Saturday, May 19, 2007

Guitar Phase

Life is full of phases. Whether it be video games, music, exercise, poker, card games, cooking, associations with people, reading, sports, etc, life is full of trends specific to given periods of time. Phases can be short-lived, or span over very long periods of your life. They can be reoccurring, or they can be one-time. Phases can also be subsets of phases. For example, Nintendo 64 is a subset of video games in general. Going even deeper, an often played game, such as Mario Kart or 007, could be subset of Nintendo 64.
A couple of months ago I started a new phase, THE GUITAR. It occurred to me that I needed a new hobby, and I've always wished I could play the guitar. Plus, it was something challenging that I could use as a source of fulfillment as I experienced improvement.

Initially, not knowing if I'd even like it, I borrowed my sister Trisha's guitar (who after taking lessons decided the guitar was not for her) and shopped online for cheap lessons. I found a guy online who charged $20 for a half hour who lived on the east side of San Jose. I booked my first lesson for an early March Wednesday at 4pm, right after work. When I showed up to the teachers address, having no clue what to expect, I notice his house was the most unsightly house on the entire street. Clearly they didn't care about the outside appearance of the house, and haven't done any outside maintenance in months, if not years! Initial impression: what have I got myself into? I knocked on the door and there was my teacher: An 18 year old just-graduated-from-high-school kid, who was in a band, and had no idea of his future other than that it included music. He was fairly nice, but being around him was awkward, and being in his house was somewhat creepy.

I got through the first lesson and left knowing the basics of tuning by "ear" and three chords; D, C9, and G. I returned a week later and learned the concept of rhythm, and practiced those three chords and their role in Sweet Home Alabama. My teacher's band (who actually opened up at Shoreline for Def Lepard last summer) had a gig the following week, so he told me the next week wouldn't work. I told him I'd reach him by email to schedule the next session. Little did I know that when I left, we would never contact each other ever again. It was too far, took too long with traffic to get there, and the house was repulsive outside and in. Even though this kid was a genius guitar player, his teaching left much to be desired. I hope music works out for him because if it doesn't, his business skills need a lot of work. He never followed up to try to get my business back!?

For a couple weeks, I played those three chords, mastering switching between them. Then Easter came, and off to the Bakers house we went. One thing led to another and I was in the middle of a jam session with my father in law, Mike Baker, and Sister in law, Meghan Baker, both experienced guitar players. As a result of this experience, I now had more material to challenge myself with - progress was made. Another thing I learned that weekend was that playing on Mike's nicer and more expensive guitars is much easier and much more fun than what I was playing on back home. Returning to my sister's low-end guitar was a downer. As a result, I quickly became motivated to buy myself a higher quality guitar. In addition to wanting something better to practice on, I was at this point convinced that I liked playing the guitar, and wanted one I could call my own.
Early the next week I bought a Blueridge guitar at The Guitar Showcase on my street. A fellow shopper who was thinking about buying it for his daughter recommended it to me. He seemed objective, and Darcy and I respected and trusted his opinion, so I bought it. I also bought a stand. At checkout, I learned much to my surprise and joy that the purchase of this new guitar included four free group lessons!

I've now been to three out of the four of these lessons and have improved immensely. I can play songs such as Come As you Are (Nirvana), Enter Sandman (Metallica), My Girl, Pretty Woman, Sunshine of Your Love, One (Metallica), Adam's Song (Blink 182), and a few more that are a little easier and not worth bragging about. There are others I'm working on but haven't mastered yet.

Here is the link to the training manual that I am learning from.

I've learned new chords, power chords, strumming techniques, etc. My teacher is very good, and I've already signed up for another month (this time I have to pay though).
I play every day that I can, trying to be respectful to Darcy by playing when she's gone. However, sometimes I play with her around and she doesn't put up a fuss if I play quietly. She is proud of me for taking it up, and I like to show her that I am improving. Every once in a while she tells me I'm sounding better, which feels good.

I'm hoping that my guitar phase lasts for the rest of my life. In order for this to happen, I will need to continue to come up with new ways to challenge myself. Initially, this means staying in lessons. Down the road, it may mean purchasing a guitar learning software program, and eventually introducing the electric guitar to my repertoire. I'm still in the early learning stages, but the progress I have already made has been great fun and very rewarding. I look forward to finding out how good of a guitar player I can become!

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