Saturday, November 24, 2007

People really do this?

Holy tamoli! Playing a guitar is HARD.

I broke out my little "Fun with Guitars" book. I like it because it assumes nothing. Here is how you hold a guitar, here is how you hold a pick. This is how you tune the guitar.

Hey, so far so good! The first 6 pages of the book were cake. No problem-o! I am gonna be a rock star in no time! Then suddenly we hit the dreaded page 7, "Our first chord".

I look at the picture, it's simple enough right? Three fingers three strings. What could possibly go wrong? Holy crap! It's like playing "twister" with your fingers! "Right hand Blue, left foot orange" Oh man, with a little stretching I can put the correct three fingers on the correct three strings in the correct three frets and then I strum. One cat howled and the other cat started trying to jump out the closed window so something clearly was not right. Oh, you don't just touch the strings you have to push down on them and do it HARD. Ok, got it, strum, that still does not sound right? Oh, now some fingers are lightly touching some strings I should not be touching making them dead.

I am telling you it is HARD to push down hard enough on the right strings in the right places and NOT touch any of the wrong strings! It takes a good ten minutes to get my fingers juuuuust right to get a clean chord.

So after an hour, with a little concentration I can handle page 7! Page 8 is a little song I can play just by holding that one chord and plucking a single string in the right order. It did not sound like much to me but it must have been a pretty good song because the cats joined in and yowled along. They were also rolling back and forth on the floor while they sang. I guess that is how cats dance?

So after one afternoon of practice I can make a chord with maybe 10 seconds to get my fingers in juuuuuuust the right places. Man those three fingertips are throbbing and there are some muscles in the top of my hand that I never knew existed before that ache but by golly I can kinda play a chord and a pretty bad song composed of one note and one chord. Woot!

So the next day I am ready for page 9.

What? You have GOT to be kidding right? From one side of the fingerboard to the other? Holy crap? What kind of freakish hand do you need to be able to do THIS? At first I just can not do it. I stretch and stretch trying to get my fingers all the way across that board AND push down hard AND not touch any other string. I keep trying though and eventually I can make a G7 chord. My fingertips are throbbing, I have a muscle twitch in a FINGER but by golly I can make a very bad G7!

So I look at the bottom of page 9. It's the same song from page 8 but now it has two chords. What? I am supposed to do two different chords in the same song? It takes me a long time to get my fingers positioned right to make one chord, how in the hell am I supposed to change chords between strums? Impossible. Human fingers simply can not do this stuff.

I have always admired musicians. Now I stand in awe of them. How can you possibly push that hard that precisely and change your finger positions that fast?

So after two afternoons my fingers tips hurt enough I can't use the remote with my left hand and I can barely make two chords. I am pretty depressed. I am thinking I should have bought drums instead. At least they are big. "Ugh, Rob can hit big circle. Circle go bang! Bang good! Rob like go bang!" Yeah, that may be about my speed!

Then I remember back when I bought my first PC and how I had to hunt and peck and it took a long time to type one sentence. Then I look at my fingers fly over the keyboard now. It took a while but I learned the keyboard. Of course with a keyboard you only have to push one key at a time but you can't hit two and the keys are actually the size of your fingers instead of little threads. So I realised that while this will be much harder than learning to type that I can learn.

The biggest question at this point is how much will the kitties have to suffer before I learn?


michelle said...

i took guitar lessons when i was in elementary school ... for 2 years, i think. i didn't enjoy it at all ... but i do remember the first song i learned to play included the line "all th egold in california is in a bank in the middle of beverly hills in somebody elses name" ... classic. ;)

Melek said...

hahaha...funny. my bf tried to teach me a few chords but i had the same do i hold this thing? i have to make my fingers do what? and push down HOW hard? ow, my fingers hurt. this is totally not worth it. why dont you just play it? i'll look on lovingly as you serenade me :)

try not to kill your cats, rob.

Melissa said...

After awhile you'll work a callus on the tips of your fingers and it won't hurt so much. As for turning your hands inside out...well, you'll just need to get used to that.

Good luck. If your kitties don't pack their bags and move out you know your improving ;)

kay said...

actually the faster you build up your callus the faster you will learn to play. i keep a lego in the car and press the corner of it on my fingertips at stop lights to help make my fingertips tough. weird i know but it works for me!

Cecily R said...

I am a music moron. The little dots go up and down. THat's as much as I know about reading music and I sing all the time. People are shocked when they find out how music dumb I really am. I admire you for trying. Truly.

Not being able to use the remote is the true tragedy here. I think it just might put my hsuband over the edge if that happened to him!

Tanya said...

You can do it. One more chord and you can be a real rock star. Mel Bay knows what he is doing.

Rob said...

Michelle - Did you become "competent" in two years? I thought perhaps I was struggling so much because my hands are too small or something (since I struggle to reach strings.) Then Erika pointed out that children play so small hands was not it. Plus I compared my hands with several people and they seem to be pretty normal sized.

Melissa - Thanks!

Kay - You mean Lego's have some purpose OTHER than crippling me when I step on them barefoot at 3:00 AM? I'll be dogged!

Cecily - I hear ya. It's a good thing men master doing things one handed at an early age or I would have really been in trouble!

Tanya - Ha! You know, yesterday I tried just doing some "lead guitar" from memory, just trying to duplicate what I heard. I can do that! (not well yet of course!) I can handle one or two strings it's the chords that are killing me. I am getting better though. I can change positions and do two cords in under a minute now! :)

michelle said...

competent? i would have to say, not really. i was fine with form, but i hated practicing, so i didn't really try to get better ... if i had given it some effort, i am sure i would have been fabulous. keep in mind, though, i have crazy long fingers ... piano player, basketball player, e.t. the extraterrestrial ... all possible career paths that i could have taken. ;)

Rob said...

ET - LOL! Oh and don't forget Proctologist! (ewwww)

Rob said...

>>Mel Bay knows what he is doing.<<

Tanya, Erika just went out so I broke out my "Fun with the Guitar" book so I could practice without tormenting Erika. That is the book I the posted chord illustrations from. Whose name did I notice on the cover just now? Mel Bay. Did you *know* that or was that just a coincidence?

Stephanie said...

I suck at Guitar Hero, so there is no way I could learn to play the real thing. Sounds way too complicated. :) Good Luck.

Hope said...

"Ugh, Rob can hit big circle. Circle go bang! Bang good! Rob like go bang!" Yeah, that may be about my speed!

I bet the kitties would like the guitar better...