Sunday, September 14, 2008


I've been learning guitar!!

I know, I know, lots of people do that. But this is a bigger deal than it sounds like. See, when I was twelve I got a clarinet, and a piano AND a keyboard. (My parents were not rich, but they eagerly supported my interest in music, so when I asked for instruments they'd usually scrape up the money somehow.) And I learned both of them pretty quickly: the clarinet through school band classes, and the piano by playing around and picking out songs by ear, then learning chords, then playing with "fake books" (where you play the melody and chords, instead of playing "proper" piano). I felt like there wasn't any instrument I couldn't learn.

Then, when I was 13, I got a guitar.

It wasn't the classical guitar seen here; I got that when I was 17 or 18. No, I was into rock music, and I had to have an electric guitar. So we bought one, and we brought it home, and I picked at it a little and played with the amplifier and tried to make it sound all disorted and grunge-y. And then I tried to learn actual chords, and it made my fingers go numb and they kept hitting the wrong strings and I got all angry and why does this have to be so hard I just want to play Smells Like Teen Spirit dammit!! So I stuffed it in the closet and decided I just couldn't learn string instruments, and felt guilty for asking my mom for something so expensive and then giving it up. I asked for an acoustic years later (I don't know why my mom bought a classical-style one, but it doesn't make much difference to me), hoping it would be easier to learn on that. It wasn't. So I shoved that in the closet too, and now I was wasting two guitars.

If you're keeping score, I'm almost 23 now. That means I've been a guitar owner for nearly ten years without learning to play a single chord or even clumsily pluck a song on one string. As someone whose life pretty much revolves around music, that's pretty embarassing.

But! I figured out what my problem was. I was trying to teach myself guitar. Somehow, I thought guitars were bigger and better than me, and was afraid to play them "wrong" lest they implode or something. I thought this was a big mysterious instrument you had to take serious lessons on - I mean, the piano was just pushing buttons! Guitars had all these scary complicated parts and you can play the same note in a bunch of different places and the music is written in tabs and chords instead of regular sheet music and and and!! So, I was letting it intimidate me. That's a lot of power to give a box of wood with some nylon tied to it.

But now I've decided I want to try again, mostly because of this guy we saw at Yasumicon who just randomly had a guitar and took it up in a tree with him and started playing Led Zeppelin and stuff. I thought, "Dude, I wanna be able to randomly play music wherever I go!" There's no climbing up in a tree with a piano. But this time I just let myself play with the guitar, the way I did when I was learning piano. And you know what? I'm learning a lot faster. I'll just start plucking a melody on one string, and then go "This would be a lot easier to play if I used more than one string; I wouldn't have to move my hand so much". So then I'll figure out how to play it on two strings, then three, then four. And it's fun, and there's no feeling like a failure when I don't do something "right". I still haven't learned chords, but here are the melodies I can play so far:

When Johnny Comes Marching Home/Ants Go Marching
You Are My Sunshine
Scarborough Fair
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star/The alphabet song/Baa Baa Black Sheep
The Twelve Days of Christmas
"And I Love Her" by The Beatles (just the basic melody)

And I'm working on these:
Greensleeves/What Child is This
God Save the Queen/My Country 'Tis of Thee/The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen



Dawne said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog about the animals! We also have a potbelly pig that shares that couch and just recently acquired another dog! Phew! I love this post about the guitar! It has sparked something in me this morning reading it! I did the same thing in a sense, at almost the same ages as you! I played some piano and had a guitar (acoustic only). I played around a bit but put it down for years and was just thinking the other day, as my 37th birthday is tomorrow, that I want be learning something new, along the lines of a new hobby of sorts--something that I used to do, that I could elaborate on and do NOW, even better than before! I think it just may be the guitar--so I also could do that--make music anywhere I go! Maybe we could play together one day!! Who knows--it is a small world after all!!

gail said...

I just wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed reading your blog, Bonnie. And I have a guitar that Broc bought me 2 1/2 years ago. It sits here and I haven't played it more than a couple of times. I am learning to play Rock Band guitar though so maybe that will inspire me! :-)