Sunday, September 13, 2015


I can't remember if I mentioned this but I have been taking guitar lessons for the last year or so. I am learning on an electric guitar, an Epiphone, and what can I say, like a number of new skills I have developed over the last few decades I find it has a very agreeable effect on me, when I hit the 'sweet spot'. 
My guitar teacher, Neil, is patient and good-humoured most of the time - a lot more than I would be in his place, I'm sure, although I imagine more likely in this kind of game, where the only real danger is that the student will just quit, it's the first couple of weeks or months when people walk away, but once you've got them for perhaps six or 12 months, they're committed. Which is probably a good thing because then the only way for them to go is forward, although really I have absolutely no idea whether I am capable, only that I am better than I was. Also, that (performance anxiety?) I am far less able to do things under his gaze than I am on my own. But I guess there are a few reasons for that - one is that when I'm alone I can convince myself I'm doing the right things, also that I only really do what interests me when I'm practicing, and also that yes, I find it unnerving to be scrutinised particularly in matters of hand-eye-mind co-ordination. It's amazing when you do things like type all day, and can for instance pick up an apple or pat a dog, that your fingers are actually much less able to place themselves in the right places than you thought they would be. Last Friday I was trying to get my little finger to obey me on the 5th string, and wow, it really wasn't going there. As I said to Neil, perhaps insensitively considering I don't know what his experience is of stroke victims and it was a bit offhanded, I felt like a stroke victim i.e. I was concentrating on simply getting a few random little muscles to do something that it never would have occurred to me would be problematic. 
But, then you get better at these things (never as good as you want to be, but better than you were a few months ago) and you feel great about it. 
I recall how I felt about learning to drive. Before I could drive, I assumed you just turned the car on, made it go and steered. I now appreciate that that is just one thing that's happening while you do all the other things. Well, playing the guitar I suppose apart from anything else makes me appreciate the great skill and ability of all the people around me who I intellectually knew had to have skill to play the guitar and not just play it but get good things out of playing it. I intellectually knew it. But I couldn't really see how it could be so hard and why it wasn't that easy. Now I do. I also know how little I know. 

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