In August 2009, motivated by the sound of Metallica playing at Sonisphere here in the UK, I finally picked up an electric guitar for the very first time and began the journey of teaching myself how to play. Despite this being the very first progress video, I have been practicing regularly in an ongoing effort to get to grips with the basics of playing a guitar, and that has culminated now in the accumulation of …(drum roll) …twelve full months of consistent guitar practice!
Getting to this stage has consisted of daily practice involving left-hand basic chord changes, right-hand strumming exercises, left-hand articulation sequences, and right-hand picking drills. Adding to this challenge, I heard a famous guitarist say in a documentary some time that playing standing-up is even more of a challenge, so requires special attention if you ever want to play live. If there is an ‘intensity’ gene, I have it. I simply couldn’t help myself upon hearing this, and so every single minute I have ever spent practicing has been performed standing. I like a challenge. However, Les Paul guitars do tend to be on the heavier side, so it did take a few months to get used to playing for any considerable length of time whilst standing, without my upper back, shoulders or neck objecting anytime I ventured past a couple of hours or so. Despite the challenges of figuring out how to get out of the starting blocks, what to actually practice, and how to practice it, reaching this initial stage in this journey feels like an achievement in itself. Having said that, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t desperate to get a whole lot better, a whole lot quicker!
Since beginning this journey, this last year has given birth to a melting pot of ideas and influences in my mind, where all of the guitar-related online resources and instructional DVDs I have encountered, vie for attention. An added bonus of my new found quest for knowledge, is the discovery, and often re-discovery, of bands old and new that feature prominent guitarists. This has lead to a new found appreciation of any guitar-based music and an exploration of a wider variety of music than I would probably ever have discovered otherwise. It goes without saying that my music collection has grown significantly.
Whilst it didn’t of course take me an entire year to actually get to the stage where I could play a song all the way through in its entirety, I nevertheless wanted to reach some sort of significant mile-stone in my development before uploading the first progress video, simply to cement my initial progress and really feel like I had definitively crossed that all-important first bridge in having clocked up my first year on the guitar. Also, waiting for the most basic of skills to mature a little through the course of my first year has hopefully resulted in actually uploading a guitar cover in which the song I am playing is somewhat recognisable, as an added bonus!
When it came to choosing that all-important first song though, one band seized the spotlight, grabbed my attention, and, the first time I was able to play this song from beginning to end, left me roaring “Oh yeah!” inside! That band is Metallica and having finally clocked up that crucial first year of dedicated guitar practice I am celebrating with a cover of Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’.
Despite the fact that even I can see that any technique is basic at best, the feeling of finally being able to play through an entire song, relatively in-time and up to speed, was like riding a runaway freight train whilst being told you’ve won the lottery! The exhilaration of something simply amazing, whilst attempting to simply hold on for dear life.
That feels like a good analogy for most of Metallica’s songs, to me. They do tend to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Some of their songs, like ‘Master Of Puppets’, feature that intensity at truly breakneck speeds with an insanely fast metal rhythm delivered by James Hetfield at speeds that no mere mortal should be able to achieve. Well, …all in good time!
Here we are then. One year on and life is indeed a work in progress. Not without its challenges but nevertheless better. I am still working hard rebuilding my life and my career, but life as a single Dad with an amazing Son who is going to be two in September, is going well! We are a good team. As I have said before, my Son and my guitar are my life …and although there will never be anything in this world more important to me than my utterly amazing Son, I believe it is safe to say that the electric guitar is absolutely a fundamental part of my life now, too!
– Joel BB