Saturday, July 2, 2016

What do you expect?

What do you expect?

You've been playing a musical instrument for six months now and you don't sound like your musical hero who inspired you to start playing music.  What's the deal?

You, like many before you have suddenly discovered learning to play a musical instrument is harder than you thought it would be.  It's not just those wishing to play music who make this discovery.  How many people have watched Tiger Woods swing a club into a ball which then lands on the green and rolls back to the hole, and think "I can do that." They go out and buy the same clubs Tiger uses, read all the golf magazines, push the golf tee into the grass, stand behind the ball and approach it just like they have seen the pros do, take a couple of practice swings and a deep breath and knock the ball into the ground twenty feet in front of them, or fifty yards to the right into the window of a homeowner who regrets being talked into the "beautiful view" of the first tee. 

How easy did Bob Ross make it look to paint a fluffy cloud and a happy little tree, when your attempts (while watching him do it and explain how easy it was) turned out looking "very similar to the one that elephant painted" which you rightfully don’t take as a complement?

The point being, learning any specialized skill is hard.  The more specialized, the harder it is.  The more proficient your hero is, the easier they make it look.  You are currently at the point where a decision has to be made.  Am I going to stick with it now that I realize how difficult it really is?  This is the point where many of the less devoted answer no.  This is where all those used musical instruments find their way onto Craigslist, Ebay and Reverb, or just tucked into the closet behind the golf shoes and paint easel.  Fender’s CEO released a staggering stat: “The attrition rate among first-time players amazes me," he says. "90% abandon the instrument after 12 months."  

Just think of that.  90% had enough interest to buy an instrument only to give up entirely twelve months later.  They were sold on the idea that all you had to do was buy a guitar and amp, and you would be headlining festivals in no time, that if you were able to get a top score on Guitar Hero, the real thing would be a snap.  They spent the first week slinging the guitar precariously over one shoulder while practicing their "power stance" in the mirror, the next week split between cranking the distortion knob and bending the strings as far as they would go.  The third week they tried to learn the first power chord, that's when things started to get hard and the realization hit that this was going to take work. 

Not to discourage you even further but, no matter how long you've been playing or how good you get, it is always going to take work not only to get better, but to maintain what you've learned.  It does get a little easier though.  And as you improve your skills while others around you trade in their guitar for the next easier adventure, you start to feel a sense of accomplishment when all the notes in the bar chord sound clear, or that solo you've played over and over is almost up to full speed.  People start to complement you on how far you've come.  You see new players struggling with the same things you did, and remember how hard that used to be. You start to feel really good about sticking with this whole music thing.  This is a lot of fun. You're invited to bring your guitar to the next bonfire, and you’re confident they don't mean for you to throw it in.  Then you meet a ten year old kid who's only been playing eight months doing things you'll never be able to do.

The thing to remember is that that doesn't change any of those things above.  There will always be someone better than you.  That doesn't take away from how much you have accomplished or how much enjoyment you get with that accomplishment.  I've also found that it's right about that time when you feel you've hit a plateau and aren’t getting any better that you suddenly have a breakthrough.  Your dedication is tested before you're rewarded with more success... Then bam! How did I do that? That sounded really cool... “Hey honey, listen to this...” “Yes dear I've heard it.”  “No, I was playing it like this... But I just came up with this on my own...” “Very good dear...”
“It is good isn't it?”

Now you can justify buying that new guitar you've been looking at.