Remember the 90s? Lots of things happened then: The rise of the first 90210, the destruction of the Progressive Conservatives, my high school and most of my university years, the inexplicable, though brief, success of Hammer pants…
One thing that was pretty ubiquitous, apart from Doc Martens on my feet, was a girl singer-songwriters who often had guitars. Y’know, folks like Lisa Loeb, Jewel, and any woman on the soundtrack to ‘Dawson’s Creek’ (to whom reviewers on TWoP would refer as ‘ovaries’). I fell into the trap, even though I didn’t listen to much of this music (though did go see Ms Loeb on my 19th birthday, thanks to my older brother), of thinking I could do this, despite no talent, never having written a song before, and not knowing how to play the guitar.
I did buy a guitar and a book on how to play it. I had played recorder and flute, I had taken music theory (and done poorly at it), so this would be no problem.
But, y’know when Bart Simpson tries to pluck out ‘Polly Wolly Doodle’? It was about like that. I was too proud, and cheap, to take lessons, but had almost no ear at all (though could play ‘Au clair de la lune‘, which is not great for a basis for teenage angst music), and got bored of it quickly.
Pride precluded my getting rid of my poor guitar, though, so it sat around, occasionally being picked up by a friend, or, more often, a friend of my brother’s. One of them broke the E string, swore they would replace it, but never did. It sat in a closet for about 15 years.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided that that was dumb, that I’d been dumb, and after a lot of deliberation, I went into Steve’s Music yesterday and said ‘I’m dumb. I have a guitar with a broken string and I saw a YouTube video on how to replace it but I need…stuff? Strings? Yeah.’
When dude asked me what kind of guitar it was, I replied, ‘The kind of acoustic Yamaha you buy when you’re a teenager and want to learn to play that then sits in a closet for more than a decade?’
That’s not verbatim, but it is really, really close.
He was too polite to laugh me out of the store.
Maybe he gets this kind of thing a lot.
So I bought some strings and tool to help get pins out more easily and came home, rewatched that string video, then spent the better part of an hour trying to tune the fucker. Of course, my phone battery was nearly dead, so I could only make use of a free guitar tuning app for a little while, making the whole process more complicated. More YouTube. (How did we live before YouTube?)
I did discover that the B string looked somehow thinner than the E, though, and that it was a bit rusty in places, so I swapped that out too.
After more videos, and another twenty minutes, it sounded mostly okay.
I tried playing some scales. It kinda went fine.
I fired up a highly regarded series of online lessons, which seemed easy enough. The first lesson with actual playing in it was mastering the D chord. Easy peasy. Put three fingers in place. Strum. I could probably learn the basics of AT LEAST two chords in an evening. (Then I could play a whole Green Day album.)
But of course not. I’m not 8 and fearless. I have small hands, fairly short fingers, and plenty of anxiety, though.
The number of times I got it to work, well, I’d count them out, but my left hand is a claw. My fingertips had string marks so deep I could almost see the bone. My index finger already has a horny callus (and here I thought I already had tough, elephant skin hands). This was after about twenty minutes of not being able to my fingers in position so that all notes rang true for more than a few seconds at a time (lousy ring finger dragging everyone down).
Having not mastered the D, I played a very stoccato ‘Au clair de la lune’ again for old time’s sake, and set the guitar aside.
But only for the night. I’ll toodle about more on the weekend and see if I can relax a bit so that I don’t saw through the skin on my fingertips as I grip the neck and strings even tighter out of frustration.
But, to be honest, I’m not even sure what my goal is yet. Anyone have easy songs (preferably not 18th century French folk songs) to suggest? I could probably easily relearn to read music. I’m not as good at playing by ear (clearly). And I don’t want to annoy my neighbours any more than I have to.
I guess it could be worse for them. I could be trying to teach myself the violin. I’d have been fined twice for noise by-law violations by now. TALENT.
Speaking of learning things late, I have really got to get on that sewing things. Bought a dress on sale yesterday (shopping? me?) and had to take it to be altered slightly, which cost $21, negating the sale price and then some. It’ll look great, but that is ridiculous.