Friday, September 25, 2009

I slack off when I've only just begun

There has been a nearly two week lapse in my guitar playing; and I have not provided regular updates on my conquest of the guitar.

Two Saturdays ago, I got out the guitar, tuned it, and selected “Alfred’s Teach Yourself to Play Guitar” by Marty and Ron Manus to, well, teach myself to play guitar. (My other option was “The Art of Spanish Guitar” by Romero, which I quickly decided was a bit too advanced for my present abilities.)

First thing I noticed: I cannot find a comfortable way to place my thumb on the neck of the guitar while curling my fingers at the same time. This finding made me quite happy. Yes, I am physically incapable of playing the guitar! All those who can successfully play this instrument are actually long-fingered freaks!

But I decided to continue to try to learn anyway. Which led to revelation number two: the fingers of my left hand are supposed to be close to the frets! A-ha! See, I had been playing (I use that term loosely) all this time with my fingers right in the middle of the frets, and wondering why I could not get a decent sound. The notes sound so much better when I attempt to actually play correctly.

Third thing I noticed: I do not need to learn how to read music. This book attempts to both teach one (“yourself”) how to learn to play the guitar, and how to read music in order to play the guitar. I do not need to learn how to play a note and then learn to wait three counts. This caused me to skip some sections of the book, which brought about the….

Fourth thing I noticed: gosh, I would actually have to practice in order to play the guitar well. Learning the notes on the first three strings was easy enough – I can remember that. But to play them in tempo and with any sort of phrasing that would resemble an actual song – well, I’d actually have to play the same notes over and over again. This is why I quit piano lessons in my junior year of high school – I got tired of practicing and just wanted to be able to play pieces all the way through and then move on to the next piece. My piano teacher, however, wanted me to play the pieces correctly and surprise, surprise, a compromise could not be reached between us. (She did try to give me “fun” jazz pieces to learn while wanting me to spend a whole six months perfecting a Chopin nocturne. No way.) I never in my life actually practiced the clarinet either. I’d just practice in band class and private lessons and keep that hideous-sounding instrument in its case in our foyer the rest of the time, only opening it to cut and shave reeds, which I did strangely enjoy doing. (And yet I was first chair usually, made all-district honor bands, and won medals for “superior” clarinet performance. Ha!) Now I wonder why my parents continued to pay for me to have all these music lessons….But back to the subject at hand. I can play the melody of “Ode to Joy” and the Largo from the “New World Symphony” easily enough, as long as I don’t follow a tempo, don’t phrase, and don’t care what the notes actually sound like. But since I have set my sights on “On Eagle’s Wings,” I must set aside time not only to learn, but to practice.

Unfortunately, an unexpected medical procedure combined with a careless nurse on Monday has rendered my left hand rather mitt-like and made me incapable of curling my fingers on strings to pluck sweet sounds from those heavenly guitar strings. (I guess I could be mastering all the open chords, but I am trying to be methodical.) I have learned notes on the E (first string), B, and G string, so I did make slight progress a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully, I will get a chance to learn and just maybe practice this weekend, and be able to provide an exciting update next week.

No comments: