Bluegrass guitar / Music

Going outside my comfort zone with the guitar

Hi everyone, how has your start of the new year been?

My first week was a mixed bag. It started with a lot of stress and worry, but I settled down towards the end of the week. Generally, I’ve begun to settle down about a lot of things recently so maybe this year can truly be calm, or, at least calmer than 2021.

During the weekend, I ran into a wonderful opportunity to make the start of this year fabulous. Bluegrass music, Zoom, and guitars are involved…

I’m doing something cool this winter

January is a dull month here (much better than I’m used to in Sweden, however!), and Omicron doesn’t help. After two years of the pandemic, staying sane in the head is becoming increasingly difficult. So having a nice, uplifting project that keeps you busy is a good idea. And what better is there to do than studying guitar?

You may remember the singing class I attended in the autumn and how much I felt it pushed my singing skills forward. The same teacher has now released his course schedule for 2022. I received it in my e-mail last week and saw with interest that the first course would be a guitar class, to study the style of Tony Rice.

I decided to not join, mainly because… well, because it’s Tony Rice. He was a very advanced player and his style isn’t what I think of as particularly straightforward. Also, the required skill level was described as intermediate/advanced, and that’s not how I’d describe my own competency on the guitar, although I’m now probably closer to intermediate than a pure beginner.

Then on Saturday, I saw on my teacher’s Instagram page that he had opened another group, at noon the day after, which would be at 5 pm here. It’s a quite nice time of the day to sit in a guitar class – much better than the singing class that was in the middle of the night for me.

I was very tempted but still hesitated because I was afraid my skills were too low. But then – why does everything have to be easy? Something more challenging, in a way that suits me, would do me good. And I dropped all my preconceptions of “I’m not able to do this” and instead got into the mindset of “It would be fun to try this!”

The day after I contacted the teacher, and after a conversation about whether my level of guitar skills would be enough, I decided to join. A couple of hours later the first class took place.

My world during the next month – eat, sleep, guitar!

Moving forward with the guitar

Otherwise, I’m studying bluegrass guitar with Bryan Sutton at ArtistWorks, and have access to an enormous library of video lessons, tabs, and video exchanges between him and other students, and I can do my own video exchanges (I’ve done a few). With so much material, it’s easy to get lost, and I’ve been a bit stuck lately, doing the same tunes and exercises over and over, uncertain about what the next step should be.

So when this Tony Rice course crossed my path and kept crossing my path as if it was telling me to join, I saw it as a good way to focus on something completely different and that it could be the first step to get further with my playing. I may not be able to follow everything, but what’s the worst that can happen? I will learn a lot and get tons of material to work on in the future. It’s also a way to test the waters – how far beyond my comfort zone can I go?

I’ll learn licks and phrases that I can later use in my own solos, and while I focus on learning tunes and solos note by note from a specific recording, I’ll work on my technique, but without even thinking of it.

After the decision to sign up, I couldn’t stop smiling.

And now, on the fifth day of practising the intro of “Old train”, I still can’t stop smiling. It seemed overwhelming at first, but now I play it with good flow in 60-70 BPM, even 80 sometimes. I can do this!

(That speed is way beyond my comfort zone!)

This course is just what I needed. It continues for another month, and during this time I’ll dedicate most of my time to guitar practice. My guitar, my teacher(s), the late Tony Rice and my determination, will make this winter a good one. This is the start of what could be a fantastic year with the guitar – maybe this year will be when I dare to call myself a “pretty good guitar player”?

I’ve babbled long enough about this – but you know, “…the mouth speaks what the heart is full of”! 

To be continued.

Sharing with the lovely bloggers at Natalie’s weekend coffee share.


  • Natalie
    15th January 2022 at 1:12 am

    Susanne, It’s great to hear you decided to sign up for the guitar course and dedicate time for practice. An activity that makes you smile is a good start. Thank you for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare.

    • Susanne
      15th January 2022 at 7:57 pm

      Yes, it’s truly a feel-good activity! Thanks for visiting.

  • Debbie Harris
    15th January 2022 at 4:27 am

    Well done Susanne, a great opportunity for you! I love that phrase the mouth speaks what the heart is full of 🙂

    • Susanne
      15th January 2022 at 7:58 pm

      Hi Debbie, yes, I think this workshop will work wonders in many ways for me! The quote is actually a bit from a Bible verse, maybe you knew that already. Enjoy your weekend!

