Learning on the Road: Currently Wandering with the jamstik+ | Part 1
Jess and her ten-year-old daughter, Rachel, are learning guitar for the first time using the jamstik+ and the jamTutor app series. Stay tuned to our blog to follow along with their learning progress as they travel around the United States with their family of 5 in an Airstream trailer!
We are the Curren family and for the last two years have been traveling full time in our Airstream travel trailer around the United States. My husband is a computer programmer who works remotely, and we home school (or road school) our three kids ages 10, 8, and 6. We typically follow the weather - heading north in the summer and south in the winter traveling in the spaces between cities. While visiting national & state parks we have the opportunity to mountain bike, backpack, and hike in the most beautiful places. We have a simple, adventurous life and absolutely love it!
There are many perks to our lifestyle, but there are also a lot of activities and hobbies we have chosen to not pursue at this time. When we were selling the house and most of our stuff, I looked longingly at the guitar I had bought 6 months previously. I had every intention of learning to play, but naturally life got in the way and I never found time to dedicate to practicing. I grew up playing the piano and love to have music in our lives which is something we’ve definitely missed!
When we heard about the Jamstik+ it seemed like the perfect solution to my problem. We don’t have room for a full size guitar, but the Jamstik+ is small, compact, and lightweight and comes with an app to actually teach me to play. It would be easy to store, and since we are better at managing our time and not crowding our lives with too many activities I planned to carve out an evening or two to sit in the hammock and practice. I’m hoping that by becoming proficient on the Jamstik, I can easily transition to a larger guitar once we are done with the traveling phase of our life. After talking to my kids about the possibility of learning the guitar, my 10 year old daughter, Rachel also expressed interest in learning so we decided to do it together.
We were super excited to get started when our two Jamstik+ guitars arrived in the mail! Everything we needed is included and it was a simple process to open up the box, take the yellow strip off the battery, turn it on and connect it our device. I love that it’s connected via Bluetooth, so there are no cords between the Jamstik and the device we are using. Because the Jamstik+ is smaller than a normal guitar, it's harder to hold in your lap and we’ve found using the included neck strap helps keep it in a more comfortable position. The strap does twist and is kind of annoying to keep straight, but overall it is worth having on there. My husband appreciates that we can practice with headphones while he is working!
I took a guitar class in college so have a rudimentary knowledge of how chords work and how to strum. Rachel has never touched a guitar and I was impressed how fast she picked it up. The JamTutor app provides basic instruction for people who have never played. Lesson 1 begins with details of how to hold both the guitar and pick as well as how to put your fingers on the fretboard.
From there the lessons go into picking single notes, strumming and then introduce “Arcade Mode” which is a fun way to play with background music. Kind of like “Dance Dance Revolution” video games where you have to step on the correct arrows as they scroll down the screen. Arcade Mode is Rachel’s favorite and she spent close to an hour one day just going through the different challenges.
Lesson 2 gets into finger assignments and the names of the strings. I still have trouble remembering the various names of the strings, but I figure that will come with practice!
Lesson 3 was where things started to get really fun. We were introduced to the A & E chords and there are some fun activities in Arcade Mode that help practice switching quickly between the two chords in a song. Rachel and I both struggled with the “Acrade Bluesy” section. It was good to know you can move the whole chord up and down the fretboard for different sounds, but neither of us really liked this part of the lesson.
Each lesson also has “Challenges” for us to practice the skills we learned. They are Arcade songs but we can do them over and over again until we feel comfortable. I usually will do a Challenge in practice mode until I feel comfortable with it, and then move over to Normal mode and try and get a high score!
I love learning new skills, and I can already tell that we have both made progress using the JamTutor app and the Jamstik. My biggest worry is that I’ll never memorize all the names of the notes and the chords! Sometimes the instruction in the app moves a little slowly, but overall I feel like there’s a good progression of skills and it's great the app keeps track of how much we’ve accomplished! I can’t wait to keep practicing and get better at playing on my own!
-Jess Curren, Currently Wandering
To learn more about Jess and her traveling family, check out their family blog, Currently Wandering.