Have you ever played Guitar Hero? That is a cool game that deludes non-guitar players into thinking they are Eddie Van Halen or Lindsey Buckingham. Can I let you in on a little secret? A real Fender Stratocaster does not have any colored buttons on it. I know. You’re shocked, right? I bet since you thought you could play Guitar Hero III on Insanely difficult mode where you have to press buttons at twice the speed of light, you would therefore be able to play like Slash on a real guitar. It doesn’t work that way.
I picked up my first guitar when I was six. My grandfather had bought a mega-cheap children’s guitar and painted it red, white and blue to match Buck Owens’ guitar on that elegant variety show known as Hee Haw. He was so proud when I would stand by the TV and strum away while the show was on. I think he would have enjoyed it more if I had known how to tune it and play real chords instead of making a noise that reminded my family of a walrus being stuffed into a coffee can. (I have no idea what that sounds like either but that was what it sounded like to them.)
As I grew older, I thought I was big stuff when I got a real guitar. It wasn’t anything special. It was a simple six-string that could have probably sounded good if I knew how to tune it and play real chords instead of making noise that reminded my family of a seal being stuffed into a 55-gallon drum. (It was a little improvement over the walrus in a coffee can. By a little, I mean VERY little.) It was too late. I was addicted to playing my guitar.
My mother, wanting to nurture my budding musical talent (and save her sanity), called a neighbor who gave guitar lessons. After much begging and pleading, the teacher finally gave up and agreed to teach me twice a week. I wanted to go more often to learn more. My family wanted me to go more often so I would sound less like aquatic mammals in metal canisters. The only one who didn’t want me to come more often was my music teacher. She needed several days between lessons to drink excessively and to recover from her hangover. According to her, it wasn’t the booze causing the hangover but the sounds coming from my guitar.
In the thirty-six years since I began taking lessons, I have developed some basic skills. It turns out that “practice makes adequate” in my case. Fortunately, I play for myself and those who love me more than my musical mishaps. I’m writing a new song now called, “The Walrus, the Seal and the Steel Drum Band.” My wife says it’s a perfect song for my guitar playing.