Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Borrowed a Guitar, and I Intend to Use it

Last weekend we were in Greensboro so Teresa could attend one of Catherine's bridal showers. I got to spend some time with the bro-in-law, David, and watched some college football, and our dog, Hannah. In one of our previous trips to Greensoboro I had noticed an acoustic guitar sitting in the corner of the downstairs family room looking sort of sad and lonely. I inquired to my in-laws about the ownership and purpose of the guitar, and I came to find out it was bought by my mother-in-law with the intent to learn it, but not the time. And thus it had been in that corner for quite awhile. Neglected. And did I mention sad and lonely?

Being the caring person that I am, I asked my wife's parents if I could borrow the guitar and put it to good use. They obliged, and I now have it at home in my music room. When I say music room, I mean the spare room where my keyboard is. I like to think of it as my room, though it has elements of things that are not mine, well, mine by marriage I guess. But I'm getting off the subject.

A short history of me and instruments. Growing up I took piano lessons. We had an upright piano in our home since before I can remember, and I practiced and took lessons for probably eight or so years off and on in between moving to central Oregon and then Alaska. I then played with the church worship team in high school, and with a ministry group in college, as well as my church during college. Needless to say, I put those years of piano lessons to good use I think. Where guitars come into this is that all that time playing piano, I was nearly always in the presence of a guitar as well, but never really learned to play one.

My mother played guitar. From what I heard, she taught herself how to play by secluding herself in her bedroom and listening to John Denver records. I haven't verified that, but I know I heard it from someone. Either my mom or her parents at one point. In worship bands the worship leader is almost always a guitar player. That was the case in both the youth group, and the college ministry team.

I had numerous guitar playing roommates in college. There was J.P. the rocker, who played electric guitar and often liked to comment, in reference to watching guitarists in music videos, that, "Any newborn fetus could play that." Though technically a newborn is no longer a fetus, I never really felt the need to argue the point with him. And there was Justin, who was a phenomenal acoustic guitar player. We were roommates around the time Shane and Shane were becoming popular, and Justin would figure out all of their songs and play them on his guitar. Paul and Bud were both guitar players from that ministry group I keep mentioning. Pioneers for Christ in case you were curious. I was roommates with both of them, though not a the same time.

Anyway, I think you get the picture. I learned music, music theory, how to read it, how to play in a band, etc. all from my piano training. But being in the environment that I was in, I also picked up some guitar chords here and there, and a rudimentary understanding of strumming. Enough to where I could play a three or four chord song. As long as it didn't include an F chord. But having never owned a guitar, or spending any amount of time learning basic guitar techniques, I never really felt like I could call myself a guitar player.

But I had a lot of interest in learning more because guitars are premier instruments. It's hard to find bands out there with lead pianists, though they exist. The simple truth is that almost all modern bands have guitar leads. The primary instrument for the Rock Band and Guitar Hero games is the guitar, though, side note, Rock Band 3 is out now with a keyboard instrument. Do want. And guitar players are cool people. At least, all of the guitar players I knew were. And guitars are so easy to take with you to play anywhere. After several years of lugging an 88 key KORG keyboard around, you start to look at the guitar players and get a little jealous.

So now I find myself in the possession of an actual guitar. It's not mine, but I have it on loan for as long as I need it. And now that I have one, I want to learn how to use it. More than just the few chords I already know. This week I've been thinking about the best way to do that. I don't really have the time, or money, to take private lessons like I did when I learned the piano, and I feel like I at least have a leg up on the the music theory part. I can read chords and stuff like that. What I don't have is the dexterity, or the familiarity with the guitar to really play it well. Even if I know how to play a G chord and a C chord, moving between them is a pain. I don't strum well because I have the habit of wanting to hit all six strings, even for chords where you're only supposed to play the bottom four or five. How do you not hit all the strings? They're so close together!

Last night I did a search on you tube and Google for beginner guitar lessons. Lo and behold there are quite a few free resources out there for learning the guitar, complete with instructional videos, chord charts, and step by step instructions on how to strum correctly. I just learned how to hold a guitar pick for the first time. So the only thing I need to do now is be consistent about practicing. And patient. I have a tendency to gloss over stuff if I feel like I already know it, like scales. But I've been reading that doing scales is important to training your fingers correctly, stretching them out and building the flexibility to play all those guitar chords. Even that dreaded F chord. This is starting to remind me a lot about learning to play the piano. Scales were always boring, but you have to know those by heart before you can play the fun stuff.

So hopefully, with some time and patience, I'll be able to teach myself to play guitar like my mom did, only instead of listening to John Denver, I'll be trying to play Jonathan Coulton songs.


Lal said...

Yay good post!

But you left out the best beginning to a song ever!

Connie said...

Awww...great post, son. I actually learned to play guitar from a PBS series taught by a Folk artist named Laura Weber. Every Saturday at about noon. You could send off for a music guide for $2. There were three series and I worked through all of them. I was 12. She taught all the basic folkie strums, chords and rhythms. After I learned the basics, I started listening to and learning all of John Denver's stuff...I'm sure my family was thrilled, ha ha.