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Guitar Challenge Wrap-Up and January’s Challenge

About time I get this thing posted, it’s almost half-way through January!The months go by so fast when you’re super busy ( and having fun ). I feel like I just post a wrap-up and I have to start writing another one.December was an especially busy and fast-paced month. I even had a week off from my day job and it still felt like it was packed to the brim with awesome stuff to do.December’s challenge was one of the reasons that it went so fast. I was trying to play guitar every day. I certainly didn’t end up playing every single day, I did improve quite a bit from where I started. I’m still playing almost every day and love every minute of it.What can you really learn in 30 daysI wasn’t sure where to start with guitar. The first day in December, I was so hopelessly slow and uncoordinated at doing any of the chords. I didn’t think anything would change as I went through the month. Watching videos and thinking about guitarists in bands and how fast they move through their picking and chords on the guitar, I had to wonder if they were superhuman, or just born with some special skills that I just didn’t possess.As I played day after day, I would get a little faster. Each time I sat down it was easier to hold the strings. I could hold them for a little longer. It was tiny amounts sure, but I could feel myself getting better and better after a few days would go by.I know 30 days isn’t going to be long enough to be playing tough songs by the end of it but I was hopeful that I would at least improve.Unfortunately because of how much I had already planned for December, travelling, Christmas, skiing, New Years, hanging out with people, I found it extremely hard to keep up the guitar every day. I ended up only doing about half the days after missing a big chunk around christmas and it was very noticeable. Most of the time it’s nice to take a break from what you’re doing for a little while and then come back to it refreshed and re-motivated. Taking a break from guitar, thought, meant sore fingers.Playing guitar isn’t like learning a language or some other act of willpower. You can sit down and learn things on the mental side for hours if you really want to. On the physical side of things  you have a limit. You can only play guitar for so long before your fingers start to hurt so much you can’t play.The nice part about this natural limit was that it was forced. I could not play longer than my fingers could hold out. It was easier to sit down and play because I knew there was a natural time limit for playing that day. Initially I could only play for 5 or 10 minutes. It got longer near the end. Accidentally taking time off meant that I was decreasing my time limit instead of increasing it. For every day that I didn’t play, I would be able to stand the rough strings on my fingers for a slightly shorter amount of time. Many people say that the best way to learn is little by little every single day. Guitar forces this. It’s the only way to learn it.What I learned playing guitar for 30 daysTime LimitsAs I said above, when you start off, you won’t be able to play guitar for long periods of time. I couldn’t at least. Someone with much more callused hands would be able to play for longer sessions right off the bat. I don’t do much that would strengthen them naturally. Climbers would probably be able to play for hours!On the plus side, it forced a time limit on each session. This made them more relaxing. I feel like when I don’t go for more than an hour or so doing something, I’m just making excuses and I should go for longer. I know this sounds silly. Most people can’t concentrate on one thing for much more than 90 minutes. The little voice inside my head natters at me to keep going, even when I know I’ve had enough and it’s time for a break. I’ve been experimenting with hard time limits on things. Much like in the pomodoro technique. It’s nice to know that I only have to work for 30 minutes or 1 hour no matter what I’m doing. Sometimes I do get lost in something if I’m really into but I end up doing less of other things. I don’t want to get sick of what I’m working on right now so time limits are a good way to keep things fresh.Best PracticesEverything in the world has best practices. There may not be one best way for doing something but there are always tips and tricks for getting the most out of your experience. You don’t want to learn something the wrong way and keep those bad habits for the rest of your life. Learning on your own can be a fantastic way to try things out but finding good resources like websites, books or teachers to help you out can save you a lot of time down the road. The book I’m using to learn guitar comes with a DVD with videos and other resources to use while you’re learning. You can watch the videos as you’re playing to learn how to get the fingering correct and how exactly to do things. Words are amazing tools for teaching but often a picture or a video just makes learning so much faster.Nail the BasicsYou can’t play guitar without learning the basic chords and ways to pick the strings. It’s impossible. Also impossible is thinking that you can skip to the awesome part at the end of years of playing and be a rockstar guitar player. It doesn’t work that way. If you practice every day for a couple years, you could actually get to be a very good guitar player. Playing for 30 days is not the same thing. I never liked things that simply required repetition to learn them. While it’s not exactly the same every time, each chord is still the same chord. What I didn’t know before was that it wasn’t just mindlessly strumming the guitar over and over and over with the same chords to learn how to play. Actually learning something required deliberate practice. In this case, thinking about where your fingers are for each chord and moving them from chord to chord faster every time requires concentration. If you never increase your speed, you’ll never become a better play. Sometimes it doesn’t work and the note sounds terrible but you don’t get faster unless you push.January’s ChallengeI loved playing guitar every day and have continued to practice these first few days of January while I dive into my next challenge.I almost did this challenge for December but thought that I might fail before I’d even started. It would have been very tough and not a lot of fun. January is going to be month of eating extremely healthy. I’ll be trying to follow the Paleo diet strictly for 30 days. The main idea is that I’ll be eating lots of veggies, meat and fruit with very little sugar, coffee or gluten. I’m already entirely gluten free with what I’ve got in my cupboards and fridge at home but eating out is tough. It’s rare to find a place that has a gluten-free menu and beer is right out the window.If you’ve gone Paleo, or are thinking about it, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what your thoughts are about it. Maybe you could do a Paleo challenge for January as well?