When I was in high school I wanted to learn to play the guitar.
Until I discovered that pressing on the strings hurt my fingers.
Now I know that happens to everyone who initially picks up the instrument. And through the wisdom I’ve gained through maturity, I know that nothing worthwhile is ever easy, that passion plus commitment plus practice equals mastery and that when you set out to learn something new you have to make sacrifices.
So I decided to give the guitar another try. And thanks to an introductory lesson at Wind of Change Academy in Jacksonville, I now also know that if you stick with playing the guitar, and practice on a regular basis, your fingers will develop calluses and it will no longer hurt. You’ll just get better and better, and playing will be pure fun.
It’s never too late to learn to play a musical instrument, my instructor, Josh Koch, told me when I went for a free introductory lesson. “Adults usually do quite well because they have the attention span. They want to play, so they stay focused.” Practice is the key, ideally “once a day no matter how much or how little,” he says. “Fifteen to 30 minutes – you get the guitar in your hand. Once you do, you usually continue to play longer because it’s fun.”
I’m right-handed, so to begin my lesson, Koch showed me how to hold the guitar on my lap so that the “sound hole” was to my right. He showed me where to place my left thumb and fingers so I could press on various strings, then how to hold a pick in my right hand and strum the strings over the sound hole.
At first I just held the pick and strummed without pressing any strings with my left hand. It sounded nice.
“That’s an open E,” he said. “Very good.”
After that, I practiced strumming while pressing on one string, then two, then three, then four to practice various notes and chords. I was a long way from playing any songs at that point, but it did give me an idea of what playing the guitar is all about, and what it would require to play proficiently.
Wind of Change provides instruments for trial lessons; in my case it was a Yamaha acoustic guitar. They rent string instruments for $1 per lesson, so you don’t have to buy one right away. “We usually start with one 30-minute lesson a week, although adults often prefer 45 minutes,” Koch says. “We get to playing melodies right off the bat,” and dedicated students “can play a simple song within six months.”
If I’d started in high school, maybe I could have been a rock star. Probably not, and anyway that’s not what matters. I’m thrilled to know that playing the guitar well – and enjoying it – is still within my reach.
An alternative to learning guitar The Ukulele
If learning to play the guitar seems daunting, try the ukulele. They look like miniature guitars, and are played using the same techniques, but are easier and faster to learn because they have fewer strings and less range, Koch says. They are less expensive than guitars, and have nylon strings instead of wire like the guitar, so they are easier on newbie fingers. Ukulele music is “light and bright,” Koch says. “It’s hard not to smile when playing a ukulele.”
Wind of Change Academy offers lessons in many instruments as well as voice. For more information, visit WOCJAX.com.