Life Lessons From Picking up a Guitar

It’s Never Too Late to Try Something New

At 48, I decided I wanted to learn to play guitar — or so I thought. Over the past two years, I watched my son get bit by the music bug, begin teaching himself guitar, and love it to the extent he threw himself in headlong, for hours every day. He went from me having no idea of what song he was playing to recognizing and then being in awe at what he could pull off.

I was envious of his experience. It reminded me of the times I would lose myself in creating — something that has happened more infrequently over the past decade than I care to admit.

My teenager became a living example of what passion, hard work, and self-motivation could accomplish. When I tell him this, he’s quick to remind me, that it wasn’t hard work for him. He enjoys the process of playing so much that it doesn’t feel like work.

I have always loved music — listening, watching live bands, singing along, and yearning to get closer to it. Encouraged by my son, I decided to learn the guitar.

If You Don’t Love It — Leave It

I was in 4th or 5th grade and decided to learn the clarinet. I clearly remember the excitement of that first trip to the music store, the feel of the reeds, and the orderly way the pieces of the clarinet fit in its case. And soon after, my lack of interest. I lasted about six weeks before I realized I didn’t have a passion for learning to play an instrument. What I remember the most was not being made to feel bad by my parents for not sticking with it. This is one attitude I have kept with my kids. Try everything you want, and keep what you love.

Christmas guitar
The First Guitar I Didn’t Play

In my early teens, I received a guitar as a Christmas gift, but I never learned to play it. A boy came over for lessons, but instead of learning chords, I experienced my first kiss. Hello love, goodbye lessons.

At 48, I borrowed a guitar and began the process of learning the basics. My son would show me some chords and as I tried, I quickly realized I didn’t enjoy the process at all. I felt myself getting bored and beginning to wonder why I thought playing guitar would be fun in the first place.

Woman playing guitar
Another Guitar I Didn’t Learn to Play

Did this mean I wouldn’t find a passion for any musical instrument? I wasn’t sure. I was stuck in my head about “How on earth can I do one thing with one hand and something different with the other?”

A friend suggested the bass guitar, and despite my initial doubts, I accepted his borrowed instrument. This time around I invested in some an app and video lessons to give more of a structure to my learning. As I mastered the basics, my confidence grew. Fender Play is what I used, with its week-long free trial I got a feel for how useful the app would be, and I invested in three months of the service.

Next, it became fun. Just getting to where I could play a little bit of a song correctly changed everything for me. I discovered for myself what, no doubt, countless musicians already know. You have to learn the parts and then put them together. Memorization and muscle memory. If you truly enjoy the process, it may not feel like work, but you do have to put some time and effort in.

But it felt magical too. Something that I didn’t quite believe I was capable of until I persisted. Trying over and over again until something changed. In my hands, in my head? I’m not sure but it felt transformative.

Have Fun For Fun’s Sake

Three months in I bought a bass, and fell in love with it. It’s a purchase that I never expected to make, but have gotten enjoyment beyond its price. This year I was excited to get a tuning pedal for my birthday. Often I find myself in the car, hear a song, and make a note to look it up later on Songsterr so I can try it out later, to see if I want to learn it.

Woman playing bass guitar
The Bass I Love to Play

Even though I don’t plan on getting on a stage, I get a thrill out of practicing songs I love, improving my (still learning) technique, and especially, enjoying learning a song and playing with my boyfriend or my son, sharing a musical experience I never imagined would be in my reach.

Recently, as we were playing a song together for the first time, I could hear that as the guitar changed to different chords, I was changing notes, and they were still tied together. I was so excited by this revelation, something my son had tried to explain to me initially but became crystal clear at that moment.

Playing the bass has become an activity I cherish for its own sake, fun without expectations of being particularly good or impressing anyone other than myself. A joy I can share with others or enjoy by myself.

As I get older, and have more time behind me than before me, I find these lessons valuable. It’s never too late to try something new, I don’t have to stick with something that doesn’t ignite passion, and I’m going to pack as much fun into this life as I can.

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