Monday, August 10, 2009

Happiness Project: Guitar Lessons

I finally did it: last month I borrowed my dad’s guitar and started taking lessons. After years of thinking about it, and years of listening to almost every boyfriend I’ve had twang away, I decided it was high time I learned myself. I was reticent about making the time commitment, concerned that it would take time away from my other creative endeavors (not to mention work and some semblance of a social life), but in the end my curiosity got the better of me. Truthfully, I thought it would be easy – partly because of my experience with other instruments, partly because almost every guy I dated played guitar and was constantly telling me how easy it was, and partly because I know a number of people who taught themselves how to play.

Imagine my surprise then to discover that learning guitar is one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do. Just learning the right way to hold the instrument was difficult for me, and after 5 lessons I’m still struggling. The fingertips on my left hand are developing strange calluses, which sometimes hurt and sometimes don’t feel a thing at all (which can make typing a whole new experience…). I’ve struggled to learn 5 basic chords, and my pinky finger is still pretty much useless. I practice in my bedroom, with the air conditioning on, hoping the neighbors can’t hear me. I’ve already broken one electronic tuner (dropped it on my sister’s ceramic tile floor), and my dad has already replaced the strings (the original 13-gauge strings were almost literally chewing up my fingers). And I get incredibly frustrated when I can’t quiiiite get things right. I'm used to being able to pick things up pretty quickly, but clearly I am no guitar prodigy.

That all said? I really love it, and wish I’d done this years ago. First of all, I feel like I’m challenging myself in a completely new way, and as frustrating as it is, I think it’s good for me. Second of all, it’s making me remember how important music was to me as a child/teenager, and I’d forgotten that. Third, practicing means there is at least half an hour a day that I am totally concentrating on something that prevents me from mulling about work, or anything else that might be stressful. It's weirdly meditative in that respect. Fourth, it's causing me to listen to music a bit differently, especially acoustic musicians like Patty Griffin and Ray LaMontagne, who are amazing guitar players. The idea of being able to play their music someday is actually pretty inspiring, and frankly? I was due for a bit of inspiration.

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