One dreams about the fairytale of being able to pick up a guitar and effortlessly bust out a soulful original song after just an hour of instruction but, that’s akin to hoping for a hot Scientist to accidentally take your latte and then offer to buy you a steak dinner as an apology. Sure, it’s possible and I’m all for embracing that kind of awesome but, you’d be wise to boy scout the situation and be prepared with a Plan B. You know, just in case
John Hughes isn’t directing your life from heaven.
Like after any good date (okay, let’s be honest, even before your first date) one should Google (or in my case Yahoo) your partner. Now, that may sound like something you’d do much later in the relationship but, I’m talking about a thorough internet search to see if anything odd comes up. It’s okay, it’s not stalking, its valuable research and we all do it, so don’t pretend a little surfing is scandalous. Nothing’s worse than having a great date or two only to find out later he’s a die-hard Magic the Gathering fan, or he’s marked as “in a relationship” and “it’s complicated” or he’s a registered sex offender. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s always a plus to have his awesomeness confirmed. Your gut feelings and chemistry can be validated when your search results turn up photos of him volunteering at the local animal shelter or the discovery that he owns an environmentally friendly, conflict free diamond mine. Good or bad, these are things you have a right to know
before spending one more minute with them. So I got to know my guitar.
After plugging in all the info I had via the label inside my guitar,(Ariana, SG-20) it turns out that my guitar, although “nice,” doesn’t have much of an internet trail. Maybe Australian, maybe Japanese, but Made in China for sure, my dream of uncovering the Stradivarius of guitars was crushed, but at least it’s gotten some compliments. True those compliments have been prefaced with “actually” but, it may be because I’m selling it short with the whole “spent years in a friend’s storage unit.” No matter, I had some great one on one time with my guitar over the last two weeks and I felt optimistic about our progress. Until Monday…
Lesson Three – Shifting Gears:
Despite knowing how well the last lesson went and how my practice had gone, because I’m a girl and it is our birthright to at times be totally void of logic, there was a bit of third lesson/date anxiety. Would my progress measure up? Would I remember my technique? Would I choke like the Sharks in a playoff game? To my delight though, despite a few initial finger hiccups, I got some genuine praise for the work I had done and we jumped right into the next part of the song, picking up right where we had left off. And then, the
dreaded panic set in. More notes, more left hand, more uncharted territory, and more self-doubt.
I found myself having mini-flashbacks to driving lessons. The dreaded gut butterflies returned, the same ones that preceded each attempt my father made to instruct me in the art of defensive driving. The echo of “put the clutch in BEFORE you shift” halting my ability to perform the next musical steps. There I was, 16 all over again. Left hand, right hand, posture, wrist position, pressure, coordination, alignment, timing. Yeah, there’s a lot going on with a guitar and I was pretty sure mom wouldn’t have chocolate chip cookies waiting for me after my guitar lesson like she always did after my often-ending-in-tears-driving- lessons. Luckily, unlike driving, guitar resulted in no tears (and a good thing too, can you say awkward much?) But, just like driving (I can parallel park on a hill in San Francisco, so it all worked out in the end) a good teacher makes all the difference and failure was never an option.
Method to the Madness:
I should mention here that part of the Suzuki Method, which I will dedicate an entire post to later, emphasizes that the teacher use their own intuition of when to introduce actual musical notation into the mix, but that initially, like the way a child learns language, you play by ear before reading. I found myself very thankful there wasn’t the added distraction of notes at this point, that I wasn’t thrown a map to read while trying to shift and not crash into parked cars as it were. As a dyslexic, I had a horrible time trying to read notes when I was seven and ultimately it was that frustration (I played mostly by ear) that led to me giving up piano after less than a year. It could also be said I learned to drive by ear too. STOP! and, WAIT, and OKAY, GET OUT AND GIVE ME THE KEYS, were audio clues essential to my training. But, I digress (what else is new?)
How I Wonder What You Are:
A combination of breaking down the steps, demonstration, repetition, calm reassurance, an MC Hammer reference, and even a fun little visual diagram, in a matter of minutes transformed my initial confusion and paralysis into… an entire song. If I smoked, I would have lit a cigarette. Talk about satisfaction. Accomplishment. Victory. I’m neither too old nor too untalented! Song number one…in the bag. Okay, I’m still playing it at about 50% speed, but hey, it’s not how fast, it’s…yeah, I’m not going to go there.
But, I am going to go to a fourth lesson. And a fifth. And possibly a sixth. And who knows, maybe I will get to realize the next dream of not just playing notes, not just playing a song, but maybe being able to write a song of my own. A song for me, by me, and played by me. Hey, and maybe that hot Scientist is eyeing my latte as we speak? Eat your heart out John Hughes.