Thursday, January 22, 2009

Photostory Friday: Guitar Lessons

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek


For Christmas, when I was in the seventh grade, my Grandmother gave me a guitar. Up to that point in my life, I had no interest in anything musical (other than the radio, and that doesn't count). The next year I took a semester of guitar lessons -- the only formal musical education I've ever had. I learned three chords, and that, until you develop calloused fingertips, it hurts to play a steel string guitar. And that's about it. 

In the twenty or so years since that time, I have been trying, with varying degrees of success, to teach myself to play this instrument. I am not a great guitar player, by any stretch of the imagination, but I've always wanted to play the guitar. Girls dig guitar players. 




I'm in a philosophical mood tonight, so I'm going to tell you the three things I've learned, from trying to play the guitar. 

I've learned that talent is not enough, usually you have to work.

God gives each of us many abilities, but I view talent as potential, behind a locked door. Work is the key to open that door. When you took piano lessons, it was called practicing. I come from a musical family, but for many years I believed that that gene had skipped a generation. Then one day, on impulse, I bought a piano (the same way we bought our house -- aren't we shrewd shoppers?). I thought I should teach myself to play (I would not recommend this method to most people) and I did. I am, by no means, a virtuoso of any kind, but the piano came very easily to me, and I discovered that I had a knack for playing by ear. This turned out to be a fluke. I thought that since the piano had been such a breeze, that surely I could master the guitar. 

Not so. 

I've been trying to play now for twenty years, and only when I practice regularly, and with real intent, do I progress at all.





I've learned that quality matters. 

Doing something just right -- craftsmanship that gets it right, no matter the time or the cost, has always been high on my list of human virtues (if not on my list of accomplishments). I've owned several guitars over the years, from pawn shops to online stores, and from everywhere in between. Each instrument has cost more than the one before it. Each has also been a higher quality instrument than its predecessor. It's quite amazing how much better a sub-average guitar player sounds on a well made instrument. 



I've learned the need for constant tuning. 

Unlike a piano, a guitar should be tuned each time it is played. All the plucking and picking and playing, and even sitting idle, causes the instrument to go out of tune. Usually (unless you have kids) it will only go out of tune by almost imperceptible degrees. But, left unchecked, over time the notes become too sharp, or too flat, and one day you find that you're no longer making music.

You're just making noise. 

But, daily attention, and minor adjustments, keep the instrument in tune, and sounding beautiful. 

 


A voice way back in the cluttered recesses of my mind is telling me that I should apply these lessons elsewhere. 

Life is funny. 

I never learned much from my guitar instructor, but the guitar itself turned out to be a pretty good teacher. 


33 comments:

avtcoach said...

I love your photos that go with this post. I tried the guitar in seventh grade. My hands were too small for the guitar I had. Actually I may have just had a crush on the guitar teacher. I did discover that I did not have a passion for the musical sound. I did love the bells though and learned early to play them. I was also in choir and to this day being in choir and bell choir as an adult is a nice way to share music with others. We don't have guitar hero but that seems maybe a good way to go :):), bet your five year old will be the amazing guitar player in your family :) if the photos you shared are any indication! Have a great weekend!

tommie said...

Love those shots!!

The only reason I picked up an instrument in junior high was because I had a crush on a drummer. LOL

Pam Emmons said...

I have always loved these pictures. And what an awesome lesson to be learned. Did I ever tell you my mom plays the guitar? Thats how I learned the words to just about every John Denver song.

Diane said...

nice pics!
yes, girls DO love guitar players!

photomommy said...

First off, the photos are awesome. (As always!)

Second, I always love your posts. They are always eloquent and well versed. I truly enjoy visiting your blog. :)

Shannon said...

Beautiful pictures - love them. You can almost hear the music . . . I love guitar, I can't play much.

Valerie said...

My hubby does the same. Plays a little, puts it down, picks it back up. He's had one of his guitars for almost 30 years. Know something funny? He plays good (when he plays) but can not tune his guitar. I do. I play piano and love it. Don't get to play as much as I like though. Loved your pics too.

Kacey R. said...

Love the photos, especially the last one. Great post also, you're right, hard work is the key. Ryder and I just had that conversation today. Although, I'm not sure how far that sinks in with an (almost) 3 year old. LOL

Cathy said...

