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Tony’s Acoustic Challenge – The New Way to Learn Guitar Family Forums Small Wins Well on my Way to Attaining One of my 90 Day Goals

  • Well on my Way to Attaining One of my 90 Day Goals

    Posted by dr_dave on May 1, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    I set some pretty aggressive 90 day goals for this quarter, but I made a huge amount of progress towards achieving one of those goals today. This morning, I took my first look at “There’s More Pretty Girls than One,” the last of the flat-picking tunes for me to learn from the Song Vault. After about a half hour, I had it under my fingers to the point I could play through it without music. Now of course I could not remember the whole thing when I picked up the guitar this afternoon, but when I got to it, I only needed to look at the music for about a minute and I was all set.

    Notice I said “when I got to it.” That’s because one of my 90 day goals is to be able to play all the flat-picking selections in the vault from memory. This afternoon, I played every tune, almost in order, and I only had to look at the music for about four of five. By “almost in order” I mean that I just swapped the order of the last two tunes, since Angeline the Baker is the only tune in Drop D.

    One of those for which I had to refresh my memory was Arkansas Traveler. Although I can play a “normal version” the song by ear from memory (in different keys, no less), Tony’s Song Vault arrangement is not the way the song is usually played, so that version is not “in my ear.” Also, although I can play a version of Whiskey Before Breakfast with 18 different variations on the theme from memory, Tony’s version is a bit different than any of the 18 variations I normally play. I also had to take a peek at Auld Lang Syne; it had been a very long time since I played that and again, Tony’s version has a few nice ornamentations and stylings.

    All in all, I think I only need a few more play-throughs like this afternoon’s session to say with reasonable confidence that I can play all the flat-picking tunes in the vault from memory, and all at a pretty good tempo.

    dr_dave replied 3 years ago 10 Members · 20 Replies
  • 20 Replies
  • Marquita

    May 1, 2021 at 10:56 pm

    @dr_dave, great progress! I certainly look up to you and faithfully read what you do to make it work so well. I don’t think I’ll make such a lofty goal for myself, not having a long intense guitar history. But I also made a goal to pick a song all the way through. I don’t think I promised to memorize it but I sure hope I can someday! Great wins!

    • dr_dave

      May 2, 2021 at 4:17 pm

      I think memorization really comes from repetition. I played every one of these songs many times over and over until I got to the point where I know the melodies well. At some point, the fingers just seem to know where to find the notes without any conscious thought.

      Marquita, you’re definitely doing great. You probably realize I was playing for a few years before I joined TAC. Even so, the first few flat-picking tunes took me quite a while to learn. I learned them in sections, “chunking them down” as Tony calls it. After about 6 or 8 months of that, I found I was able to learn new songs much more quickly. In fact, there were several of these Song Vault tunes that I recorded and posted with an hour or two of the first time I looked at them. I’m pretty good at reading music and the tabs really help me learn quickly.

      I have noticed some other people learn finger-picking tunes much faster than I do. My time with them will hopefully come. Overall, I’m really pleased with the progress I’ve made at TAC, but as for just about everyone else I know, it comes one small win at a time. Being retired, I spend a lot more time on the guitar than many people can. I am very lucky in that regard, but others are fortunate in the regard that they have started their guitar journeys long before they reached retirement age. Hopefully they will be lucky enough to enjoy as much string time as I do when they reach that point.

      Keep workin those open mics. They are helping me tremendously, and that’s probably true for you too.

  • J.Humble

    May 1, 2021 at 11:09 pm


    Congratulations on getting so close to your goal. I enjoy fiddle tunes too. I think that they’re fun to play and memorization is a great aspiration. I have learned Red Haired Boy, Carter’s Tune and play them from memory. I am so close to St. Anne’s Reel. I learned these fingerstyle on a nylon-string baritone ukulele and since they are on the DGBE strings I can carry them over to guitar. Thanks for bringing this up.


    • dr_dave

      May 2, 2021 at 4:25 pm

      Thanks J.Humble. I must have played Red Haired Boy thousands of times. I have an interesting story about that tune. I went to a beginner bluegrass jam one time and that was one of the pieces the leaders were teaching. I think it was my first exposure to it, and although I had been learning guitar for a while, I played it miserably – way below what I believe my ability level was. I think a big part of it was being nervous in a new group of people – “outsider” syndrome, if you will. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to ever go to that jam again. I played that song so many times over the next two or four weeks (can’t remember if they met bi-weekly or monthly), and I still was not able to play it a whole lot better the next time I went. That was a piece that I played many times almost every night for months. I still don’t play it as well as I want.

      That baritone uke sounds like fun. I have only a soprano uke. Some day maybe I’ll get some other voices – a concert, a tenor and a baritone, not necessarily in that order.

  • Fly

    May 2, 2021 at 12:37 am

    Congratulations Dave that is very impressive. I’ve been working through these songs as I’ve found it’s helping me develop my skills. To commit them all to memory is next level stuff I would not even have contemplated but after reading your post it shows what is possible if you keep raising the bar. Good luck completing your 90 day goal.

    • dr_dave

      May 2, 2021 at 4:29 pm

      Thanks Fly. I don’t do anything to memorize them other than play them a lot when I’m first learning them. I need to play them so many times to get fluid that I just reach a point where I don’t need the music anymore. When I get away from a particular arrangement for a while, I need to refresh a bit but it comes back pretty quickly. The muscle memory is deep-rooted, I guess.

  • Michelle-PSL

    May 2, 2021 at 10:13 am

    Wow @dr_dave ! Can’t believe you put this down as a small win. This win is HUGE! Congratulations!!!👏🏼👍🏼👌🏼

    • dr_dave

      May 2, 2021 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks Michelle. I guess every one of the songs is a small win in a way. You’re right that collectively it seems like a lot, but really it’s just a series of small wins. I attribute it to being in TAC for nearly 4 years.

  • Guy_H

    May 2, 2021 at 4:39 pm

    Congrats Doc this is really a win to be proud of! Your progress also once again shows that you get out of this what you put into it. I’m inspired! 👏

  • dr_dave

    May 3, 2021 at 5:03 am

    Thanks Guy. Great to see you yesterday at the VWA. Thanks for all you do with the hosting and for noticing I was playing a different box than I usually use. The reason I was using the travel guitar and the reason I was late getting to the VWA is the little guy in the photo – our youngest grandson, Dominic. (Oops – not strictly guitar-related, but still very important.)

  • dr_dave

    May 3, 2021 at 5:05 am

    Aargh! Frustrating site. It either posts 2 copies of the photo or none at all.

    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by  dr_dave.
  • dr_dave

    May 3, 2021 at 5:11 am
  • Bill_Brown

    May 3, 2021 at 6:36 am

    Hi @dr_dave , Just wanted to say that I’m working on Tony’s version of Whiskey Before Breakfast and I agree that I’ve not been able to find a version close to his. But what I have found is that his version is basically the opening lick for the song – don’t know if that correlates to any of your findings.

    Anyways, here’s to hoping that you’ll get to teach Dominic some songs🍾

  • dr_dave

    May 3, 2021 at 9:19 am

    One compelling feature of these fiddle tunes like Whiskey Before Breakfast is that they lend to so many variations on the theme. They’ve been around so long and have touched so many artists (and listeners) lives. Many artists have put their own spin on them or improvised over them. There seems to be no end to what some talented players and arrangers are able to do with them. In that regard, they are a lot like jazz.

  • Cadgirl

    May 3, 2021 at 10:11 am

    Your a great inspiration to me on this “small win”. I’m going to have to pull in the vault and take a look at what is there. I’ve got Freight Train down (with the music sheet in front of me). But, to get the chords and picks down without the music is a great win. Congratulations!

    • dr_dave

      May 3, 2021 at 10:39 am

      Thanks! To be fair, I was about 95% done with this when I set it as one of my goals for the next 90 days. I was pretty familiar with all but one of the songs already, and that last one “came under the fingers” pretty quickly, most likely because of all the small wins I had learning the other songs over the last 3-1/2 years. The goal therefore sounds bigger than it really is, but it certainly is a nice milestone in my journey.

  • Cherie

    May 3, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Congratulations, Dr_Dave!

    Thanks for sharing the details of your practice, you are truly inspiring!

    I’m working on Freight Train right now, it’s going slow but I’m happy to be making progress. Yes, “chunking it down” as Tony says, is very helpful.

    My goal is to memorize the song, with patience and repetition.

    Thanks for your inspiration!

    Happy playing,


  • dr_dave

    May 3, 2021 at 10:42 am

    Freight Train is a great challenge. I’m sure you’ll do fine. It’s one of the few finger style tunes from the Vault that I ever learned (easy version, but I embellish it a little bit) and I still play it once in a while. I guess I’ll need to chip away at some more of those finger style tunes.

  • N-lightMike

    May 3, 2021 at 3:20 pm

    Well, I didn’t have the time/patience to make it all the way through all the other comments, so I might have missed something. Hope I don’t make a fool of myself.

    First, thanks for posting. This is a great achievement and gives many of us inspiration as some have already said.

    Second, I wasn’t interested in the Song Vault because of the songs themselves, but as a vehicle to improvement. I can see in your flat picking during VOM performances that learning these songs has really helped with your technique.

    I have made it through all the “Starter” fingerpicking songs and have started on the “Easy” fingerpicking songs. And even just that much has led to improvement in my fingerpicking. And I totally agree with the repetition vs memorizing. I have not tried to memorize a single song, but the repetition seems to take care of it just fine. Like you, I can play the songs from memory and in order. But it’s way fewer songs than you have done, but I like seeing your example.

    Anyway, congratulations on a terrific milestone in your guitar journey.

    MG 😀

    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by  N-lightMike.
    • dr_dave

      May 4, 2021 at 7:37 pm

      Thanks Mike. Best part is that it has been fun!

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