What trying to learn the guitar has taught me

Being able to play a musical instrument was a childhood dream of mine. Unfortunately, my family couldn’t afford to buy one.

Two years ago,  around the time I started this blog, I felt completely lost in life – a quarter life crisis. On a whim, I bought a guitar. I didn’t even check if the guitar was ok, I wouldn’t know how!. I just trusted the guy at the store who inspected it, played a couple of tunes and handed it to me.

I was eager to learn from day one and did not know where to start. Everybody online suggested JustinGuitar. I glanced through the beginner’s course, which is exactly as it sounds –  you should be able to listen, identify and play the basic chords with few strumming patterns and a few songs based on those chords.

The beginner’s devastation

Week one, I went through few videos in the beginners’ course and learnt to play three chords – no songs, just the chords, at an extremely slow pace, with errors. After putting in several hours over the week, I was disappointed. My fingertips which held the strings down were in pain. Surely, I was missing something? It cannot be this hard. I went through the forum for tips on the course. People stated as a matter of fact that the beginners course would take a year to complete. I was devastated.

YouTube is a fascinating place for any beginner who is trying to learn guitar. There are tons of great guitar videos and musicians – well known in real life or just internet famous. These guitarists play amazing songs without breaking a sweat. What nobody told me about was the thousands of hours they spent practicing over the years. What nobody tells you is that to learn to play a song perfectly, is to be patient and practice the song in pieces, over hundreds of times.

And my first song took a month. It was the theme song of game of thrones. It was the most beginner version possible, picked note by note, and sounded like the ringtone of a 90s phone. I was proud of this achievement. And then I quit playing for the next four months.

It’s complicated

I learnt a few things during my time of giving up on guitar. That my fingertips had hardened and the pain had become insignificant. That playing one hour everyday during a week is better than playing five hours on one day and not playing for the rest of the week. Muscle memory takes days to develop and not hours. I just needed time and a lot of patience to see things through.

I learnt that playing a small part of the song at an extremely slow pace without errors and then gradually increasing the speed is the right way to practice. There are no shortcuts. As a beginner, I have to accept that I cannot play complicated songs and it is not going to sound like those YouTube guys, not in the first few years at least. There is no law that I have to complete a beginner’s book or an online course. I should just try learning any song that I want to learn and see where it takes me.

During this time, I was obsessed with watching YouTube guitar videos. I realized that I am never going to sing or perform for anyone. Not that I wished to. I never had any dreams of becoming a rockstar or to play in a band. I just wanted to play for myself to hear and nobody else. I needed an escape, to keep myself occupied.

Back to guitar

When I finally picked up the guitar again, I couldn’t play the song that I learnt. The pain in my fingertips were back. But I kept watching YouTube guitar lessons. I practiced bits and pieces of songs. Over the next year, I was able to learn 13 songs. Not without errors, maybe not at the right tempo, but it did sound like music to me. There were times that I had to practice the same song so many times that I developed a strange ever-so-slight dislike of the song.

Why am I writing this?

So that I can come back here to read this again in future, to remember what’s going on in my mind right now. I was pleasantly surprised today, because a couple of days back, my team at work asked me to play for them. But I couldn’t as I’ve never played for anyone before. So, I decided to make a video and send it to them.

The people at work loved it! I am in shock. Looking at the video, I now realize that I’ve never truly recognized my progress before, however little it was.

I do hope that one day, I become good enough to not call myself a beginner anymore and be able to learn a new song in few days or even write my own songs. Even if that day is years from now, I am ok with it. Till then, I’ll tell myself to be patient as everybody’s journey is different because everyone is different.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s