Perseverance Helps in Learning The Guitar and Ends The Dying Cat
By John Stockwell
“Music isn’t just learning notes and playing them, you learn notes to play to the music of your soul”
– Katie Greenwood
Why are you learning music anyway? Is it to pick up chicks? Is it to fulfill a void in your mundane life? Is it an indescribable calling?
I always wanted to learn the drums. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the aggressive nature of the things. You sit there and bash the crap out of them.
As fate would have it I shared a house with Dave, a guitar player, so I decided to learn the guitar as I had my very own teacher living in the next room. Or so I thought.
I went out and bought a nylon string classical guitar for $70. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but that never stopped me before.
So I went back home with my new guitar in its cardboard box. And with anything new, you want to play with it straight away, as soon as you get it home.
I also bought one of those guitar case chord dictionaries. You know the ones, they have a thousand chords in them and they are designed to confuse rather than actually help you.
So I waited for Dave to get home from work and as soon as he was in the door I was at him. “I bought this new guitar and I was wondering if you could show me how to play it” I said.
He just laughed at me but eventually agreed to show me which chords to learn first. He told me to learn the open chords A, D, E, G, and C. So I did. I spent every spare moment learning these chords.
Dave wouldn’t show me any songs to play so I was forced to make up my own songs. This forced me to really explore every one of these chords as I thought at the time that I had to include them all in every song I wrote.
The songs I wrote were pretty strange to say the least. We were into punk music at that time so just imagine what a dying cat like vocals set to a nylon string out of tune guitar played as fast as a speeding train sounds like and you get the picture.
It sounded good to me at the time and I was very proud of my new found ability. It took about three months to get the hang of changing between the chords, and being able to write a song. (if you could call it that).
I didn’t know it at the time but I had the one thing that was needed that would ensure I would become a good guitar player. That one thing was sheer bloody determination. And the more people told me how bad I sounded the more determined I became to improve.
So it doesn’t matter how good or bad you are at the moment just play the music of your soul – even if it sounds like a cat being tortured. You will improve as long as you keep trying.
Here’s a mental exercise for you. Fast forward your mind to 4 years from now. How good a guitar player will you be? The time will pass regardless of what you do. Are you going to keep at it? or are you going to give up? It’s up to you. You will be four years older, but will you be four years wiser?
John Stockwell is a guitar player and the author of the acclaimed “Mind Over Music for Guitar,” a unique approach to learning to play the guitar by ear for beginners to advanced students.