It’s been awhile since I wrote about my guitar lessons, but my teacher wanted a more musical breakdown not a personal one so…
Here’s the personal, I’ll spare you the musical details of practicing the major and minor pentatonic, diatonic and Legato scales till you know what and where every note your playing on the fretboard is, or the most important piece, how to practice, and the modern physiology and psychology of practice for maximizing results. The technology is astounding and the development of habitual practice, without habitual practicing can overcome any motivation issues that young people have, which has led to the explosion of musical virtuosity in the playing and singing of kids all over the world.
Which depressed me to no end, thinking about the, “Holy Shit if I only knew this then!” debilitating mental exercise that adults seem to succumb to when assessing the then and now.
Sure the hours I spent at age 11 in the panhandle and golden gate park jamming with total strangers, hippies, junkie’s anyone I could learn a song from paid off in being a great bandmate, fearless performer, rhythm guitarist, and part player.
I got hired because I was hardworking, sober, solid, dependable, tasteful, not because I was talented.
It also burned me out and I quit playing in bands at 25.
The guitar teachers in the 60’s were disgruntled jazz, classical, flamenco players who only taught their genre, not the generous teachers of today who say, “what do you want to learn?’
You had to wear out records and needles listening to guitar parts over and over again to learn one measure, lick, fingering on a chord, whatever… it was tedious, time consuming, expensive, painful yet productive.
Yet it left no time for practicing scales and the basics needed to grow.
So after my debilitating arthritis went into remission, and I realized just how precious those few moments of playing I had managed meant to me, and after selling my beloved Tele, Strat, Paul thinking I’d never play again, I swallowed my pride and decided to learn the right way, for however long this reprieve lasted, I needed to get my voice back.
Little did I know I’d be stuck in a class with socially disabled pre-teen and teen-age guitar geeks, all the while thinking the teacher was doing this as a joke on me…
Well the joke was on me, with extreme patience I managed to keep an open mind, and although these kids can play rings around me(well not as much as they could at the beginning) I managed to swallow my pride and compete with them and learned that I had something to offer them as well.
For Instance they had no idea that women like Memphis Minnie, and Elizabeth Cotten inspired Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, and most surprising to me, just learning who Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters were.
That Bonnie Raitt, Poison Ivy, Kelley Deal, and Nancy Wilson inspired women across generations to play and challenged men to play better and more honestly. It’s important for young guitarists to know the roots of rock are paved with the guitar picks of women and men.
The moments that changed me was the duet of Gary Moore’s Parisienne Walkways I played with the 14-year-old Goth/thrash girl that made us both cry afterwards(There’s something about Gary Moore’s solo’s that are exhilarating and sad at the same time), and how the class changed after that, and everyone realized that we could all be ourselves here.
Her metalhead Father still hates me for introducing her to the blues, superstring stretching and the pursuit of the perfect vibrato, to bad because she’s going to be so good because of that.
The kids looking at me for my reaction first after they finish there lesson performance. The fact that I can make a difference in how they feel about themselves is important to me because I’m sure they know I sure try to play for them as well.
The instructor for being smart enough to know how these kids would motivate me, despite my codger status.
My kid dancing like a maniac when I play him a new song.
But what I love the most about my brief snippets of time with these talented kids is that music can break through even the most painstakingly constructed walls to connect us all in ways we can never foresee, or forget.
Now back to sweep picking practice, I have an In and Out bet with a 12 year old I must not lose.