Say Hello To My Little Friend

As part of a continuing series called “Brian J.’s Three Quarter Life Crisis” (previous entries include “Brian J. Learns A Martial Art”, “Brian J. Does Triathlons”, and “Brian J. Publishes A Book Of Poems“), I took gift cards from Christmas and my recent birthday and bought an electric guitar.

To be honest, it is not my first. When I was at the university, I bought a bass guitar and noodled with it for a while, including actually getting together on a couple occasions with a couple guys with other instruments and jamming with them (that is, strumming or picking the bass guitar clumsily while they picked their instruments clumsily, or in the case of my sessions with The Variation Machine, actually pretty good).

But I did not pursue it and did not stick with it with any discipline. I had a lot of time–witness the number of poems and short stories from the time as well as the spoken history of the era. But I lacked patience.

Before I got the bass guitar, I asked for a keyboard for Christmas in 1990, and I got two (the reduplicative benefits of a broken home–one from the mother and one from the father). I tinkered with it a bit, trying to do a little autodidactic learning on it, but I could barely read music and play with the right hand, sort of. I learned “Suicide is Painless” (the theme from MASH), but little else. I wrote a song for a girl named Peggy who was in my Bio 2 class and another English class, but when I told her, she and a friend mocked me through one particularly long Bio 2 lecture. The song even featured using the left hand. Was it any good? I’ll have to ask the beneficiary of Peggy’s disdain: My beautiful wife, who can play all the instruments and even some that have not been invented yet.

Where was I? Oh, yes, I’ve not had much luck with follow through on the musical instruments.

I’ve not had a lot of luck with autodidacticism in other areas. Like trying to learn software programming. I mean modern software development. I’ve written programs before, but I’ve not had much luck with putting all the pieces together on a language or an application. Part of it has been time, of course–since I’ve had children and a family, full evenings dedicated to a hobby has disappeared. So I don’t have the time.

But I have learned patience. I definitely credit the years of martial arts classes for this. When studying or playing with anything in the past, I’ve always found that I learn a lot rapidly and take pride in it, but then I plateau and become disappointed that I’m no longer rapidly advancing. I end up putting things aside, and going onto something else. But I’ve learned how improvements become more subtle over time, and just putting in the effort and time generally leads to improvement.

So I’m hoping to apply that lesson to learning the guitar. A little bit of practice every day, and eventually I will learn it.

I’ve also learned that I do not learn mechanical or physical things from books very well. I’ve discovered YouTube videos for insights on making mechanical and household repairs, so I’ll start out with this guy teaching me guitar:

He seems very patient. And British.

And if this does not work, I will get lessons. Another thing I’ve learned in my crisis journey is that even though I’m not friendly enough or extroverted enough to natively join a community, I can pay someone to tolerate me enough to teach me something. One would think that I would have learned this in my youth, when I spent tens of thousands of dollars for professors to humor my dreams of being a best-selling author or famous poet. Oh, but no.

At any rate, ask me again in six months about my progress to see if I can stick with it as much as I’d like to think I can (this time).

Also, drop me a line if you want to be in my rock and roll band. I have a cool idea and concept, but I’m not sure how well my voice can hold up to grindcore, and my children’s voices haven’t changed yet.