Last week I had lunch with a classmate who was a close friend during my growing up years. I was reminded of how much an inspiration he was to me after I first heard him play at elementary school. And reminiscing about our journey as kids trying to learn how to play guitar, I remembered how excited I was to figure out a top 40 hit or a riff from some player I really liked. As a raw beginner, it was so challenging to try and understand how the song went, not to mention the difficulty of figuring out the chord voicing and whether or not a capo was being used, or if the guitar was de-tuned, or even something more foreign to my fledgling ears. [Read more…]
A number of years ago after I left home, I owned a few instruments before I got my first ‘really’ good guitar.
One was a Rickenbacker 620; a right-handed electric that I converted to lefty. I ended up giving it to a young player that was just starting to find his way as a guitarist and he needed a much better instrument than he could afford.
The other guitar I owned early on was an Ovation Legend.
This was my first acoustic that was actually made left-handed; to this day probably the easiest guitar for me to play. Although, I ruined this one after leaving it in the car for 5-6 hours in the middle of July. It wasn’t the same even after it was repaired. I traded it a few years later for more guitar gear… a hard lesson learned, for sure.
A few years later I bought my first “really good” guitar… a Martin HD-35.
I remember researching where I could find one of these (the internet wasn’t around then); I went to various music stores in the area to see if there was one I could play, but even if a store had a few Martins, they were right-handed so I had to play them backwards to get an idea how the neck felt and what the guitar sounded like. Ultimately I would have to special order a left-handed version and hope that it played like I imagined it would. [Read more…]
My first guitar, at eight years old, was an inexpensive acoustic made by Custom Kraft. I would have told you at the time that it wasn’t a real guitar. I was still waiting for that one.
The wait for me was about four and half years, after I had turned twelve. It was pretty late on Christmas Eve in 1965. The family tradition for us was opening presents on December 24th, followed by stockings on Christmas morning. Best I could tell, the gifts to me were all identified and gratefully acknowledged and it was time for bed. But I’m afraid I was a little grumpy that Christmas was ‘over’ for that year and I would have to wait a little longer for an electric guitar.
Dad said he had to go do something and then suddenly emerged from the hallway with this beautiful sunburst Silvertone electric guitar. I don’t think I was able to speak for a while. He then spent the next few hours setting it up for me to play left handed. We plugged it in to his vintage Ampeg and I was in heaven. It was the best sound I ever heard. I still remember that Christmas as being my favorite gift-receiving holiday of all time. [Read more…]
I started hounding my parents for my first guitar when I was 7 years old. At the time Dad couldn’t really afford a decent instrument and to make matters worse, I’m left handed. When I was a kid there were not a ton of inexpensive left handed guitars available.
So, my Dad found a cheap acoustic right handed guitar that we modified so it would take strings upside down. I remember the action being pretty high off the frets, but we didn’t know that we could have lowered it, at least a little. And every time I recounted this story for people, the string height would get higher and higher; maybe six inches or so (it was really about a quarter of an inch). You know, it’s like telling your kids you used to walk 3 miles in the snow to get to school every day. There’s just something satisfying about embellishing a story with a little more drama than truth.
I must have wanted to play badly, because I rarely put it down. It wasn’t until 4-5 years later that I got an electric guitar… way, way, much, much better. Another story, another article. [Read more…]
The biggest battle when you’re just starting out, seems to be overcoming the shock that learning an instrument makes you feel totally uncoordinated. Just trying the get a decent sound out of the guitar as you work on the first few lessons is humbling at best; you know that’s an understatement if you’ve been there.
But a good reminder is that learning is progressive. Frustrating emotions can be on display during the first few months of lessons. And the temptation to quit can be overwhelming. So, try to think of ways to encourage the student (it might be you) to never give up. If you already play or teach, you know that there are no shortcuts to improving your skill. You may have had to fight the urge to walk away from it early on as well, but you stuck with it and now you enjoy the fruits of it.
One of the things I’ve discovered, is that every little battle fought and won makes the next battle easier. When you work really hard to play a song or an exercise well; meaning that you practice enough to play the piece skillfully, and you can repeat that skill, the next lesson you tackle will be easier. The skills that you learn in one lesson will transfer to the next, and so on. You don’t have to start over each time you learn something new.
Remember, battle early.
Until next time…