25.10.2020 | “Try This At Home”

Title is a Frank Turner song, of course

Thursday morning, during my bathroom routine out of the blue I thought

“I wish I hadn’t given up on trying to teach myself how to play the guitar all those years ago”.

Followed by

“I wonder if I could pick it up again now, 20 odd years later?”

Those thoughts stuck and during a lull in the office that morning I quickly went on Amazon and browsed various sites and continued with that at home that night. I even took the guitar from my Mum’s spare room, where I had stored it (about 24 years ago according to one receipt) even though I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be salvagable after all this time. Spoiler Alert: it wasn’t.

The difference to my aborted attempt back than of course is, that now we have this wonderful thing called “The Internet”. Some folks reading this here might remember the times without it? 24 years ago I only came up with the idea to buy a guitar, because I sometimes passed a music store on my way to uni and thought maybe it would be fun to teach myself how to play it. Back then I had to resort to a guide book and chord diagrams. There might have been lessons on CD or audiotape but I never used any. There definitely weren’t any online tutorials. We hadn’t really had any idea of “online” then. Hard to image now, isn’t it? Anyway, in 1996 I aborted my attempts to teach myself after a while, possible because I found it too hard and didn’t see any progress and maybe not even any use for it. I wasn’t “into music” then the way I am now.

Back to the present day: Less than 36 hours after that bathroom moment, I had not just ordered various bits and pieces from Amazon (e.g. a neat Snark tuner) but also had gone to a big music store in our area which has left-hander guitars on stock, tried a few and bought one. HOLY SHIT! This is happening. For real.

I also found a good online tutorial program (and a few backup ideas) thanks to the reccomendations I got from two band related Facebook groups I’m in. Getting reccomendations from people “on the internet”, unheard of in 1996. Yes, I’m going on and on about this, because I can’t believe I let that one experience of “trying and failing for whatever reason” keep me from trying to pick up a guitar again and try again. And I think it might have been different, if my first try had happened with the internet around. Ressources and easy access to other people and all that.

I don’t know what brought that idea of “just try again” on this week. For years, ever since I started seeing Frank Turner do song tutorials I thought

“Man, I wish I could do that or even get what he’s talking about.”

I sometimes jokingly said

“I don’t understand a word of what he’s saying, but I like listening to him talk anyway.”

While at the same time a part of me deep down always wished I would in fact understand what he’s talking about. Do a bit of what he does. Learn a new skill. Play along to some of my favourite songs. Just do something! But then the negative nagging voice in my head often replied with a lot of reasons why it’s a stupid idea to even think about trying again. Too old, not musical enough, failed the first time, so I better accept I won’t be any good and and and. But for some reason this week I obviously decided to ignore that voice for a change. Go me! And what better time to spend hours learning a new skill than now, right? While we will all be sitting home (alone) a lot. At least learning that new skill is the plan. I’m not always the most consequential person with my plans though… But at least I give it a try again. For now.

This afternoon I took the guitar and my laptop to my Mum’s, because I thought me fiddling around (it’s not much more yet) sounded rather loud and I was afraid my neighbours in any of the other 5 flats in my building would get annoyed quickly. Not sure they even heard it, because when I set up in one of the spare rooms at my Mum, she and Bro3, who’s living in the building as well, said, they didn’t hear anything. I don’t know. I might continue doing longer practice sessions over there, just to be sure.

So far I’ve learned about the D and the A chord. As in: know where the fingers go, managed to play them a few times. Not with consistency and definitely not with proper chord changes. No way. Seeing Frank (and to be fair every other guitar player) go from chord to chord and back so automatically seems even more impressive now than it already did before. But… he’s been doing it for 25 years. I’ve put my fingers on some strings for less than 2.5 hours so far. Step by step, right?

For now I’m just happy that I’ve taken the plunge to try again and that I’ve got a new worthwhile project to keep me busy till the worst of …. THIS … is over. There is a limit to the amount of LEGO to build and Netflix to watch and books to read.

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