The late bloomer


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I made a deal with my daughter that if she learned the piano, I would learn the guitar. It was a safe bet, since everyone knows guitar is easier than piano. Besides, if sixteen-year-old kids all over the world can figure the instrument out, so can I.

I signed up for lessons.

My teacher is one of those sixteen-year-olds I just mentioned and he can make the guitar sing. We make an interesting pair. I, being old enough to be his father – maybe grandfather – am the student. He, the young and talented musician, is the teacher. I shave my head. He has a lip ring.

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It is still early, but already there are some things I have learned about the guitar.

1. Unlike the trumpet (which I used to play), you have to use two hands, which is like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.
2. Those little strings hurt. We have all heard about guitar players’ callouses on the tips of their fingers. What no one thinks about is that new students have to develop callouses before they can have callouses, and the development parts hurts.
3. Big fingers are an asset in sports; not so much in playing stringed instruments. Have you ever seen the bed Thomas Jefferson slept in at Monticello? It is quite short by our standards, because we have grown to be much larger people over the last couple of hundred years. Similarly, whoever invented the guitar back in ancient days must have had small fingers because mine don’t fit within the frets. Which brings me to the fourth point.
4. There is a whole new vernacular with guitars. Frets. Barre chords. Hammering. Add those to the musical terms that I have forgotten and must re-learn, and there is anxiety there.

And for good reason, because I am struggling. It reminds me of the golf lessons I took with a couple of buddies a few years ago. At the end of the sessions, the instructor singled out each of them, telling one of them that he could really drive the ball well. The other was good at putting.

He told me I wasn’t very good.

It’s not my fault the other guitar students are further along than me. They obviously have played before, the cheaters. Besides, it is tough to concentrate on what he is saying when all I see is that lip ring. But I will persevere. The Navy taught me to keep fighting, no matter how high the obstacle in front of you. So I will.

Besides, if it ever gets too hard, there is always golf.


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