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Anyone Can Play Guitar: Does That Include Me?

Is it actually possible to teach yourself guitar — and is it wise? That’s my mission for the rest of the year.

Photo: fmerenda

It has been a long, long time since I was learning a musical instrument. How long? The year was 1987, and I was but a wee school boy, struggling with the only instrument left in the locker for those kids who hadn’t already been learning an instrument privately for years.

I’d picked music over art — which should be no surprise to those who have seen my drawing efforts recently — but had to take what I was given.

What I was given was a tuba that I struggled to lift.

It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that I didn’t last that long with the tuba, and that was (more or less) the end of my musical career to date.

At least until this week, when I picked up a Washburn D-10SCE guitar.

So why decide to pick up an instrument after so long?

Some have suggested it’s a mid-life crisis, and maybe they’re right. at least part of the impetus came from a meeting a few months back with blokes I’d been to school with, some of whom have had very distinguished musical careers. I could keep up with the conversation as a listener, but not at the technical level. Partly just because I want to step outside my artistic comfort zone, and drawing clearly isn’t it for me. Partly because my kids are picking up instruments, and I want to provide a good example to them.

Plus, I figure that music is something I was bad at way back then, but not entirely for reasons within my control. Now I’m an adult (at least legally speaking) and I can pick the instrument of my choosing, apply adult discipline to actually learning, and pick up a talent well outside my current skill set.

So, I’ve started learning, slowly and (because this is a steel string guitar) somewhat painfully. I’m using a mixed method of self-training, because there’s obviously no shortage of guitar training methods available in the real world and online; a tutorial book, because having something physical in front of me is a good way to force myself to practise, supplemented with various YouTube videos to show more technique.

So far, of course, I can make a variety of terrible twangy sounds, and not much else, but it’s early days; I’ll update with my thoughts on guitar self-training in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, any Lifehacker readers/guitar gods got any worthwhile tips to add?


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