To say I’m musically challenged is similar to saying my dog is intelligence challenged. Dum-Dum has her moments, but she doesn’t get her name from how smart she is. Just like I don’t consider myself a musician in any real sense of the word. Yet I know how to play guitar. A little.
Less than 10% of people play guitar in the U.S. (numbers vary, but Almanac of American Recreational Preferences, 2008 edition state about 7.5%, and the total number of alleged U.S. guitar players divided by U.S. population is 6.5% so that “under 10%” seems like a safe number and seems about right in my anecdotal experiences). If you play you are automatically part of the top 10%. Now unlike my kids who are learning guitar and can read music at newly aged 7 and 9 respectively, I didn’t take music as a kid. I played trombone for one year in 6th grade and that was enough. At least until I got “the itch” after I graduated college. One of my post-college friends in NJ played in a band as a guitarist and that must have been the seed that was planted.
When we moved back to the midwest and I simply decided I wanted to learn guitar. I bought a $150 Yamaha 335 which for me was a good starter guitar and the only acoustic I’ve owned (and still own today).
Besides purchasing a chord book and guitar “Fake Book” (essentially a tablature book of guitar songs that are written so that even if you can’t read music you can play the song) I started taking lessons. Once a week I struggled to expand and learn basic musical theory and general ability with a real musician. It was with a dude who played in a ska/rock band I loved in college (this was early 2000’s), who played in about three bands (jazz, rock, irish rock like the Pogues or Dropkick Murphys), plus was a classically trained musician and music major at a Big10 school. I learned about 12 bar blues and some Johnny Cash songs. I learned basic musical theory and how different strumming patterns. It was all totally new and enlightening and I couldn’t get enough.
I wasn’t looking to do much, just learn a how to play for fun, and spent a lot of time in our extra bedroom (pre-kids) practicing. Learning power chords, and getting comfortable enough with my playing to be able to do it so automatically that I could sing on top of my guitaring. Shit like Green Day’s “Time of your life” and Pogues “Sally MacLennane” and “Every Rose Has its Thorn.” Not exactly Eddie Van Halen or Stevie Ray Vaughn. But camp fire songs. Stuff that people could sing along with or had some audience participation. That’s all you really need to go for. I will say, that even as a non-musician it is damn fun to play guitar and sing with your friends.
Less than a year after buying that first guitar, I learned enough music theory (seriously elementary level stuff here people), and had just enough creativity that I could make my own songs. I bought a computer 8-track recorder computer software with fake drum-track ability and recorded some truly awful songs. The one good one that came out of this was a surprise song that I dropped on our family and friends (and soon-to-be wife) at our rehearsal dinner (that we had at our house). It was an accoustic, silly song that told our story and had references to The Simpsons among other events, with a few main chords and a few picked strings from basic chords. Despite not playing very frequently today, I can still knock out that song on a whim.
Today, when I do break out the guitar, it’s more to entertain the kids with made up songs, or what distortion sounds like on an electric (another post perhaps, but I took a very rough 1965 Fender Mustang I got for cheap and refinished/modded it, and that’s my only electric guitar I still own today), or let them play around with it.
Whether you’re a single guy or married, having a musical ability is a great skill to have. Women find guitarists sexier than regular blokes, which shouldn’t be a surprise. And being able to play with your kids’ new-found musical abilities is another feather in your cap.
Rock on fellow dudes. It’s never too late to start guitar. And the power of a made-up song to your woman can be enormous.
You can’t go wrong with Irish drinking songs (3 chord song, kicks ass too! Have your audience echo “in the rain” and “on the train” along with the refrain for extra fun)