My First Gig


Photo Credit: Antti T. Nissinen via Flickr

I was going to call this final post for my learning project “The Grand Finale,” but I decided that wouldn’t be accurate. This is only just the beginning. My first gig.

Learning guitar using websites, apps and social media has been an incredibly rewarding self-directed inquiry. I’ve felt both connected and isolated, invigorated and frustrated, motivated and defeated. Looking back, I’m proud of the tools that I’ve found and used and my overall growth as both a digital learner and a guitarist.

Techniques and Lessons:

GarageBand offers a series of lessons for guitar. The tool teaches you how to hold the guitar properly, tune it, play the most commonly used chords and barre chords, and strumming patterns. You have to have access to Apple products to use this service, so that might limit some people from using it.

Guitar Tricks provides access to a series of free beginner lessons and more advanced lessons for a small monthly fee. The website asks a series of questions about your musical background, commitment to learning, and previous guitar experience and designs a path of lessons based on your responses! All of the lessons are linked to songs, so you feel more like you’re really playing guitar early on.

MunsunMusicLive’s videos are a great way to learn new songs if you already know how to play the chords in the songs that he has uploaded, but not if you are just learning.

Drue James goes a step further on his YouTube channel with lessons that are broken down into categories based on your skill level, and by providing instructional lessons. He also sends you two emails each week with tips, ideas and encouragement. Both the videos and emails are motivating.

Tuning: offers both tuners and articles that teach you how to solve tuning issues and use other tuning methods like the fifth fret method.

Guitar Tuna is a (mostly) free app that is designed to accurately tune stringed instruments. You don’t even have to remember each of the strings because the app allows you to tap an image of the string you want to tune. It plays the pitch for you so that you can match it, but even better, it shows you how flat or sharp you may be as you tighten or loosen the string! The app also has games for learning chords, chord diagrams, and ear training. To get multiple levels, you do have to pay for an upgraded version of the app.

Chords: is a comprehensive website that includes guitar tabs, reviews, interviews, columns, lessons, and forums. They have a fantastic lesson on learning how to read tab. It’s clear and comprehensive. is perfect if you only have a few minutes to sit down and review chords. It’s really user friendly, but you have to have wifi or use data to access the site.

Song Chords and Tabs:

Guitar Chords and Tabs is an app that curates thousands of song chords and tabs in one place. The chords and tabs are easy to read on a small phone screen, and the app even has the option of “favoriting” the songs that you are working on so that you don’t have to search them each time you use the app.

Interesting Reads:

A Neurobiological Role of Music in Social Bonding is a study by Walter J Freeman III, concludes that even though knowledge is formed in individual brains, “rhythmic behavioral activities that are induced by drum beats and music can lead to altered states of consciousness, through which mutual trust among members of societies is engendered.”  He further states that “music together with dance have co-evolved biologically and culturally to serve as a technology of social bonding.” The entire article is fascinating, and you should definitely check it out for yourself. When people make music together, it fosters trust and bonding in ways that language cannot. The social and human experience are critical to the music-making experience.

5 Tips on How to Get Your Child to Practice Piano suggests discussing practice time as “playing” time instead to foster a positive attitude toward learning to play an instrument. The difference between the connotations is substantial. Practicing is hard work. Playing is fun. Another tip that the article suggests is to create a pleasant environment for playing. This means keeping your instrument in an accessible and comfortable place.

Important Connections:

I discovered that it was possible to connect with people in a meaningful way on the internet. I didn’t believe that was possible before. This was by far the most important realization that I had throughout this learning project. I always knew that I could access information, but what I didn’t know was that I could connect with people.

Twitter – @GuitarMag, @guitarcenter, @guitar_mag, @GuitarPlayerNow, @The_Guitar_List, @ZoobieDood (Dave Eichenberger)

YouTube – I had a helpful guitar teacher post a comment to a YouTube video of myself learning guitar. That was a generous and exciting comment. I finally felt like I had connected with another person that I really didn’t know in this learning process.

Classmates/ Fellow Bloggers – Other students in the class, particularly Logan Petlak, who is also learning to play an instrument, were so encouraging throughout this learning process.

Friends – The face-to-face interactions that I had playing with friends were also incredibly important when I was feeling isolated and missing the joy of making music.

And now for my first gig! Thank you for following along and sharing with me. This song is for you!


Learning to Play Guitar… Without a Guitar

Last week, I was travelling in Europe, so I had to figure out a way to work on my learning project while I was there. I didn’t want to bring my guitar with me, so I ended up using Guitar Tuna. In addition to being a tuner, the app has games for learning chords and chord diagrams as well as ear training. (You do have to pay if you want multiple levels.)

I have to admit that it was a great change of pace, but I’m looking forward to playing again and preparing for my final learning project reflection!

Activism is a Click Away

What was the last social justice cause that you supported by liking a post, sharing an article or retweeting? Did you do so because you were passionate about the subject? Because it would increase your social status given your online network of relatively like-minded people? Because it felt good to help in some way? Because you thought it would make a difference?


Photo Credit: Pixabay

Activism takes many forms. A person may donate funds, volunteer their time and skills, or become informed and inform others. All of these things can be done using social media, including live streaming, and/or physical action. Although some argue that slacktivism is lazy, selfish or even harmful, ultimately all attempts to create a better world do affect change in some way. Gillian Branstetter even argues that “the Internet is more than an accessory to the real-world actions that change demands—it’s now a proven way to make it happen.” In fact, a Georgetown University study showed that “those who support movements online are actually more likely to engage in activism in real life.”

Well, that’s a relief. I can continue liking and retweeting for social justice guilt-free. But is that enough? What does it really take to affect meaningful change? I think that meaningful change happens when people become educated through disruption of dominant discourse and then change their own ideas and behavior. Language is powerful in constructing and reproducing expectations, roles, identities, and behaviors. And what is social media, if not language? So like, retweet, and share away, my friends.