Like many women, I’ve spent most of my life avoiding things that I’m not good at. I don’t like struggling (too much) or failing, so I naturally chose courses and majors where I excelled.
I was good at school, so I eventually earned a Ph.D. I studied communication and education and enjoyed a career teaching college. I’m also a writer who’s published non-fiction and crime fiction.
Despite a lifelong interest in music, I avoided learning a musical instrument after a less than successful attempt to learn the piano when I was young. Probably too young. It was my mother’s dream, not mine, and I was an undisciplined and unfocused eight-year-old. Gosh, I wasn’t even good at school yet.
My teacher, Mrs. Barber, was a wonderful woman, kind and patient. It was in no way her fault that I failed so miserably. It was mine. I told myself that music was something I could not do, but, fortunately, it turned out, much to my relief, I was good in other areas.
A couple summers ago I decided I wanted to learn to play the electric guitar. My teaching career was winding down, and I was at an age where I no longer cared if I was among the best at everything I did. One nice thing about getting older is shedding the burden of doing things without worrying about failure. I had the degrees, the teaching and writing awards, the published books. These were tangible things that no one could take away from me–even if I failed at learning the guitar.
So I was freed. My first guitar was a beginner’s one. The Fender Squire came with an amp, case, and other assorted accessories. It’s not considered a real guitar by musicians, but it’s perfect for $99.
After six months I decided I wanted a better guitar. After some research, I decided on an Epiphone LP-100. I lust after other guitars, but for now it serves my purposes.
I took several lessons from Justin Sandercoe on http://justinguitar.com and highly recommend his site. I’ve also read many books on guitar playing, music theory, etc. The ones that resonated the most with me include Gary Marcus’ Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning and Anthony Pell’s Learning to Play the Guitar: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide. I’m also a huge fan of the PC video instructional game Rocksmith and will write more about that experience in future posts. I’ve also gotten tips, advice, and inspiration from my guitar-playing cousin Matt. My partner, too, has given me lots of help and encouragement. She has never had a lesson, hates Rocksmith, but can listen to a song and then effortlessly recreate it. It’s maddening. We learn in different ways, and that has been a learning experience in itself.
So where am I now? I try to practice at least an hour every day. I can play most of the common chords and have far more understanding of music theory, songwriting, and guitar technique than ever before. However, I am not excellent. I would rate myself as fair. I am sure a twelve-year-old could easily outplay me. I struggle to learn new material and often feel frustrated. There are many days I feel like a failure. But I enjoy playing the guitar and look forward to it every day. Fortunately, I’m at an age and in a position where I don’t have to be the best, and I have the luxury of doing things that make me happy and can say no to (most) activities that bring me little joy.
This is the first post for this blog, but I plan to post occasionally with reviews, insights, recommendations, experiences, etc. Check back to see where I’m at on the journey.
Meanwhile, go ahead and try something you think you’re not good at. Who knows? You might have some fun.