Monday, 28 March 2016

Idle Frets


I've started taking guitar lessons for the first time in my life.

When I was given my first guitar at the age of about 15 it was a classic case of reality falling short of expectation. My expectation was based on one of those red Fender electric beauties played by Hank Marvin - the reality was one of those cheap Spanish guitars brought back from Spain alongside sombreros and stuffed donkeys by the thousands of post-Franco tourists in the 60's. Try as I might, there appeared to be no way on earth I was going to replicate the sublime echo plus tremelo lead of "Apache" on my undersized, wide necked acoustic. Every single one of my school exercise books was adorned with doodles of that iconic Stratocaster body shape but my Spanish guitar was more like a battered tennis racket, and about as tuneful.  

In those days there were just two ways of becoming proficient in playing guitar. One had to either have a musical ear and pick up popular songs by simply listening to them (that let me out) , or one had to go through a painful process of working through books such as Bert Weedon's laughably titled "Play in a Day" which took months to get you to play such groovy standards as "Bobbie Shafftoe". 

How different things have become today! For a start, you can purchase an electronic guitar tuner for four quid which is light years ahead of the useless pitch pipes which we used to (try and) use. That means you can start with a realistic chance of playing along to a record in the right key.

Then there is the multitude of "Tab" web sites where one can enter the name of virtually any song and find "crowd sourced" renditions of lyrics, chords and tabulated note-by-note guides to the most desirable guitar solos you can think of.  In the sixties, the equivalent was to travel miles to a music shop and order expensive sheet music which normally included no chords and was only decipherable by a proper musician. 

And you don't even have to work out where to put your fingers today - sites such as justinguitars.com provide easy access YouTube videos of all your favourites, from simple accompaniments to stratospheric Mark Knopfler solos.

On my first lesson, my tutor described me with deadpan expression as "a guitar tutor's worst nightmare" and I wondered if I should simply give up and plough all my energy into a law suit against the late Bert Weedon's estate. However, I've started to make some progress and am really enjoying it so look out Eric Clapton and Richard Thompson!


10 comments:

Nota Bene said...

Good for you...once you've mastered that, do take up drums for the sake of the neighbours. Is justinguitars any relation to justinbeiber or justintime?

Rog said...

I'm open to percussion Nota...

Liz said...

I'm impressed!

I had guitar lessons in my early teens. I cannot read music or play by ear, which probably contributed to my giving up; that and the fact that I was far too lazy to practice.

Tim said...

You'll be doing Hendrix solos in no time - just keep hammering on.

Z said...

I found an old post of mine, a couple of weeks ago, in which I expressed a desire to learn to play the guitar. It seems to have been a flash in the pan, unfortunately. I hope you continue to enjoy your music.

Rog said...

Liz: don't rule out another go - Sir B could get the drums out and you could become a White Stripes tribute act!

Tim: I'm staying with acoustic and have no intention of setting fire to it

Z: you are already multi-instrumentalist! I discovered the satisfaction of playing along to a record only last month. I've done it for years of course, but never in the same key ;-)

Rose Blackthorn said...

Every decade I attempt to learn an instrument. Fortunately, that passes quickly.

Pat said...

It's all very well strumming - or whatever the term is but can you do Hank's walk at the same time?

Michael Horner said...

Hello Rog. Not really a comment, but is it possible to get in touch and play scrabble. I don't seem able to. Could you have a try?

Rog said...

My end is working Mike - and you are winning! I've clicked the "nudge" button to see if that clears the blockage!