I don’t really remember why I wanted to learn guitar. I had played piano for a while after my parents told me I could pick any instrument after I learned how to read music, and I originally wanted to play the flute. Piano went on for several years, and I hated practicing, even though I wasn’t horrible. I never picked up the flute, and eventually wanted to learn guitar. I think it was because guitar is the “cool” instrument, it’s what you play when you’re in a rock band, and I always harbored dreams of being a rock star. I got my first acoustic guitar at Guitar Center as part of a “kit,” and took lessons at a music store in a room that was probably about 2 x 5 feet, generously. If my guitar teacher had been left-handed, it would have never worked.
Practicing guitar really stressed me out. I had performance anxiety, so even when I had spent hours practicing, I got super nervous when I had to play for anyone, even just my teacher, and messed up. I eventually got an electric guitar because it was easier on my fingers, and it made more sense since my guitar teacher was mostly teaching rock music. His name was Randy and he had long red hair in a ponytail, and always wore a black T-shirt. We were both really quiet, so it was awkward. We didn’t really say hello or goodbye, we just sort of nodded at each other. Eventually, I switched teachers because someone I knew at school had just started learning, and really liked her teacher. I had become more interested in classical guitar music at this point, so my parents helped me get a very expensive classical guitar that was on sale. I still had an electric guitar, which I played for the school worship band.
I learned how to read music for guitar really well with my second teacher, because just about all classical music is in that form. Rock music is all chords, and scales, if you’re good and want to do solos. I was still really frustrated though, like all the time. I was never happy with my progress, and I hated the thought of having to do recitals, so I didn’t. I knew a lot of people from school who played guitar, and they were all way better than me, and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Was it genetics? Good luck? It certainly couldn’t be practice, because I practiced a lot.
When my second guitar teacher stopped teaching and moved to Duluth to get married, I didn’t bother finding another teacher. I sold my electric guitar and stowed my classical away in its case. It wasn’t worth it.
Recently, I’ve started playing more seriously again. I started hearing songs and thinking, “I could play that.” Ingrid Michaelson is my favorite right now, because she uses basic chords, but the vocal melodies over them are all unique. I can see where my lessons paid off in that my fingers still remember chords and I can still read basic sheet music. My sense of timing has also improved, which is weird, because I haven’t been doing anything to keep that up, and I was always really bad at it.
I think not feeling stressed about it makes a world of difference. I don’t have anything to prove. I’m not searching for a shared identity with other guitarists who don’t see me as a musician because I don’t want to make it my career. There’s no pressure to have mastered a certain page in a week, or an upcoming performance where strangers judge me. In the past, I considered selling my last guitar. I’m so glad I didn’t. What used to be a source of stress and anxiety has become a stress-reliever.