult because I’d already learned how to play tricky finger patterns (my way) and now I have to relearn them by using my pinky. Oh well, it’s nothing a metronome and repetition can’t fix, right?


Shame. Shame. Shame.


Last week was embarrassing. I am ashamed of myself for walking into Danny’s studio full of false confidence. I knew good and well my fingers lacked the muscle memory needed to play Simon & Garfunkle, a 7 page arrangement I promised I’d learn.

I could blame it on my internship with the Symphony Orchestra. I could also blame it on my current romantic interest–the most social (or “busy body”) man I’ve dated in a long while. I could even blame it on the numerous U.S. states I’ve visited this summer. But no matter what my excuse is, it will never erase the shame I felt in Danny’s studio.

Well, that was then, and today is a positive now. I’m sitting at my MacBook after a long weekend in Georgia, thankful that I took my guitar along because I made major improvements in my fingerpicking. I may have already said this, but I did not expect this summer to be me fighting distractions–that’s exactly what it’s come down to.

I see Danny on Thursday and I am determined to blow him away. Seeing the disappointment in my guitar teacher’s eyes feels no different than disappointing my own father.


Cold Feet


As I donate my belongings to Salvation Army and turn my furniture into cash, I realize the hardest part is almost here: saying goodbye and actually leaving.  Not just talking about leaving but emptying what was once my home and boarding a plane with no intention of returning anytime soon.  And as much as I love the adventure of picking up and moving, the thought of saying goodbye to my routine, comfort, and California friends is making me sick to my stomach.

This week, I had my second to last lesson with Alek.  We reviewed a lot of the theory he’s taught me the past 4 months and it left me dreading my final lesson.  I don’t even know what we’ll work on.  There’s no point in working on something new so maybe we’ll do something fun – more blues soloing?  I shall wait and see.

I will admit I am having second thoughts about this move – cold feet, perhaps?  I just have such a great connection with Alek and his explanations are down to earth and it feels like we’re just two friends chatting away about music.  I don’t even feel like I’m paying for lessons because he doesn’t rush me in and out which is a good and bad thing.  I’ve accepted the many times we’d start my lessons late because I knew that he would give me the same opportunity to learn and was willing to go over the allotted time to ensure I left with a full understanding and foundation to practice new material at home.

Danny has a lot more students than Alek so that’s never an option.  But I’m excited to see Danny too.  He’s like a second Dad to me.  Except it’s not awkward talking to him about dating and other personal events in my life.  I mean, I’m extremely close to my Dad but that’s a rare topic.  I’m sure some of you understand where I’m coming from.

Anyways, I’m squeezing in one last lesson on Sunday – gotta get my money’s worth.  Gotta say goodbye… although a small part of me wants to stay.

Image courtesy of Digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is it enlightenment? Or common sense?


Growing up and even now, I sensed there was a secret within the music community that catapults intermediate players way, way, way ahead.  And whatever that secret is, I ain’t got it.  Does that make sense?  It probably sounds silly to those who’ve already surpassed the intermediate level but I cannot be the only person who feels this way.  And ya know, maybe that’s why me and others have quit instruments but return to it?  Who knows.

I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself but I feel like I’m finally bridging the gap in this journey.  The gap that I always take a starting sprint towards but never gain enough momentum to leap over.  Ya know, that “aha!” moment, light bulb, that secret.  

It’s as if everything Danny taught me (but did not stick) is now 100% clear now that Alek reexplained it in different terms.  This doesn’t mean Danny’s not a good teacher–he’s hands down, one of the best–it’s simply beneficial to hear and see a concept multiple times and in various ways.

As you may or may not already know, Alek teaches me theory in every single lesson.  Everything I’ve learned so far explains “why” for literally every teensy-weensy guitar concept that I honestly was never interested in to begin with… but it made a huge difference.  Recently, the material fell into my lap as one entity with a note,

Kristen, open your eyes and pay attention.  This is how you use everything you’ve been taught.  This, right here, is what’s been missing. Stop overlooking it. 

At the time I didn’t understand why I needed to know all those technical concepts but now it makes perfect sense.

For that reason, I am currently fixated on music theory.  I can’t get enough of it.  It’s so complex but when you place all the puzzle pieces together you get one of those, “ohhhh!” moments–it’s addicting.  And because of that, I’m thirsty to know more and more.  I wish people weren’t so afraid of theory or think it’s boring.  I suppose it’s like an acquired taste that must develop over time.

Farewell, east coast!

I’m heading back to California tomorrow and I must admit, it’s bittersweet.

“Now, call me and let me know how you’re doing, okay?”  Danny requested as I walked out of the studio.
“I will,” I answered.
“You don’t mind, do ya?”
“Of course not.  That’s always the plan.”

Yesterday concluded my last lesson with Danny.   We played a few cover songs, reviewed 6th string barre chords then discussed 5th string barre chords.  Due to my renewed focus, it was the strongest lesson in the 2 months I’ve been here.

According to society’s standards, I have overly large hands and not to mention, feet.  Throughout grade school, I did every thing I could to hide or reduce the appearance of them.  But now, I finally appreciate my daddy-long-leg fingers as I advance in guitar. Thanks to them, learning the new barre chords were a breeze (after understanding the theory behind ’em, of course). It just goes to show how being a clone of everyone else has no benefit or value. So I’ll continue to stomp around in my size 10 Doc Martens boots and be thankful for the genes my father clearly passed along to me.