So, you wanna play the guitar? Well, don’t put it off - as the Nike ads used to say... just do it!!
Maybe you’re like me and have had a lifelong love of music, but never played a musical instrument. About a dozen years ago I thought to myself, it sure would be fun to learn how to play the guitar. Now, it probably would have helped if I had thought of that about 60 years earlier, for it seems that most of the great players started playing when they were just kids. Well, it was too late for that. Couldn’t turn back the hands of time on that one. So off to the guitar store I went, and walked out with a shiny new Fender acoustic. I was surprised at how inexpensive it was to get an entry-level instrument.
The next step was to book some lessons. A guitarist by the name of Gord Davies, came highly recommended as a guitar teacher. Gord had taught lessons and played guitar for decades, and had been in a number of rock and roll bands over the years. He was my man!
So at the ripe old age of 60, I was off on a new career as a guitarist. Wait, check that, not a career really, not even a hobby, just an attempt to prove to myself, you’re never too old to learn. Plus I’ve heard that learning something new helps to keep the old brain exercised and in good shape as we get older.
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At the first lesson, Gord said, “let’s start with a basic scale.” Scales?! I said, oh, no, no, no, I don’t have time for scales! I’m 60 years old, I’m running out of days on planet earth! All I want to do is be able to sit around the campfire and strum a few chords, and sing a few tunes! (I think that's called instant gratification?) “Oh,” Gord said, “like my Dad used to do at Green Lake in the summer!” I could see he understood!
So, I took a number of lessons, and also put in the practice time, which I didn’t mind at all. An hour of practice would just fly by, and after a relatively short period of time, I reached a certain plateau of proficiency. Not a lofty plateau, more of a low-level plateau, but there was some noticeable improvement! Let’s put it this way, I was the master of half a dozen chords that could get me through a few basic songs. The real trick I found out was to commit those songs to memory. That involved a fairly high degree of eye, hand, and brain coordination.
However, in a pinch, I could probably be a busker in front of the liquor store. I think for that gig, all you really need is 3 songs. One song the customer hears going into the store, one while he’s in the store, and the 3rd song when he’s coming out!
But seriously, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Can you get stage fright on a sidewalk? I could see it happening. Aside from a few “just for fun” sing-a-longs around the campfire in the Summer, this troubadour will continue to confine his performances to the privacy of his own home, in his room, with the door closed! I can guarantee you I won’t be making stadium tours, but I’ll admit, there’s a tremendous satisfaction in sitting down and playing music.
Which reminds me of the lyrics in the Harry Chapin song, “Mr. Tanner.” As the song goes, Mr. Tanner was a dry cleaner who loved to sing. He was pretty good too. And he’d sing to himself, late at night, as he sorted through the clothes. His friends thought he was great and should stage a concert. He didn’t think so, but his friends went ahead and hired the hall, made all the arrangements for him, and even invited music critics to come to listen to Mr. Tanner sing. He went through with the concert, but the critics weren’t terribly impressed, or very kind. They said “his presentation wasn’t up to contemporary professional standards, and full-time consideration of another endeavour might be in order” So, he went back to his cleaning shop and never sang publicly again.
The chorus of the song sums it up for Mr. Tanner and all the rest of us who just like to strum or sing a little tune now and again for our own enjoyment.
Part of the chorus goes like this, “Music was his life, it was not his livelihood, and it made him feel so happy, and it made him feel so good.”
As one of the MC’s at Blue Frog Studios, I’m often surrounded by world-class guitar players, and professionals who have been playing all their lives, and it’s funny, my guitar doesn’t sound anything like their guitars. I’m thinking, maybe I should have started this whole guitar-playing thing a little earlier, and maybe, just maybe, learned a few scales!
Until next week ...
Guitar players, eat your heart out. 🎸
Check out this stellar lineup of Johnny A. performing with Steve Miller, Joe Bonamassa, Neil Schon, Joe Satriana, Steve Vai, and more.
1 // The historic Vancouver Folk Music Festival has pulled the plug and will not run in 2023. The Board votes on Feb.1 whether to dissolve the society. Skyrocketing costs and the pandemic have taken their toll. Very sad to see this 45-year-old institution not going ahead this year.
2 // Lead singer/founder of April Wine, Myles Goodwyn has announced his retirement from touring with the band. April Wine will still continue to tour with a new lead singer. Myles joins other iconic Canadian performers such as Ra McGuire and Brian Smith of Trooper who have decided that 40+ years of constant touring across Canada has been enough and it’s time to kick back and relax. Congratulations to Myles, Ra, and Smitty on such a successful music career, and best of luck to the bands to continue bringing the hits to their legions of fans from sea to sea.
3 // Speaking of Trooper, isn’t it time that they are inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame? Industry insiders suggest that this snub is purely political when other groups like April Wine, Chilliwack, Loverboy, and even Corey Hart have already taken their place there.
Now available on Blue Frog TV, the Cousin Harley (Paul Pigat) Concert from January 2023.
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White Rock, BC • Canada V4B 3Z2