Friday, October 1, 2010

Bad habits my foot

Happy October, everyone!

Wow, I think this is one of my favorite months. Besides, it's Stevie Ray Vaughan's birthday on the 3rd - coincidentally (or not) the same day as my stepfather's. A great month all around!

Pursuing any discipline gives one a before-and-after perspective on what they were told, and what is actually the case.

The business of learning guitar has some rumors going around that, at best, are amusing, and, at worst, discouraging legions of would-be greats from ever picking up the instrument. Well, OK, maybe I'm being a bit dramatic, and acting just like what I'm preaching against, but hear me out for a minute.

It wasn't that long ago compared to, say, the way the line at the DMV moves, but about a decade or so ago, I remember standing in the guitar shop. I was awed by the walls lined with guitars of all colors, and the smell of new amplifiers wafting through the air. (It is actually quite a wonderful smell.) The salesman told my father quite earnestly "He should sign up for guitar lessons. You don't want him to pick up any bad habits."

Who would argue with one of these messengers of music, and purveyor of the ultra-cool - a guitar salesman?! Not teenage me, that's for sure! Besides, I was dying to take lessons, and couldn't wait to get one of those guitar cases that I could put stickers on. (Things really haven't changed that much.)

So I signed up, and I'm so glad I did. I'm writing this sitting in my office in my home that I own. I bought it with money I made as a guitar instructor myself.

But here's the thing - I never saw any bad habits to avoid.

I can explain...

A lot of instructors scare people into taking lessons by ominously mentioning bad habits. So far, I know of one of these frightful habits, and I am going to tell you right now, and take the scare tactic teachers out at the knees! (MAN I've had way too much caffeine!)

- Make sure your thumb stays perpendicular to the neck of the guitar - don't have it go parallel.


*hums a certain Queen song.*

Guitar is an instrument of innovation, experimentation, and inspiration. Sure, there's technique, and many lifetimes can be spent acquiring perfection. But sign up for lessons because a teacher can help you learn faster, more efficiently, and inspire you to new heights. My lessons with my teacher were something I looked forward to each week, and were a source of inspiration. But you don't need a guitar teacher to learn guitar. Funny that I should be going on about this, but I think it's true. Hey, I think a good teacher can be the best thing for learning! But if you can't afford one, can't find a good one, or would rather learn from a book, that's fine, too!

Maybe all the bad habit camp folks mean is that they can make the road easier. True, true. I call it the evolution of teaching. I learned from my teacher's mistakes, and my students have learned from mine. It's scary how fast these kids are learning the material sometimes. But the road rarely leads off a cliff, so don't be afraid of trying stuff on your own.

I remember one time I was looking at guitars with a client, and I was chiding him on picking the strings a certain way. One of the salesmen came over and said "Hey man, maybe he'll invent something new!" Johnny B. couldn't have been more right!

This invention and innovation is a magnificent thing about music. Where would we be if little James had always kept his amp at a respectable volume and didn't flip his stratocaster left handed?

We might not be listening to Purple Haze.

Learn on, good people! In what ever way suits you. Invent, innovate, inspire, and be inspired.
The world of music awaits you.

Rock on!

- Josh

No comments: