untitled note

Nicholas Chen tuesday, december 6, 2022
Learning how to transcribe songs has been the best use of my time for learning guitar so far. Being able to learn songs and riffs by ear makes learning new songs and riffs that much easier, because I don't have to go through the trouble of reading tabs. It also means I'm able to partially transcribe some songs in my head while listening to music in daily life.
Most importantly, it gets me out of this toxic cycle that I get into sometimes when playing guitar: noodling pointlessly. It's all to easy to pick up the guitar and just play whatever comes to your head - noodling is a lot of fun - but the problem is you end up just playing the same phrases in varying combinations, until you get bored. For me, transcribing new songs fixes this problem, because it gives me fresh material to play with.
I ran into similar problems with drawing as a kid. I always hated drawing from reference images, or from still lifes, and much preferred drawing things from imagination. The problem was, I'd run into a point where I'd just be drawing variations of the same things over and over again. When I tried to draw something different, I'd try to reason it out from first principles but it'd always be terrible (go ahead and try to draw a bicycle from memory, it's harder than it sounds).
Recently I've been trying to improve my drawing. Since placing my guitar near my desk has resulted in so much improvement (simply from me picking it up whenever I'm bored), I made some space to keep a sketchbook on my desk for easy access. So far, it's working - I've spent more time drawing in the past week than I have for months.
To avoid the same problem of noodling, I want to do the equivalent of transcription but for drawing, which is pretty much just drawing things from reference images or still lifes. I hated drawing still lifes as a kid, and I'm still not very fond of it, but after trying it again now I think I have a fresh perspective on it.
As a kid I wanted to draw things I found interesting. I wanted to draw characters from video games, I wanted to draw cool sci-fi laser guns, I wanted to draw jet planes. As I grew, what I liked to draw pretty much followed my interests. When I became self conscious about the way I dressed in high school and finally ventured out to buy my own clothes, I suddenly became a lot better at drawing outfits on people, and when I started learning to play the guitar I became fond of drawing guitars.
Not many people are intimately interested in drawing vases, flowers and plain shapes sitting on a desk, which is what you draw when you do a still life. Still lifes are not about drawing what interests you. They are also not a disciplinarian exercise designed to painfully make you suffer your way towards improvement.
I think they're best viewed as a kind of meditative exercise. What you're really trying to do is focus your attention on the minute details of the appearance of an object - it's outline, how light and shadow falls on it, the values and shades and hues of its different parts.
There are a few succulents that sit on my desk. When I have a free moment or I'm bored, now I draw a quick sketch of them. Hopefully this will be just as beneficial as learning how to transcribe.
For the longest time I've had this weird hangup about publishing on Substack. You can already publish notes on exegesis, and I've planned on adding a newsletter feature to it for a long time now. I always rationalized not publishing on Substack by saying I'd just start a newsletter on exegesis when I was finished building that part of the app.
Life happened, and it's been a long time and I still haven't gotten around to it. Hopefully I will soon. In the meantime, I'm not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
I'll still write on exegesis, but some good old fashioned copy paste into Substack won't hurt anyone.