At the beginning of February, I decided that I would start to begin my musical voyage and try to learn how to play the guitar (see Learning How To Play Vol. 1). For years, I thought of absorbing the ways of playing a musical instrument appealed to me. It would be one of the coolest accomplishments I would ever achieve in my lifetime. I would become a rock star, taking over the streets of our fair town and make everyone just fall in love with me. The people will just crowd the area bars and just break all the fire codes without thinking that their lives could be in danger just to hear me play. Women would lose their voices from shouting from the top of lungs when they saw me hit the stage, and flash them a wink their way. The guys would tip their bottles of beer to show their respect and admiration. The lights would shine as bright as the sun on me. The chanting of the spectators would be heard miles away. The stage would violently shake as if there was an earthquake.
Alright, alright-that’s not exactly what I’m going for. Sorry I got carried away there. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the thought of someone wanting to do that for me. If anything, I would get yelled at to get off the stage, or have a beer thrown at me.
Nonetheless, I do want to gain a better understanding on the science of learning how to play, and hopefully be lucky enough in the near future to be part of a set with musicians that want to play live.
To get the ball rolling, I decided to go and check out some of the local guitar shops. Walking into the establishments, you immediately hark back to being a kid in a candy store. Replacing all the sugary sweets one could gorge on is a considerable amount of instruments at every corner and every angle of the buildings. A person that loved music really could get lost in these shops. Each shop brings its own unique styles. Hauer Music presents an historic sense when you walk in. The old canal building provided the presence that makes Dayton a true gem of a city. Recreate Shop gives guitar enthusiasts a euphoric environment to come to in the Oregon District. The business provides customers first rate service with prices on instruments that will slap the big businesses straight across the face. These are both staples in town, and for beginning guitar players-check them out.
Lucky for me, I had two good friends that allowed me to borrow some of their equipment. One friend, trumpet and guitar player Nick Dever let me borrow a black, electric guitar he had lying around and singer/songwriter Tim Gebard loaned an amp. Gebard also mentioned that I could come over and learn how to play a couple of songs that contain a few simple chords. I wanted to see if I could learn how to play on my own first.
The beginning of each guitar player starts with one simple step-sit down and learns the chord structure. What I didn’t realize is the amount of chords there is. I think that there is a chord for each letter in the alphabet and then some. This revelation made me go and see what the internet had to offer. I clicked on various videos on YouTube, thinking that this could be a fast and effortless way to gain the knowledge needed. Simply put-watching the videos were a complete disaster for me. I would see what the instructor on the video would say to do, and I would try to replicate. As I tried to strum the chord, nothing would happen. I thought that I was doing the correct procedures. Place the fingers on the strings. Pluck the strings with the pick straight down. Hear the note played perfectly. Nope. Nothing. Nada. As all this was happening, the video would move on. I would rewind and try again. Same thing. No correct note sound. Repeat the process over a dozen times. I would watch the video and then try to play. I would yell at the instructor as if they could hear me through the computer. This route clearly wasn’t working for me.
With the video learning failing horribly, I called up Gebard to see if he could help. He mentioned that if I ever wanted some help, he would be kind enough to take some time and help me some. We sat down one afternoon in February and he gave me a couple of printed sheets of songs to dive that had the chords on top of the lyrics. The finger placement when playing the guitar is like trying to learn a foreign language. I remembered the years of learning Spanish when I was high school, and wanting to scream because it wasn’t as easy as I wanted it to. This feeling of frustration showed itself when playing with Gebard. He would show me the positioning of the fingers for each of the chords that were needed when playing Helpless by Neil Young. At times I thought that I would start to figure out the fluid flow that makes the song sound amazing. However, my fingers would let me down. The holding of the strings is a complex strategy. If you hold down on the strings a certain way, the sound played is muffled. There isn’t much of anything. So, you have to learn how to play with the tips of the fingers. It’s difficult. This isn’t a process that comes overnight.
I knew that at the end of this day playing, I had to practice. And I mean practice.
Well…that hasn’t happened much.
I admit it. I wish that at this point I would be playing a couple of songs with ease and grace. Life doesn’t work that way. I have become so much more amazed at how you go to watch bands and artists perform live. The time that each performer has put in makes me feel beyond guilty about not playing. They have dedicated their lives to achieving the professional style that we as observers come to expect. They have locked themselves in their bedrooms when they were younger and wouldn’t come out for hours. They would have their fingers gush with blood due to amount of time elapsed while playing.
I have made every single excuse in the world. I have been busy. I work long hours and haven’t had the time. I live in an apartment and don’t want to be too loud. I can only imagine that I am not the only one who thinks the same thoughts each and every second. Playing an instrument isn’t going to be an overnight thing. It takes time. It takes patience. The days in college have crept back in to my life. The excuses need to stop I recently told myself. I had a goal and I plan on sticking to it. I want to learn how to play the guitar.
So the next step is now finding the time. I have been told by several musicians when they have been told about my journey is to find a half-hour to an hour every night. Sit down, put on a television show or go to Netflix and click on something. The musicians say that by doing this it will help time fly by. So, I plan on doing this along with getting guitar lessons.
The development of becoming a guitar player is not easy. There is still so much to learn. I know this now more than ever. In the next installment, I hope to bring some better news. Now, please excuse me. I have to go and practice…