On learning the guitar

(Originally published on my MySpace blog on 29th September 2008)
So a few months ago my neighbour was throwing out an old guitar and rather than see it go in the bin I salvaged it and took it in. I’d played a wee bit in school but got so bored of endless slow, painful whole-class renditions of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” that I quickly gave up and took up the drums instead. Then while I was in Sweden a 10-year old boy taught me a few chords in return for some drum lessons but that never really got off the ground. So with my bin-find I thought I’d have another go, and I’ve really enjoyed playing about with it. I got a chord book and racked my brain for stuff that I learned before and I really started to get into it. Unfortunately it turned out that my bin-find was a piece of old junk after all, it was a classical guitar that had been strung badly with steel strings and was all out of sorts. I decided that I wanted to pursue learning, so I bought myself a decent second hand guitar and have been having so much fun learning and playing.
As well as drums I’d played trumpet and keyboards before. I was told that I could never get a good clean sound out of the trumpet because I had the wrong embouchure, so that didn’t last. I still have a keyboard and play about from time to time but it’s all too, well, electronic. Even with pressure sensitive keys etc the sound is still generated by a chip and you only prod it with your fingers, and press buttons to get different sounds. Perhaps playing the piano would be different, but my parents were never middle-class enough to send us for piano lessons, and we certainly would never have had one in the house. The guitar is much more part of you when you play it, you almost hug it into yourself, rather than keeping it at arms length. I really like how you can have much more of an effect on the sound by the way you play, just by subtle changes in position, pressure or movement. Although let me be clear, it’s early days for me yet and there’s not much subtlety about my playing! I can understand now why guitarists give their instruments names. I’ve yet to name mine, usually you hear of men giving their’s female names, so I guess I should give mine a male name, but I’ve not come up with one yet.
The only downside is being exposed to guitar culture. Somehow people expect you to want to learn to play Hendrix or Van Halen or some other virtuoso that I’ve ever even heard of, never mind listened to, never mind want to emulate. I must say that the guys in the wee guitar shop that I go to have been very helpful and not at all patronising or sexist or anything, but I am quite nervous when trying out guitars in the store, because they just pick them up and rip right into some amazing solo and I pick my way falteringly through a wee 2-bar riff that took me days to learn. I’ve mostly been playing stuff from bands that I’m listening to – We Are Scientists, Editors, KT Tunstall. Franz Ferdinand etc. I’m not in this to show off or perform for anyone, just for my own enjoyment. Thing is, now I’m getting interested in electric guitar too. Seems like a lot of girls who play get into playing bass. Not that I’m not interested in that, but I’m more interested in rhythm or lead guitar stuff. I saw a really nice telecaster-style guitar in the shop window today and am sorely tempted to buy it… 

New acoustic
New acoustic




New electic
New electic

One thought on “On learning the guitar

  1. ruth4truth 30/10/2008 / 10:40 pm

    Soo quick update….I did indeed go into aforementioned guitar shop and buy aforementioned tele-style guitar. I couldn’t resist! It’s so beautiful, plain wood finish with white scratch plate. I uploaded a pic if you want to check it out. I’ve been having such a lot of fun figuring out how to actually play it, I keep hitting strings accidentaly and making dreadful screeching sounds – eek you don’t get that an an acoustic! I had to buy headphones so I don’t cause a neighbouhood riot and incite my hubby to file for divorce, so the full force of my mistakes comes shreiking into my ears. Anyway, that’s just incenitve to get better…

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