Today, I want to share what I’ve learned as an adult learning how to play guitar. It has been a rollercoaster. I’ve had fun lessons and challenging ones. I have developed calluses on my fingers and opened my mind to a new skill. I have fulfilled a lifelong dream of learning to play guitar, albeit I still have so much to learn.
As a child, I always wanted to learn to play guitar. A young teen in the early 80s, I dreamt of being the next Nancy Wilson or Lita Ford. I wanted big hair, tight leather pants, kohl eyeliner, and a confident strut with my guitar slung across my shoulder.
For a very short time, my parents paid for lessons for me. Once a week, an instructor named Chris came to my home. I had 30 minutes of lesson time, then my sister had 30 minutes of lesson time. My sister was brilliant and picked up the skills she needed to play guitar successfully very easily. She was a natural! I struggled, became frustrated, and eventually gave up. The lesson slot became a one-hour lesson for my sister.
I never begrudged or envied her talent. In fact, I have always been her biggest fan and supporter. However, I did always regret giving up my 30 minutes of time with Chris and continuing to learn to play.
Life happened. I got married, divorced, remarried, have a stepdaughter, and a career. In fact, I didn’t give playing the guitar even a second thought for about a decade. When I turned 40, I started to realize that I had a fairly successful career, was married to a wonderful man, and lived in a nice home.
But I was missing out on some of the goals that I had set for myself in life. That desire to learn to play guitar? It was still there. It had reared its head and sprung back to life inside of me. Obviously, I wasn’t going to make it a career. But I was going to learn to play.
While I’ve learned some basics…and a few tricks…here’s really what I’ve learned as an adult learning to play the guitar.
Lesson One: If You Suck, Continue to Practice
I like things to be easy. I tend to play it safe. I stick to doing things that come naturally to me so that I always excel. As much as I’ve always wanted to play the guitar, I’m not a “natural.” However, I was a “natural” at playing the violin, so that was the instrument that I stuck with.
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In fact, I got frustrated one day and told my instructor “I suck. I’m quitting.” To my surprise, my instructor responded in kind. He agreed that I sucked. I was shocked…and a little bit hurt-feelinged. But he quickly added that I need to continue to practice, to challenge myself, and to improve in just a little way, every day.
He promised that these little improvements, in time, would amount to huge strides forward in my guitar-playing skills.
Because he challenged me to continue to make small progress, I stuck with it. I’m glad I did as I have improved beyond what I thought I ever would a few months ago.
Lesson Two: Correct Your Mistakes
I very frequently make mistakes when I am playing guitar, especially in my posture. This seemed odd to me, that my posture was causing me to make a lot of mistakes in my playing. In my mid-40’\s I discovered I was a very slouchy lady.
I was making mistakes because of my poor posture. My instructor worked with me on not only identifying my mistakes but helping me to correct the mistakes. For example, I invested in a mirror so that I could see where my fingers were without stretching my neck and turning (which was causing my fretting fingers to slide out of place).
Instead of making the excuse that my lazy posture caused my fretting fingers to not work right, I stuck with the process. We identified the problem, found a correction for it, and moved on to playing the guitar.
Lesson Three: It’s OK to Laugh at Yourself
Learning to play any instrument is an experience with ups and downs. There are mistakes, then there are mistakes that cause uproars of laughter in my home. Some mistakes in my practice sessions have caused the dog to howl and my family to erupt in laughter.
At first, I was very sensitive about this. In fact, I was only practicing when I was home alone. Except for the dog, but he couldn’t tell on me for my bad playing.
Eventually, I learned to accept the missteps and laugh at them. This made me free and confident enough to practice when my family is at home. Even though they laugh, I now laugh along with them. Although I will admit…the more I play, the more rare those instances now occur.
Lesson Four: Invest In Yourself
Finally, I learned a difficult lesson. In just a couple of years of playing guitar, I have spent a small fortune. I purchased the first guitar for cheap off an online ad. I didn’t do any research or read any online guitar reviews. I just bought it.
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Next, I purchased an acoustic guitar which was brand new. I used it to learn some very basics. It was okay and it served some purpose. However, I quickly realized that while I know I won’t have a career as a guitarist, I still love the loud, raw sound of an electric guitar. So I sold both of the previous guitars for only a fraction of what I paid and invested in a mid-price Fender.
Doing my homework and investing in the electric guitar I had always wanted was investing in myself. After forking over my hard-earned cash on this guitar, I had no excuse to quit. Plus, I was pleasantly surprised at how much better the tone was. I actually was starting to sound good. I was trying new guitar chords, perfecting my fretting, and gaining confidence from the better quality sound.
This investment in myself has committed me to the long haul in continuing to grow in my skills.
While I do know that I will never be a rock star or even a professional guitar player, that’s ok with me.
I still have a lot to learn, and that’s also ok – there’s still lots of time to research or take online guitar lessons on my own.
Learning to play the guitar has made me look at my own flaws. It has helped me face my insecurities. And, it has helped me achieve that lifelong desire to play the guitar.