While my guitar gently weeps

Anthropomorphically speaking, it weeps over—or at least is greatly annoyed by—my attempts to play it. But, as a rank beginner, a little pain on its part and mine is expected.

As a fully grown adult, my reasons for learning to play are different than they might have been in years past. At the top of that list would have been attracting girls. One the best (of many) scenes in the movie “Animal House” was during the toga party; while it rages on around him, the sensitive, mustachioed and turtlenecked folk singer type badly strums and sings a tune while several cute girls sit around him on the staircase, transfixed. Until Bluto Blutarsky comes upon him and smashes his guitar to bits, that is, which makes everyone who once knew That Guy stand up and cheer. But deep down, for most of us then it was envy of the power to mesmerize girls with a guitar.

Those motivations are past, but what’s left is music itself. You could look upon me as practically a lab rat. What happens when someone whose ignorance of music remained absolute well into middle age decides to learn an instrument? Failure preordained? Aged-in-advance rock star emerges from the cocoon? Degenerate bluesman mumbling old standards?

For now, none of the above, but I favor bluesman (with maybe the look of degeneracy, but not the fact of it) as an outcome. At any rate, what is happening is this: the veil is starting to lift. It’s a lot like learning a magician’s tricks. Before, it seems like stuff only accessible to a priesthood. But after you see how it’s done, you realize there’s a real possibility that you could do it too.

As with everything else that requires simultaneous thinking and motor skills, one’s talent will lie on a continuum. But the sheer pleasure of making music makes easier acceptance of a spot on that continuum barely past the bottom end. 

To say music is an extraordinary subject seems banal. But how else to put it? If you really enjoy music, learning an instrument is a revelation, even at my age and point of development just past the starting line, which you could say are inversely proportional. And even if my fingers stubbornly resist being told what to do, learning music theory—the “why” of it—is perhaps the most revelatory of all.

If you’ve held back because, like me, you thought you couldn’t do it, ignore that guy. Get yourself an axe, dive into the ocean of online instructional materials, and change your life.

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