Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Will to Suck at Something and Continue

After one 45-minute guitar lesson, something I’ve long suspected became clear:  I suck at guitar.  Oh, I was prepared for this.  I used to teach something I’m better at, and I constantly told my students not to worry about the early papers, which were weighted much less than the later papers because I expected them to do poorly on the first assignments.  Over and over I said, to get good at something, you have to be willing to suck at it for a while first.  And think about exactly what you’re doing wrong, and what, if anything, you’re doing right.  I guess deep down I didn’t want this to apply to me.

It started out positively sad.  My guitar was out of tune, without looking, I would turn the wrong peg to tune it, and I apparently couldn’t hear.  But I expect I’ll get better at that fairly soon.  What was worse was when my teacher asked me what chords I knew, knowing I’d taken classical guitar lessons about twenty years ago.  I just looked at her miserably and shrugged.  “I just know notes,” I said.  So I’m in the baby section now.

On the other hand, I got better than I thought I could at changing from D to A7 in the lesson itself.  My fingers are sore but proud.  I’m working on, let’s see, “Clementine,” “Down in the Valley,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Hush Little Baby,” “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” and let us not omit “Frère Jacques.”  Actually, those are much better than the stuff I had to play when I first started classical guitar but hadn’t actually worked my way up to actual (if simple) classical pieces.

I’m going to need to quit biting my fingernails, I guess, at least on my right hand.  I’ve quit stronger things, but if they’d had sonograms in 1966, you’d have seen me gumming my fingernails, I’m sure.  It’s a hard habit to stop.

Meanwhile, I think that in addition to actually playing (and singing – yikes) these songs, I’ll be sitting on my guitar stool with my eyes closed just changing chords without looking.  So far it’s just a strum with my right hand, so rhythm is all I have to worry about.  And this nearly imaginary guitar practice shouldn’t bother the neighbors.

6 comments:

ThomasLB said...

Paul McCartney wears artificial fingernails on his strumming hand. If you want to, just chomp away and glue on new ones!

Snark said...

There's a thought. My mom says, "oh, they'll just fall off," but my mom says a lot of things. I think she's been wrong at least a couple of times just in the last 40 years.

Diddums said...

Can you play 'In the Silver Moonlight'? We used to do that on the recorder (though I never seemed to get beyond the first few bars. I just enjoyed being able to do that, but had no ambitions to go further).

Snark said...

I'll have to look that one up. I don't know it.

diddums said...

I wish I hadn't mentioned it -- it's all I've had in my head over the past few days... in French.

Au clair de la lune
Mon ami Pierrot...

The notes seem to be in the wikipedia. :-)

Snark said...

Ah, yes, that I've heard of. I could probably pick it out if I tried. Or found a copy of the sheet music.