Saturday, February 7, 2015

Boomer Blues Man and the Learning Curve

I’ve been taking guitar lessons for just over a year.  I still don’t play very well and I struggle to find time to practice, but I enjoy it and I am starting to make progress.  I have learned some things about music and about myself.

One thing I already knew before beginning this musical journey is that older people learn differently than younger people.  We process things in a different way.  Our brains run a little slower, of course, but I think we also learn in smaller bits of information at a time and we often over think things.  Or maybe that last part is just me.
There are many components to learning guitar, especially if you want to read music as well as play it: where individual notes are on the instrument, where they are on the sheet music, what each is called, how to play chords, what each of those is called, tempo, technique, etc.  My brain can absorb a couple of those things at a time, but not all.  I think that is partly due to aging.  The second-guessing and over thinking part results in being afraid to make a mistake; I know what the song is supposed to sound like and I cringe when I play a wrong note.

Mistakes are how we learn, however.  Given that, I should be a musical genius by now. 
My first guitar teacher last year is around 40 years old and my current one is under 30.  Both are talented and patient.  The first one was more academic in his approach and that helped me start to relearn reading music (I played music in high school).  But I thought I was progressing slowly, although it was mostly because my brain struggles to process all of those things at one time.  That teacher’s schedule changed and I was briefly concerned that my new guy’s youth would be a problem; but I am actually having more fun with him, in part because I’m spending more time learning songs and technique.  Both showed me some interesting scales and chord progressions.  Both of them have suggested methods for me to get more comfortable with guitar and both taught me ways to play more and think less.  Just play!  There is time to ‘get it right’.  Have fun with it.

My favorite music is blues and I have discovered that the rock music I loved in my youth was actually blues.  Some of those Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton songs are famous blues standards and many others written by those artists are rooted in traditional blues.  I’ve also been a Stevie Ray Vaughn fan since my days living in Dallas in the 1980s, when I actually saw him play in a bar there.  So far this year I’ve been learning Crossfire (a Stevie song) and Spoonful (a late-60s Clapton song that is actually a Willie Dixon song from the early 60s based on a Charlie Patton song from the 1920s.).  Some new chords and blues scales I learned today can also be found in music by Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix.
And today I played an electric guitar for the first time in my life.  My guitar is an acoustic but my teacher has a nice Fender Stratocaster electric.  We switched instruments for a few minutes.  OMG!  Electric guitar is much more suitable for blues.  I might just have to get one.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to carve out more practice time and work hard to learn the music part and the fun part.  And I seem to play better when wearing a hat.

Here are a couple of songs I’d like to learn:

“Crossfire” – Stevie Ray Vaughn



“Stormy Monday” - Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana and Barbara Morrison from "Carlos Santana presents Blues at Montreux 2004” (I’ll never be able to play it like this, but it’s an incredible version of my favorite blues song)


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