Great story. I've always liked the guitar...My son took it up at one point, and then, like everything else, put it down! :-)

Kristen said...

What a great post!!

And the photos topped it off. Yours are always some of my favorites from each week!

Well done!

Tiaras and Tantrums said...

fabulous photos - and lesson.
John Mayer once said in an interview that the reason he plays his guitar so well is b/c his mother would lock him or ground him to his room for weeks and months at a time and he would just sit and play his guitar the entire time! And he is a fantastic guitar player

Michelle said...

Are you taking any request from the peanut gallery?

I am Arizona; a person, not a place. said...

I like the guitar's lesson...learning to live well certainly takes a fair amount of work. Or perhaps I should say, creating the life you believe is worth living requires work. Oh heck, it all requires work. I think that's why we humans require so much sleep! ;) Well, unless you have to get up at 6am every morning. Yikes!

Kellan said...

Brilliant post, Chris and beautiful photos! My son is taking the guitar and I'd love him to learn to really play. I don't know if he will, but I know he's got a dream. I loved this post - as usual!!

Have a great weekend - Kellan

Casey's trio said...

I think it says alot that you have stuck with it long enough to learn so many lessons from it! Especially when learning to play hasn't come easy.

Corey~living and loving said...

GREAT post. yet again. :) The photos are wonderful.

I am trying to teach myself guitar....and so far I suck at it. LOL
Happy PSF!

Kimber said...

Wonderful photos. How funny that my post today is about my son teaching himself to play the guitar.

Sharon said...

I love those photos and your story! You have a way with words!

Indrani said...

Lovely post!
I wish I could pursue and that photo, I echo what others said: superb.

Steph said...

I have never tried the guitar. Unless you count guitar hero. :)
I always love your PSF! Great pictures, and a great lesson.

Krystyn said...

A beautiful lesson with beautiful pictures (as usual)!

les_mason_curt said...

loving your post. the pics are fabulous and the lessons you have learned are great too!

CC said...

I love these photos! What great thoughts. I think I'd have forgotten them all.

We have pre-decided that our kids will learn how to play guitar. Hope they end up liking the choice we've made for them! ;)

Robyn said...

What a great photostory. You seriously have a knack for this. The photos are gorgeous.

Alexandria said...

Absolutely stunning pictures Chris. I love how old they look ... they just have this "air" about them I suppose. Absolutely wonderful.

Your entry is spectacular as always. I love reading your blog. Your entries always have a way of moving me :)

Karin said...

Your pictures are wonderful - simply beautiful. A guitar is such a beautiful instrument, it's almost impossible to resist the urge to try and play it, once you've really looked at it. My experience with music is very similar. I learned to play the piano at a young age and it came fairly easy. When I was 15 I decided that it was time to try the guitar - how difficult could it be? Very difficult, apparently. I also made progress, but it was very tough and it seemed like I had to work three time as hard as with the piano. But the lessons that can be learned from this, that you so eloquently pointed out, is very true.

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

Hmmmph, I can't decide which shot I like better between #2 and #4, both have fantastic perspectives.

And hellzyeah girls always love musicians (sometimes sad, but tis always true)! :)

Lindsay said...

So so true. I tried to teach myself guitar because I thought since I could play the violin it wouldn't be a problem. Not so. Piano, here I come.

Terri said...

I love hearing your guitar story. I've been playing for a lot of years; I knew I was on the right track when it started to be fun instead of work. I've had the same guitar for 37 years; it has such a sweet warm sound that every time I think about upgrading, I can't come up with a reason why!

I took some mandolin photos awhile back that are similar to your guitar photos, which I love - the b&w is a nice touch. Instruments make great subjects for photos, don't they? You can peek at my mando shots here.

So have fun with that guitar!

Momisodes said...

What amazing photos and thoughts. I also love the shot you have of the piano keys on the sidebar. I also come from a musical family, and like you, I did well with 1 instrument, but has been a long process with another.

Supercool Hotmama said...

Great thoughts. Gorgeous pictures.

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

Wonderful post, great shots.

Straight to Your Hart said...

"But daily attention" is what we all need to be doing in our lives for whatever we are trying to achieve or accomplish.

A babe magnet...LOL!!There is something about the guitar that does that...I'll have to agree and uniforms..hmmmm