Guitar and Life (#socs)

I’m writing this on my Kindle Fire as we wait in the church parking lot before Mass. Nothing like typing with one finger.

I might have told this story before: long before the stroke, I attended the National Guitar Workshop. My instructor gave each of us some individual advice. For just about everyone, his advice was something specific to a facet of playing the guitar (work on II-V-I progressions, pentatonic scales, etc.), but for me, the advice was to “make the music come from somewhere besides your hands, fingers, and arms.” He told me I looked like I was wrestling with it. It dawned on me that I was exhausted after about half an hour because I was fighting with it, trying to make it look easy. By the end of a session my arms were cramping and my fingers were stiff.

I think I learned to play that way because the person I took lessons from originally liked to make me ill-at-ease, and I was trying so hard not to make mistakes. Even after I quit taking lessons (about six months later than I should have), I always felt defensive about my playing, at least in front of others. I could jam like a wild man in my room, but in front of others I was useless.

I decided I would take the approach where I’d forget there was anyone else there. I’d keep my ears open, but as far as I was concerned the music I was hearing was coming from a record. And it worked.


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is hosted by Linda Hill at her blog:

I hope this works…

10 thoughts on “Guitar and Life (#socs)

  1. I started very young with bass runs and chords. The rhythms kept me going. My dad told me people only remember how you start and finish, don’t sweat mistakes in the middle.


      1. I taught a couple people with a Mel Bay book. It was challenging because I was self taught. I learn chords in all the keys with a few bass runs and once I hit age 13 started playing along with Blondie, ABBA, J. Geils Band, REM, and some other staples. I lived with the music, that’s the best way if kids have a bit of talent and passion for it. No Mel Bay Method necessary 😉


        1. That’s what I’ve discovered. You’re better off training your ear than trying to read the music off the staff. You can always learn to read music later. Or not… You can get pretty far without knowing how to interpret the inkblots. My grandmother could hear a piece of music and play the whole thing almost immediately, and even transpose it to an easier key. I don’t think she was any kind of genius, she just knew how to hear something. Put sheet music in front of her, she could read it, but most of what she played was by ear.

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