Back when I was about 23 I played a lot of guitar but I was never really very good. I never considered myself to have much musical talent (if any) and really could only play through spending copious amounts of time practicing. Initially I was self-taught, but I taught myself quite badly, I knew chords, scales and various riffs and bits of songs that I liked. I had no concept of rhythm or timing and while I could play some pretty complex stuff, I couldn’t play a single song all the way through, not even an easy one.
Eventually I found myself in a rut and got myself a guitar teacher, he quickly drilled timing into me and had me tapping my foot like crazy and counting while I was playing – 1, 2, 3 & 4… Tapping my foot is probably one of the most important lessons I ever learned when it came to playing guitar.
The 9 year break
I stopped playing guitar 9 years ago when my wife became pregnant with our first son. We lived in a small house and there never seemed to be a good time to play, and in truth, I’d gotten pretty bored with the guitar – forcing myself to play every night just put me in a place where I wasn’t enjoying it.
So now, 9 years have passed and I’m back playing again, this time with a different approach. I want to know songs, start to finish – I want to be able to sing and play at the same time (something I’ve never been able to do, largely down to the fact that I have a terrible, terrible singing voice), not so I can perform but I think singing while I’m playing will automate my playing to a degree and make me a better player for it. Part of me hopes that my singing voice will get better, but I’m 34 and I sing with the flattest tone you’ve ever heard, I don’t hold out much hope.
YouTube, where have you been?
What I would like to say is that now, learning guitar is easier than it’s ever been thanks to the internet. YouTube has no shortage of guitar tutorials and in Justin Sandercoe and Marty Schwartz it has 2 of the best teachers I’ve ever seen in any discipline. Both Sandercoe and Schwartz run websites to help people learn and god I wish they’d been around when I was first learning, I’d be a thousand times better than I am now. But it’s never too late and I’m improving all the time, I even have a few songs that I can sing and play all the way through now.