Sunday, April 24, 2011

Guitar Lessons

Guitar playing has been making more regular appearances in my life recently. Time was I played for hours every day, not because I was trying to master the instrument, but because playing the guitar is about a billion times more awesome than not playing the guitar. Simple fact.

But over the last few years, my guitars and all the stuff that went with them got shoved further and further back in various closets. At one point, I even sold my amp, the very amp with which I once stood in front of a room full of people and played a series of several of the more recognizable segments from the music of “Star Wars.” Have you ever heard The Force Theme through heavy distortion, chorus, and just a subtle, dare I say, sublime hint of wah pedal? Yeaaaah.

Probably my most rock star moment.

But aside from pulling the old girl out of the closet every now and then to blow through a few verses of “Daddy Farted,” there wasn’t a whole lot of music getting made around here other than the kind originating with magical fruit. Is there anything sadder than a neglected musical instrument? Well I guess there’s beached whales and war orphans and cancer yes, lots of things are sadder than a neglected musical instrument. But still, I always let out a sigh at the sight all the dust gathered on the headstock. Dust shows up really well on black.

Nobody ever said, “I wish I’d played less music” on their deathbed.

So like George Michael, my guitar’s now out of the closet and has no plans to go back in. Next to it sits a single-speaker Marshall practice amp that, in my opinion, sounds an assload better than the old Fender I used to use. This is becoming a regular thing. As in daily. And it feels nice.

A funny thing happened while I was playing earlier. My five-year-old came down, watched me for a minute, then went and found the case with my ancient acoustic. The thing is tiny. As in, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a large ukulele. It’s still a bit large for his little hands, but the way he’s growing, that won’t be the case for long. He sat down on the bed next to me and asked me to show him how to play the guitar.

Stop and consider that: my son asked me to teach him how to play the guitar.

The first and I guess only guitar teacher I ever had was a guy named Robert that was the spitting image of David Lee Roth’s hair and smoked cigarettes in the little room at the back of H&H Music where he taught classes. He spent the first five to ten minutes of every lesson noodling around on his guitar, presumably to show me how awesome I, too, could be if I kept practicing. The first song he taught me was “Wanted Dead Or Alive” by Bon Jovi. I wasn't what you'd call a Bon Jovi fan, but I practiced the shit out of that opening bit. Props, Richie Sambora. Props.

All the same, I won’t be teaching my kid any Bon Jovi.

So I showed him a few basics and then it was time for dinner and then we did some other stuff and then later we were all over the house all doing our own thing, my thing being playing my guitar again, and the little dude came back in, sat the acoustic on his lap, and declared:

“I almost forgot, it’s time for my guitar lesson.”

Time for your....? Oh, okay, um, yeah, we can do that. So here, let’s do....

So I showed him a few more things. He struggled, mostly because he’s still a little dude and his fingers just aren’t quite strong enough. But struggle he did.

“When do I get a guitar like that one?” he asked, pointing at my electric. It’s not anything fancy, an Epiphone (i.e. budget Gibson brand) version of the SG. But it does look cool, and it sounds nice.

“Before you can get one like this, you need to practice on this one,” I told him, indicating the acoustic sitting in his lap.

“But I like yours,” he said.

“I like mine too. But this one,” I said, placing my hand on the curve of the acoustic’s wooden body, “is the very first guitar I ever played. It’s the one I learned on. I told my mom I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, so she pulled this one down out of the attic and took it to the guitar store. They fixed it up for her, put new strings on it, and then she took me take guitar lessons.”

I don’t mind telling you, I got a bit misty recounting that memory to my son. My mom did that for me. She didn’t know the first thing about guitars other than that her kid wanted to know how to play one. She could have put me off, maybe I’d have found a way on my own, or maybe I’d be walking around all these years later with a guitar shaped hole in my soul. And wouldn’t that suck? But she didn’t. She found a way to make it happen.

“Can I get guitar lessons?” he asked.

“Yes, with me," I said, feeling like I should grab a fly out of the air with my chopsticks as I said it. "And I’ll make you a deal.”

Here’s the part where I make a deal.

“If you’ll do some lessons with me and practice and keep it up over the next year or so, then we’ll see about getting you something that’s a little nicer. In your size, of course. What do you think of that?”


So who knows where it’ll go. He might forget all about the stupid guitar tomorrow, or he might decide after a few lessons that guitars are for chumps.

But not before he learns how to play a power chord.


flutter said...

this is perfection

Cheryl said...

Misty as all hell over here.

sybil law said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome.
My kid got a guitar for Christmas - a sweet little Fender acoustic. It's never wrong to teach a kid guitar.

Nicole said...

There's a cello in my closet. Not a metaphor. It's pristine. I bought it over a decade ago and haven't played it in over 6 years; the kids stole my budgeted time and money for lessons. But my 6yo is mighty interested in seeing the thing in action. I'm terrible on it, but that should be no excuse. Thanks for a little nudge reminding me to let her see it and try it.

TwoBusy said...

This is absolutely wonderful, and for multiple reasons... and not least among them is this, a line that should be carved into marble somewhere so people can see, absorb and appreciate it forever:

"Playing the guitar is about a billion times more awesome than not playing the guitar."

Cherie Seldon said...

Teaching your own kid how to play the guitar is so sweet! I also had one guitar teacher, and as far as I remember, the first song he taught me was “Heave”. He did not only teach me how to play it in the guitar, but he also taught me how to develop my singing voice.