The Long Run

Jan02

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

About David Hodge

Since joining Guitar Noise in November 1999, David has written over a thousand articles, lessons, interviews and reviews. He also serves as the site's Managing Editor, supervising all content in addition to the continued writing of his own lessons and articles. In April 2013, David joined the writing staff of Answers.com, heading up their Guitar Pages. And if that wasn't enough to keep him busy, David contributes to regularly Acoustic Guitar Magazine. He is also the author of six instructional books, the most recent being Idiot’s Guide: Playing Guitar.

Comments [8]

  1. Wow, this perfectly describes me (and, I’m sure, many others). I realized that I was no longer satisfied with the sheer thrill of learning something new. For a year or more that was enough. Little by little, though, doing it by myself started to make me feel bad instead of good. Over a few months I realized it was the “by myself” part that was the problem. In a burst of either insanity or genius (which it is remains to be seen) I started a meetup.com group. I figure having other people involved, and the responsibility of running a group, will apply the pressure I seem to need to keep going. Ultimately it should lead to having a group of people to play with, which I think will be much more enjoyable than noodling by myself in the basement.

    • I think you’ve hit upon a big topic – having other people to play with, and on a regular basis, definitely gives one a reason to be playing and practicing. Doesn’t have to be a gigging band, just a few people playing music socially certainly works.

      Here’s hoping that you continue to find new musical challenges (and enjoyment!) in 2014!

      Peace

  2. Great article..Just tweeted it!
    It’s so true how so many projects or goals can sort of slide away over time until we forget why they were important to us.
    Just like “ThatGuy” I’ve found involving other people to be so incredibly helpful for keeping up with something I really want to pursue, whether it’s music, running, or Tai Chi. Taking a class or lessons, or just having someone to do it with makes all the difference.

    • Hi Ben

      And thanks for tweeting this article along to others. Hope they enjoy it as much as you did,

      My best wishes to you in 2014 and I look forward to chatting with you again.

      Peace

  3. David,

    Great post, and could not come at a better time. Like many others we do let things slip by as we get older and we seem to get more commitments. I for one am going to shoot for at least 3 hours a week to my axe and try to make it even more.
    Best wishes,Al

  4. At 44 I decided I wanted to learn guitar, it was sort of a resolution at the turn of a big change in my life and beliefs. I had forsaken many things before . At 47 I picked one up. I’ve now been at it for almost 7 years, practiced fairly regularly, here and there. Finally think I can call my self an early intermediate player and am getting much more comfortable with most barres and finger picking. The process has taught me much about perseverance and patience. I thoroughly enjoy playing and now that the progress is more visible it inspires me to play more. I have enjoyed your lessons and they way they are laid out and show different skill sets. I have so much more to learn and the love the path I am on.

    Thank you!

  5. A very good article which I think applies more to today’s world than it ever has done before. Time goes by so fast and sometimes the most important things get saved for later only to never be attended to at all.

  6. This post reminded me how badly I don’t want to be someone who used to play the guitar. Guitar is my life and I identify with it so much. It has certainly been a haven from my boredom and sometimes depression. About a year ago I almost completely stopped playing. I still completely considered myself a musician and guitarist but eventually the feeling started creeping in “Am I living I lie?”. Well thankfully I picked up my guitar again and have been practising almost everyday since and it feels great, my skill has improved more then I could have imagined over the last few months and I feel the break was good, It also feel great to be able to teach beginners which is what I do on my site. The passion is back :)

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