I usually tell people
that I didn't
start playing guitar until 1993, but that isn't entirely true. The
guitar I had was a bass which I got for xmas in 1990. I learned
to play a few bass lines, but I never really did much with it (what can
you do with a bass after all?). Eventually I bought a cheap
guitar which I could only play up to the fifth fret of. Above
the intonation was off. It sounded terrible unless you were good
at finger-picking or you played very slowly with a pick. It
me how to handle a guitar gently rather than trying to be a "rock star"
the way a lot of kids start out.
A year or so later I finally
an electric guitar at a "salvage" place, basically a step below a flea
market. For the next year or so I played it through the bass
(the only amp I had!) with no effects (not even distortion). The
guitar hurt my fingers a lot. This was largely due to the fact
I had exceptionally thick strings on it at one point. In spite of
the fact that it was a smaller scale guitar, I somehow ended up with
11 strings. What did I know about string sizes?! For some
I kept playing it anyway. In spite of the hardship and the lack
any of the conventional advantages of an electric, this junk guitar
allowed me to do things that I hadn't done before musically, just not
When I got to college I started
a friend's acoustic. I found it was easier than my electric, so I
bought a new acoustic guitar of my own. This gave me still more
freedom, though not as much as an electric might. I decided to
a *real* electric guitar, and finally did a few months later: a Fender
I recall one afternoon, not too
I bought the Strat, my dad heard me playing. I was doing all
of tricks, running scales, bending strings, and all the things I was
able to do on any instrument before that. He asked me how I
to play that quickly. I explained that I had always known, I had
simply never been able to play like that before. I suppose that
I had gotten a Fender Strat the xmas before I would have been able to
like that all along. Then again, maybe I had to be held back to learn
basics before I could just take off down the fretboard. I guess
perspective helped explain how I learned things all along.
In the movie "The Karate Kid,"
plays a young boy eager to learn martial arts. He wants to learn
to throw punches, but his teacher tells him he will only show him after
he completes a series of chores for him. Most people who grew up
around the time the movie was released can tell you immediately what
on, Wax off" means. By concentrating intensively on very
movements, the student was able to assemble a vocabulary of pieces he
use later on at higher levels of competence.
Similarly, I never would have
the role of the bass in a song or what the root notes were if I hadn't
played bass guitar first. I was so eager to solo that I probably
would never would have learned to gently play basic open chords or
if I wouldn't have owned that cheap nylon string guitar that wouldn't
me make music above the fifth fret. It is possible that even
on my first piece-of-junk electric guitar gave me some proficiency at
proper string bends. I know I can trace learning scales across
entire neck to having gotten a decent acoustic guitar.
Thinking back now, that's a
a lot of things in our lives. We always need to be held back a
You need to know how to pack your chute before you jump out of the
I never saw so many people drop out of school as I did my freshman year
in college. Why? I guess they were just handed too much
all at once. They never learned how to put together a good plan
they set off playing.
I know a lot of the time you
yourself to go into the world feels unnecessary, but it isn't. It is
better to live your life over-prepared than to screw up and never have
those options available to you down the road because you weren't ready
when an opportunity presented itself.