So, you want to learn to play the guitar, do you? You got one as a gift or you found a great deal on one at a pawn shop that you just couldn’t pass up, and now you fancy you’d like to be the next Jimi Hendrix?
Newsflash, slick, Jimi Hendrix is dead. That’s the price he paid for his talent. And that’s exactly where you’ll end up if you try to pursue this dream. Oh sure, I know your type. You picture vast fortunes, stadiums full of fans throwing themselves at you with abandon, fame beyond your wildest fantasies. Well I’ll tell you right now, you’re not going to find any of those down this six-stringed path to destruction.
The only fortunes you’ll find are the scattered spurts of change tossed into your weather-beaten guitar case out of pity as you busk for passers-by hurrying along to escape your filth. The only things throwing themselves at you will be the monkeys clawing for a spot on your back. And fame? The closest you’ll get to fame will be the locally printed newspaper obituary your mom clips out for her scrapbook.
But still you’d like to press on? You think with the proper training and the right amount of gumption you’ll be one of the few out of millions who make a name for themselves? I admire your determination, however foolish. All right, I’ll teach you. But heed my lessons well, for if you stray even slightly, your fate is doomed without salvation. I urge you to turn back now, throw away that guitar and forget all about it, or you could end up suffering a hell worse than death, like a regular gig on a cruise ship, or touring with the Dave Matthews Band.
Lesson one: Take your guitar to bed with you every night. Feel its body next to yours as you sleep. Its sumptuous curves, its long rigid neck. If you share a bed with a spouse or partner, banish them. From both your bed and your life. You no longer have room for such trifling affairs as love or companionship, you’re a guitar player now. You have forsaken all earthly relationships. Your guitar is all you love now.
And so, you must make love to your guitar. It will let you know when it’s time, don’t force it. All guitars are different, it could take weeks or months or years. But, if you sleep with it each night, the time will eventually present itself for you to consummate your bond with it, and it is only then that you’ll be ready to move on to the next lesson.
Lesson two: It’s time to learn chords. Chords are the ancient and mystical runes passed down from guitarist to guitarist for hundreds of generations, traced back to the powerful scholar known in our tongue as Les Paul. Each chord is summoned with a specific hand position, though the most successful guitarists have mastered those positions with not only their hands, but their entire bodies, becoming twisted parodies of human beings upon the stage, all in the name of entertainment. The more varied and complex chords you can summon the higher your chance for survival when you’ve entered into the final lesson.
Lesson three: This is the last lesson I can teach you. It’s now time to go forth and conquer. Find open mic nights, talent shows, coffee shops looking for entertainment. If you’re able to form a band with other musicians, do so. But if your band has more than one guitar player, you must assert your dominance immediately and keep them subdued.
The goal of this lesson is to seek out and destroy as many other guitar players as you’re able to. Show them no mercy, for they will show you none. Start simple, with lower level guitar players. If a dude at a party spies an acoustic and starts strumming on it to impress girls, now is your time to strike. Take opening spots in other bands’ shows, and slowly work your way up. It’s a lonely road, fraught with peril, and your only friend is a good sound check.
As I said at the beginning, chances are you won’t succeed. There are thousands upon thousands of others attempting the same thing you are. What makes you think you’ll be better than all of them? It’s unlikely you’ll do anything but crash and burn. But don’t despair completely, know this one piece of wisdom that has belonged to guitar players for ages, and can never be taken away from you; even if you’re the worst guitarist out there, you’re still way better than some stupid lame crummy bass player.
Photo by Doug88888 via Flickr