As many of you already know, I have been taking guitar lessons. I began that journey last autumn. Of course, at first, I was walking away from the lessons wondering if I had learned anything at all. But my passion for learning was strong, which got me through the first semester. In the second semester I was given a different teacher (the most amazing teacher on the planet, I must say) and in one class I learned more from this guy than in the entire first semester with the other teacher. I think that this speaks volumes to the value of really great teachers. There is a saying that goes: Good teachers instruct; Great Teachers inspire. This was certainly the case for me.
Then back in May I managed to break my elbow. This certainly put a crimp in my style. For weeks I was barely even able to hold my guitar, let alone play it. So we went on to theory. I certainly appreciated that theory work because, although I am not as passionate about it, it helped me to understand the music I was playing on a much deeper level. By the time the end of June came along I was able to barely play two songs back to back and my arm would be in agony. So my classes consisted of one part performance and three parts inspiration. The thing is, that inspiration kept me interested. I began to explore new songs that I wanted to learn, transpose them into keys that I could play easily, and figure out what kind of music best suited my voice (because it is one thing to learn chords, and then play chords, and it is something entirely different to then insert singing along with that).
Then July came along and I knew that, although my teacher was very willing to continue with me through the summer, I was going to have to take a break in order for my elbow to completely heal. So I took the month of July off to just let it rest and heal as much as possible. In August I began to play intermittently. By mid August I was up to four songs before my arm gave out. Now, in late August, I am at the point of being able to play six songs in a row and not be in agony at the end of it. I know my arm is still not up to snuff, but I will be patient and give it all the time it needs. My lessons begin in two weeks and I am looking forward to starting up with them again and becoming more and more inspired as I go.
I am not in any way saying that I am any good on the guitar. I am persistent. But being good on the guitar takes years and thousands of hours practice. Yes, I have musical talent and passion, and that is what will carry me through the agonizing stages of learning until I do have those thousands of hours under my belt. In the meantime I just enjoy the process of learning something new. Recently I began to switch things up with a number of songs that I am playing. I am adding in different rhythms with my chords and relaxing more as a result of that. The chord progressions are becoming much smoother as a result. And I am noticing that with the rhythm comes a better ability to remember what chords are coming up next, which makes the songs go much smoother as well. I can hardly wait to play them for my teacher so he can see the progression that has happened over the summer!
Now I am very aware that, when it comes to my teacher, who is a musical genius, it must be agonizingly painful at times to listen to a student fumble through a song at a turtle pace. He never makes a person feel incompetent at all. If anything he just keeps coming up with new ways of inspiring the student to keep practicing and to know that we are at a certain point of learning and so to cut ourselves some slack when it comes to our own expectations of ourselves. I so appreciate that, because I am harder on myself than anyone else on the planet, and I need that constant reminder that I do not have to expect perfection from myself immediately. And although I know it must be painful for him to sometimes listen to me plod and fumble through a song, that is actually what I am paying him for. So gradually the monetary investment in his patience will pay off for me. In the meantime I am contributing to his mortgage payments.
It makes me wonder, however, about the people in my home who have to listen to me practice…. They don’t get paid. How do they put up with that crap? I now exclusively practice in my art studio with the door closed. Before I was practicing in the living room. That meant that anyone in the general vicinity would be forced to hear that crap. I may not have mentioned this before, but for those of you who do not know, my partner, Rod, plays guitar very well. He has since we was, I think, five years old. He has the thousands of hours of practice under his belt. And he is wickedly talented musically. So I would worry about how painful it must be for him to listen to my crappy chord progressions and mistakes and hesitations and so on. But then he would now and then come to me and tell me that he could hear the improvements in what I was doing. This would actually make me heave a sigh of relief, because sometimes in the middle of learning one wonders if one is learning anything at all or just mucking about. Once I began adding rhythm to my chords he said that I had entered a new level of learning. This lit a fire under my butt so-to-speak. So I began to really explore and mess around with what I was doing on the guitar and discover new and exciting ways to doing things differently. So eventually I might sound okay. I am looking forward to the day that I do…and then looking forward to the day that I sound good….and then looking forward to the day when I sound awesome. This is going to take years. I know that. But the carrot is dangled and I am hungry.