Monday, March 5, 2012

i never quite made the time for it

I never took music lessons as a kid. I have mixed feelings about that now.

I remember neighborhood kids who took piano lessons. There were times when our play was interrupted by their practice. They complained about it, talked about how awful it was to have to take piano lessons and practice. At the time I felt free. And it makes sense that my parents never forced me to take lessons. My father, as far as I know, never learned an instrument. And my mother took piano as a kid but hated it. One year, for her birthday, she asked her parents to let her stop. They did. And I don't think she has ever regretted it.

Now, I look back and part of me -- the part that wishes I could play guitar better -- wishes I had had those lessons forced on me. The catch, of course, is that I don't know how I would feel about music if it had been forced on me. I found an interest in music when I was free to do so, and I might not have any interest at all if I hadn't been given that freedom.

I did eventually take music lessons when I was in college. I took up guitar, but didn't stick with lessons long enough to be very good at it. Part of that was my own impatience -- my teacher had an emphasis on folk music, but I was really wanted to learn to play rock and roll. I realize now that I would have gotten there through his approach, and probably would have picked up a lot of music theory on the way. Another factor, of course, was time. As a college student I overscheduled myself. Between classes, and my extracurricular activities, I didn't really have time for my guitar lessons and practice. Correction. I didn't make time for my guitar lessons and practice. Which means I chose other things over the guitar.

After grad school I found that the time pressures of my actuarial exams seemed to crowd out the possibility of guitar lessons. Then, after I was married (and by this time finished with actuarial exams), I tried guitar lessons. But the pressures (time and financial) of a growing family, and a demanding career nixed that. Again, the fact is that I could have made lessons a higher priority if I really wanted to. I guess I didn't really want to. Not enough anyway.

This is not to say that I've completely abandoned guitar playing. In grad school, I had a roommate who played. And I would play along with him, following his finger movements, and I did improve a bit. I have a friend who is an excellent guitarist -- I mentioned him in another post, as he and his brothers recorded one of my songs on their album. When he lived in Pittsburgh, we used to see each other once or twice a year, typically on camping trips. The guitars would come out, and I would try to keep up until my fingers were too sore to go on. Now that he's moved to Montana, I don't see nearly as much of him.

So at this point, I can strum, and play a bit of hammerclaw (or is it clawhammer? I can never remember). And I can strum. But I never developed the skill necessary to vary my strumming, so when I play a three-chord song, it sounds pretty much like every other three-chord song. But I still pick up the guitar and practice, or play some songs for my own amusement. Or my kids' amusement.

Maybe when the kids are grown and I'm retired...

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