The Long Run

People take up the guitar for all sorts of reasons – to make music, to make friends, to meet people, to express oneself, to become creative, and the list goes on and on.

But it’s easy to wonder whether or not people know when taking up the guitar, or any musical instrument (or skilled endeavor) for that matter, just how much time and effort it actually takes to learn to play to the point where one is happy with his or her musicianship. “Happy” here doesn’t mean “content in staying at a certain level.” Everyone, even (maybe especially) professionals, always wishes to be a better player. But that doesn’t mean we can enjoy the level of musicianship where we’re at while we’re working on becoming more and more skilled.

Simply picking up the guitar and coaxing a few chords out of it, while potentially initially overwhelming, is a first step that every guitarist goes through. And while some chords may be easier than others, just being able to play something as simple and recognizable like “Horse With No Name” or any of our easy beginner song lessons, gives us a thrill. And we let that thrill carry us onward toward the next song, the next difficult chord, or the next attempt at copying a favorite solo. In our initial exhilaration we may practice for hours at a time, or at least at a fairly regular daily basis.

Then life kind of happens. Today is too busy, tomorrow we’re a bit tired, then there’s family obligations and school projects and work deadlines and little by little we set guitar and making music aside. Just for the time being, of course.

But the “time being” keeps growing continuously. Before you know it, playing isn’t even something that you think of doing without somehow being reminded of it. And simply thinking “it would be nice to play” is always followed by “but” and a half-million reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t or won’t.

And in less time than it takes to tell you take the final step and officially become someone who used to play guitar. Someone who used to make music.

Whether we want to admit it or not, this is something that happens to all of us at some point or another. And it’s not just with playing the guitar. We become someone who used to cook, someone who used to exercise, someone who used to write, someone who used to read, someone who used to call a friend on the phone to make sure he or she was fine (not that we don’t trust email, it’s just that friendship often deserves a bigger outreach than simply hitting a “like” button).

In case you don’t have a calendar handy, it’s a New Year yet again. And while resolutions are made and broken in the space of a heartbeat, it’s still a perfect time to look at yourself and compare yourself to who you used to be. Chances are likely you’re not and that there are a lot of great changes that you’ve made in your life over the past year.

But if one of those changes is spending less time doing something that you enjoy and something that not only makes you happy but makes others happy as well, then maybe it’s worth looking at finding out ways to bring back some of the things you used to be.

Especially when it comes to music. You’re not going to find any studies or articles that extol how playing music is bad for someone. Giving yourself just five minutes a day, or a half-hour every other day, or even a full hour once a week will only make your life better.

If you want some words of encouragement in 2014, don’t go any further than Pete Townshend:

Get up my guitar and play just like yesterday

My best wishes to all of you, your friends and family for a very wonderful New Year. And whatever you do and whatever may happen, do your damnedest to not become someone who used to play guitar.

Peace