A really good thing about taking guitar lessons is that apparently lots of kids take them. I found three online instructors that I like and am following and although they’re all younger than me, they all have at numerous times referenced “you kids” and they teach in a style that’s warm and obviously kid-directed and friendly.

That works as I’m quite the child.

They are encouraging and reiterate and tell of their experiences back when they were kids and learned guitar, and are rah-rah and supportive in an attempt to keep their students motivated and confident. I’ve no doubt if we all talked and treated each other more like children the world would be a better place. I’m finding the whole thing quite bitchin, God’s honest truth. I’ve been playing regularly and am no doubt focused and excited to be doing it, particularly at this juncture in my life. Learning an instrument from the beginning has also gotten me to thinking about my own unique “learning style”, and how to best to get a solid foundation in what I’m doing and how to be the most efficient about making strides that keep things moving ahead.

Sometimes nothing’s better than starting at the beginning.

I’ve been a good student, although still quite the fledgling. Shoot, I’ve even barely started! But in this short time I’ve been practicing consistently, am allotting a sufficient amount of time, and being true to the content of the lessons. I’ve made adequate enough progress and am pleased enough. I’ve gotten organized as far as which courses I’m taking and in what order and why. I’ve done my homework as far as what I have to learn and at what point I should learn it. I’ve gauged how long it should take to “master” all it is I want to know. And of course, I’ve sought out and listened carefully to advice from more experienced folks too. My expectations are realistically set as to the undertaking.

I’m enjoying learning and playing the instrument much more than imagined.

It’s long overdue.

This morning at 4am I couldn’t resist and picked up the guitar figuring “strumming softly” is certainly on the practice roster, and I strummed softly for about ten or fifteen minutes. I did a couple of practice lessons, rote memorization at this point, where repetition is so essential. I then launched into a tune I “composed”. It’s like a simple new-agey sounding, monotonous dexterity exercise, but to my ears sounds amazingly melodic and symphonic and beautiful. Every time I play it I add to it and make the composition an even longer and more drawn out, improvisational extended-mega-mix! Every day I get a little more surefooted and precise, while the composition becomes more intricate, with more advanced string plucking patterns yadda yadda blah blah. I love playing it and it gets me in the “zone”. I could go for hours really. But I do find it hard to strum softly for too long. And being I live in an old apartment building with someone next to me and below me I figure 4am is really not the time for me to get all revved up by pulling on those strings.

Fun all the same.

I took the drive over to see my therapist the other day and we talked a bit about learning styles. It was on my mind and hit home when he proudly gave me a five-page “handout” on happiness and stress reduction. It was some pop psychology, psycho-babbly, positive self-talk jargon that I’ve heard way too much of over the years. You probably have too, right? It seems to have rooted itself in our popular culture. The kind that advises you to smile when something makes you frown and take a walk when you’re feeling blue and get a good night’s sleep etc., those kinds of things, with charts and check lists and blank spaces for you to fill in your answers and whatnot. I politely said that the last time he gave me a handout all I did was fold it up and put it under the front seat of my car (that’s where I put my trash). What I wanted to say was “Whaddya think, I was born yesterday?” Handouts just aren’t my style. They’re hard for me to learn from is the reason, let alone in this case the unoriginal subject matter. He asked why I felt as I did, with me telling him “all I see are blank pages” and the idea of my reviewing and incorporating said handout “wasn’t in the cards”, although I didn’t question his good intentions or the value of the handout itself, but it all came off like Greek would. I told him that intellectually I’d been down that road before and couldn’t wrap my arms around it. It wouldn’t penetrate my thick skull. It wouldn’t jolt the dopamine.

Know what I mean?

I gave him the example of how haphazardly I was forced to learn about split infinitives- how painstaking, but ultimately successful the whole process was. Successful enough anyway. The poor chap asked me to elaborate.

And I did.

Glutton for punishment. Anyway I wasn’t being glib and he didn’t think I was. We began to explore what might be practical. How could I best learn how to be happy and thrive? This was exactly what was at the heart of the matter here. I do believe we’re all bright without exception, don’t you? I think everyone has talent and could learn to do whatever one wants under the right conditions, right? I’m not talking about me here, I’m talking people in general. Well I’m part of people in general I guess, but anyway, we all have potential and I’ve always believed it is what I’m saying. It’s a big part of my make-up and what makes me tick. The challenge is how we’re best tapped.

There’s too much untapped.

It’s still too early to play the guitar. I have some theory type lessons in my chosen curriculum and am listening to one now in the background while I sit here drinking my coffee, waiting for the sun to come up. The instructor, some smooth Aussie guy, is giving tips on how to best use practice time and you know what he just said? “Don’t keep playing what you like playing and play well, play what’s hard and challenging. Use your practice time to master what you can’t do,” and it was like BAM in my head. Sounds obvious right? But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing! I’ve been playing my one brilliant composition repeatedly over and over and thinking I’m this Mr. Really Cool Virtuoso Guitar Player Guy and saving the tedious and intimidating shit for later.

Funny how we learn things.


12 thoughts on “HOW WE’RE BEST TAPPED

      • I’m a huge morale-booster-of-myself guy, hence me proudly wearing my “self-taught”moniker haha I know how to be my own pep rally to keep myself going and fend off discouragement. So I need a healthy mix. Like one guy I’m following said don’t do TOO many new lessons at one time, like an hour of new stuff a week that’s hard and challenging and practice it through the week, along with the fun stuff/play part. So that seems to be working- having it challenging enough (where I feel almost TOO challenged and frustrated) balanced with the Mr. Cool Virtuoso guy. 🙂

      • Sounds like you’ve got a great rhythm going (no pun intended). With some time left to take a break and enjoy a pear or two :). Happy strumming.

  1. It’s great that you are determined to learn new things – it really makes life so much more enjoyable. Congrats on your progress, both musically and emotionally!

  2. Pete, it sounds to me like you’re already doing what makes you happy, without the brochure handout. This is great. Maybe one day we’ll hear your guitar playing on that voice player you put up in the past. I look forward to it, and keep up the good work.

    • It’s a lot of fun. I’m glad I finally got off my ass and bought the thing and feel really good about how it all fits into the big scheme of things. Fun fun! 🙂 Thanks for your good words and vibes I appreciate it.

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