Birth of an Obsession - June 07
Birth of an obsession #8
My lessons with R. were what I had always thought music instruction should have been; fun, never boring, interesting and intense. On my first visit, R. showed me how to play ‘Wish you were here’, which has always been one of my very favorite songs and one that I catch myself playing a lot when I am just sitting here with the guitar. He explained, with great patience, how to work through the solos (which is something I am still struggling with) and how to ‘listen’ to the music and ‘feel’ for phrasing. R. was a big exponent of making guitar playing less about technicalities and more about feeling the music. He said, in one of his rare serious moments, ‘You learn how to play technically, but you make music by what you feel and what you want to get across’. I don’t know how true that is, but it certainly sounded good to me.
He taught out of the basement of his house, sharing duties with his brother, a very shy and quiet man who could hammer out a percussive beat on a drum set that would literally rattle around in your head. Between the two, when it came time to play, they could quite literally rattle the windows. At the end of a lesson, R. would write down everything he had shown me in tab and hand me a CD that he had burned of himself playing as an example to take home with the words ‘Practice this and maybe we’ll record this next week’. It was an interesting system and it did seem to work. I was learning, albeit in my own slow and tentative way.
On my fourth and final lesson, R. decided that we needed to record my playing the rhythm section of ‘Hey Joe’ with him playing lead and his brother on the drums. This was the first (and only time) that I have ever recorded anything that I have tried to play on the guitar. I figured, ‘What the heck? Why not?’ and we worked through the song a few times before he turned on the recorder.
Now for reasons that continue to elude me, it took at least 4 tries for me to come in on the right beat. It sounded like we were trying to play two completely different songs. The brother, a man who had said nothing to me on the three previous occasions that I had been there, opting instead to nod a greeting, shot me a look akin to a face he might make had he bitten into a lemon. When I used to compete in Tae Kwon Do, the only reason I ever won any matches was because of timing. I know how vital it is and yet when it comes to music, I could not have hit that timing if you would have duct taped a metronome to my forehead.
R., remaining upbeat, said “No problem. It takes a little getting used to. Try it again.’ We made a few more tentative false starts before I managed to stumble through the entire song. R. played it back for me and it was, in a word, awful. The drums were spot on and the lead guitar was note for note perfect. The rhythm guitar was, well, dreadful. R. smiled and said in perfect instructor fashion “Not too bad. Not too bad at all’. He critiqued my attempt in a very positive and gentle fashion, made some notes and told me to keep working on it.
It was both terrifying and thrilling at the same time. It was a George Plimpton moment for me. I was in a band, even just for a few moments. Those teen-aged fantasies of playing music, being part of something, were suddenly real. I laugh now just thinking about it.
Somewhere, there is a CD with yours truly butchering a classic-rock song. I would hope that R. has pitched the disc but if not, I would imagine that when he does play it, somewhere, Hendrix leans back, tips his purple felt hat, rolls his eyes and says ‘Oh Lord, help us all…’
A week later, R. advised me that he was giving up teaching. Apparently he was unable to make his mortgage and needed to go back to a regular job and as far as the weekends, he had hopes to get his band back together and start gigging again.
So that was that. I was back on my own.
I didn’t pick up the guitar for a few weeks but then the itch started up. Although I had toyed with the idea of giving it up, I knew I wouldn’t. I was going to do this with or without an instructor.
Sitting at the computer, I happened to search out guitar instruction sites. Lo’ and behold, the first site that came up in the search was Guitar Tricks. I went in and looked around a bit not quite sure what I would find. Thinking that it might just be another internet site promising ‘instant’ ability with the guitar or a place where there would be no room for someone with only rudimentary knowledge of the guitar.
It was neither of those and it was precisely what I had been looking for. In the time I have been with GT, I have learned a great deal but even more importantly, I have become acquainted with some of the best and most profoundly talented people I have ever met. They have a tremendous amount of knowledge, skill, humor and a genuine willingness to help anyone and everyone learn. And isn’t that what this is all about? Finding others who share and encourage your passion, your obsession? I may never be a great guitar player, but damn, I am having a lot of fun with it.
Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar against your chest, for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart.
This is the final installment of Birth of an Obsession. It’s been an interesting journey to find my way here to GT and I am glad I found a home here on the web and friends that I can share this passion of ours. I continue to learn every day from all of you here and hope someday to be able to come close to playing with the sort of skills you all have developed. Thanks for reading along! I appreciate the support. H60
"All I can do is be me ... whoever that is". Bob Dylan
Last edited by hunter60 : 05-31-2007 at 07:51 PM.