  • Sue from Women Living Well After 50
    16th January 2022 at 12:48 am

    HI Susanne, well done on overcoming your self-doubt and signing up for the guitar course. I’m sure you will love it and look forward to reading about your progress. Self-doubt can really stop us from pursuing a life well lived. I know when I started my podcast I had recorded the first episode and then procrastinated for a month before pushing the GO LIVE button. Enjoy your week and your guitar. xx

    • Susanne
      16th January 2022 at 11:22 am

      Thanks Sue, and yes, you are so right about how self-doubt gets in the way of living well and truly enjoying life!
      This course has already taught me a lot – not only to play the intro of Old train but a lot more, things like I can do a lot more than I think, how much 100% focused practice works wonders, that when I really focus on ONE thing at a time I feel happy, relaxed and serene… and lots more. I can totally understand your feelings about that first podcast. I would be super nervous about such a thing!

  • Maria
    16th January 2022 at 2:59 pm

    That is wonderful that you are stepping out of your comfort zon and joining this new opportunity! Good for you!

    • Susanne
      16th January 2022 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks Maria, yes, it’s a great opportunity to try something I wouldn’t otherwise have tried, and that will help the development of my playing a lot.

  • trent
    16th January 2022 at 4:33 pm

    You can only grow when you step outside of your comfort zone 🙂 I’m sure you will get a lot out of the class even if you don’t play quite like Tony Rice 😉 I’m doing a lot of self study this winter, but will most likely do a voice class sometime this year (I ahte my singing, but am doing more and more of it). I hope you have a wonderful week! Keep playing.

    • Susanne
      16th January 2022 at 7:25 pm

      That is very true! I’ve been hovering around the basic stuff too long. Not bad because the quality of my playing has improved a lot, but it’s definitely time to move on.
      I’m happy to hear about your vocal class, I hope you will enjoy it and develop your singing skills. Singing is wonderful but obviously you need to like the sound of your own voice.

  • Alex
    17th January 2022 at 7:17 am

    Amazing to pick up something new and agree a good time of year to do it if you can find the motivation. Getting a teacher is a great way to do it. I started my piano lessons again last week, I was feeling in a rut. So we started two new pieces, and I came back with optimism and hope. A great way to bring myself out of January. Define your own success and keep going.

    • Susanne
      17th January 2022 at 10:42 am

      Good to hear about your piano lessons! Music is definitely a great way to spend January. And having a teacher helps so much, even when the teacher is only on video, as is the case with Bryan Sutton for my regular guitar studies. Now this new course (that is only 5 weeks) is a perfect addition to that.

  • Rowena Newton
    17th January 2022 at 12:07 pm

    Hi Susanne,
    Congratulations on taking up the guitar. You’re so full of hope and it’s so encouraging. I need to get back to my violin it’s been two years since I was playing seriously and I think I’ve only picked it up a couple of times in the last 18 months.
    My husband and I did a binge clean on our son’s room while he’s at youth camp tonight. I thought I’d at least wash his blankets and it was like a reverse tornedo swept through and the floor is clear. There are literally mountains of washing, a bucket of cutlery and so many of my husband’s missing socks. Tomorrow my husband will install an air-conditioner. This will be good as he’ll be needing to isolate for a few days. We fully expect him to return with covid, but who knows? He’s double vaxed and he could be lucky.
    Best wishes,

    • Susanne
      17th January 2022 at 12:43 pm

      Hi there! Yes, I’m so happy that I dared to take this step and even happier that I dared to join the workshop I’m talking about in this post. It gives me so much quality of life and has been my lifeline during the pandemic so far! I hope you can get back to the violin! It’s a lovely instrument. I used to play it (but was never good at it) but had to give it up because of a problem with my wrist and thumb, I never find a way to old it that was comfortable and think I need to get some custom solution as an alternative to the shoulder rest because my fiddle is a bit thicker/higher than most. Now it feels like more work than it’s worth, especially now when I’ve come such a long way with the guitar. I feel your pain about going through the mess in your son’s room! Well done, though. I know all about it because I’m married to a man who certainly is lovely but he is very good at spreading things all over the place… 🙁
      Have a good week and thanks for visiting!

  • Leanne |
    18th January 2022 at 1:54 pm

    I love that you used my #WOTY to describe this new fun thing you’ve been trying. And if you can play that intro even a little bit then you’re doing amazingly. I’m always really envious of people with musical talent and one day I’m going to find a ukele teacher and at least have a go at playing something easy! Good on you for putting yourself out there Susanne – you’re an inspiration!

    • Susanne
      18th January 2022 at 3:40 pm

      Oh, Leanne, you make me so happy when you say that. That I’m an inspiration is the best compliment you (and anyone) can give me!! That really made my day! Thank you – and yes, do get yourself a uke teacher! Music is such a feel-good activity, regardless of how simple or complex stuff you play.

  • Kirstin
    18th January 2022 at 5:21 pm

    I loved your quote at the end. Yay for jumping into something challenging and a little out of what you thought you could do!

    • Susanne
      18th January 2022 at 9:41 pm

      Yes, it’s a lot of fun and I’m curious to see how it’ll affect my overall playing. Thanks for visiting!


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