Day -7 to Day 0
I suppose that I should fess up here. My original idea for an experiment was much, much nerdier, more involved, and considerably longer. I don’t doubt that I would have followed through with it, only that I added the idea of a disappearing click one week in, and was changed forever.
I made more concrete gains (and felt more discomfort––a solid compass for improvement) just doing the Cartoon Gravity exercise, so I made it the central focus of this whole experiment. It’s also worth noting that, although I “invented” this exercise, it was invented dozens (maybe hundreds) of times before. I just didn’t know about it until I started telling friends about this and they pointed me to others who had done it before. Whatever, I don’t care who does it first or who gets credit––I just want it to be more widespread.
Day 1 – 9/20/13 – 92 bpm – The one holdover from the original experiment was the idea of using all the tempos on the metronome face. 92 is right in the middle.
Day 6 – 80 bpm – The quarter notes over the 1 + 3 was exceedingly difficult. It took me 4 minutes to get it at all, and it was shaky even then.
Day 7 – 104 bpm – Either faster is easier, or I’m getting better. Still have a bit of trouble concentrating.
Day 8 – Had to take a day off––my back was hurting terribly. I eventually rolled out my upper back with a lacrosse ball and started wearing my “posture shirt” while practicing.
Day 10 – 108 bpm – Did my Cartoon Gravity practice in the back of the bus, rolling across North Dakota.
Day 12 – 112 bpm – Had a great gig, really “got” the feel. I could more clearly hear when others were ahead/off.
Day 13 – 69 bpm – Starting to feel an invisible tug towards the beat. Exciting!
Day 14 – 116 bpm – Started playing Jerusalem Ridge for eighth notes and Keep Your Wits About You for the quarters.
Day 15 – 66 bpm – At the gig Surfer Girl, which I normally struggle with time/feel on, felt AWESOME. I was so locked into the snare drum that at first I thought the guitar wasn’t on.
Day 16 – 120 bpm – Saw my friend the incredibly badass drummer practicing one-handed sixteenth notes––the metronome was set to click only on one at 26 bpm. That’s one click per sixteen notes, V E R Y slow. And he was reading text messages while he was doing it. Dude’s a badass.
Day 18 – 126 bpm – I’m able to play Jerusalem Ridge over the 1 + 3… but just barely.
Day 19 – 60 bpm – This was hard! It was helpful to keep close tabs on which measure & beat I was on, rather than just try to feel the pulse. At this tempo it’s almost like meditation––if I can keep other thoughts out of my head, I can keep the beat. Easier said than done.
Day 22 – 138 bpm – Now that the tempo is getting up there, I switched to doing the quarters first (with my warmup exercise).
Day 23 – Missed a day. I ran the Chicago Marathon. Tried to take a nap & practice afterwards, but I slept until the morning.
Day 24 – 56 bpm – This was tough. I couldn’t reliably get my quarters this slow.
Day 25 – 144 bpm – Even the 1 + 3s are easy when you’re going this fast.
Day 26 – 54 bpm – So hard.
Day 27 – 152 bpm – Still playing Jerusalem Ridge & Keep Your Wits About You
Day 28 – 52 bpm – I was so bad at 1 + 3 quarters. I think I might have gotten back around still in-time 5x in the whole ten minutes. Starting to doubt that I’m in the sweet spot for good learning.
Day 29 – 160 bpm – I can see that at some point playing Jerusalem will be too sloppy to be beneficial. Was playing Wits with no issues whatsoever; added some syncopation and it went right off the rails. Excited to address that when I do chord strumming Cartoon Gravity.
Day 30 – 50 bpm – Tough. Away from home, used Tempo Advance. I found that I can zero in on the blink (muted clicks still blink) to help get me started when I’m way off.
Day 31 – 168 bpm – Jerusalem is getting just a bit sloppy if I’m not careful.
Day 32 – 48 bpm – So damned hard that I gave up on the 1 + 3 and did more 2 + 2 instead.
Days 33-36 – Took four days off – vacation in NYC. Longest I’ve gone without playing a guitar in probably a decade.
Day 37 – 176 bpm Don’t know if it was the absence, but Jerusalem was sloppy––practicing it any faster will be counterproductive. I’ll try something less demanding for the next fast one. But given that 48 bpm was kicking my ass, maybe I should be trying for 30 days and not 39. At least until my skills catch up.
Day 38 – 46 bpm Instead of 1 + 3s, I set one up that clicked only on one of each measure (What Pat calls “superclick”). Still hard, but much more instructive. Maybe the next 30 days of Cartoon Gravity should be superclicks?
Day 39 – 184 bpm Eighths are too fast to play clean reliably. Spent the hour playing bluesy improv with the superclick. Lead playing has to be the next thing to work on, because I’m feeling the beat way early. I’m wrapping up the experiment early to find a new way forward.