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So ... You Wanna Play Guitar, Huh?

I Took Guitar Lessons ... Once ...

As far back as I can remember, I've always had a strong distaste for anything that portends to be "written in stone" ... i.e. schools ... organized religion ... clubs, fraternities, and cults ... rules and regulations, and those (especially) who think they have the right to impose such on others.

In my world, there is no set way of doing anything. All things are possible with God ... and all things are NOT possible with Mr. Schoolhead, Ms. Diplomaequalssuccess, and certainly not with Cap't. Imheretobustyerass! And so, I'd rather hang with God. To me, that means finding your very own path through these "woods" we call Life. And even though it's most popular, looks safer, is all lighted up, and it cuts right through the woods, that big man-made highway also keeps you from knowing the woods at all. Usually, I get just close enough to see what's happenin' there, and head straight back towards the thicket! Does that make any sense to you? At all? It does! Hmmm...

Let me put it another way. I tend to see everything in life through two lenses: Flesh and Spirit. The stuff in the paragraph above talks about man-made rules ... the FLESH. But there are many rules, laws, and regulations that I do adhere to - like white on rice! Things that are also written in stone ... but it's a different kind of stone, and somehow the "all things are not possible" part is totally acceptable ... the SPIRIT.

What I'm saying, is that I really dig rules that are "real" and laws that make "sense." You know? Like when Jesus said, "Play that guitar for others the way you wish others would play that guitar for you." (Matthew 22:39 - Paraphrased) ... or like when someone asks, "How do I properly hold my guitar?" and a teacher answers, "What ever way is most comfortable!"

Knowing this, my dad made sure I at least made the attempt of giving it a try -"If you don't like it, that's okay. But give it a serious shot first." he said ... and so I did. I told my teacher I wanted to learn to play rhythm guitar, and he started teaching me to play something that sounded like "Mary Had A Little Lamb" -- on the high E-string! Hello? Anyway, I tried to push this guy's envelope and it ripped, so I told dad to save his hard-earned cash. He was cool. He was always cool. My desire was so strong that you couldn't stop me from learning if you tried! What else is there but desire? Can anyone teach you without it? Well, I'm assuming since you're here, you're of the same cut ...

I'm not putting accredited schools and teachers down, mind you. It's just that it's a route that works for a lot less people than the ones doing it. I believe a lot of musicians have been discouraged from playing at all by taking that route, and many others I see playing with all the technical skill anyone could ever want, and boring me to tears for want of some heart.

Amateur or Pro?

From Day One, I was playing six to eight hours a day ... maybe more. It was all I thought about! In a year's time, I began teaching stuff to the older guys who originally taught me some of the ropes. And after two years, I won 2nd Prize at the local 4-H Fair -- a handmade classical Garcia guitar with a hardshell case -- (1st Prize went to a folk-trio; a phatter Garcia). And it wasn't long after that, I was playing original songs at open mic nights at local clubs and coffee houses. If you are going to become a pro player, that's how you'll know -- you won't have time for anything else. Period.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself picking away at it for an hour here, and an hour there, my guess is you won't be going pro with your efforts. But hey! What's wrong with that? At least you know you won't be starving to death most of your life ... or experiencing the great, unbelievably painful and unbearable levels of frustration that God has reserved solely for his beloved "artists." You can live a normal, happy life and have lots of fun being in the spotlight at all the parties ... and instead of developing work-a-day-willie ulcers, you can avoid such anxieties through the wonderfully healing experience of self expression.

Either way, if you want to be good, you'll have to be persistent about it.

Where Do I Begin, Alan? >>