Last year, around this time I was in my parents house, and I noticed behind a side-table a little nylon stringed guitar. This guitar was a bit of a suprise to me, we'd never really had any instruments around the house when I was a kid.
Not thinking much of it, I spent some time that trip with it in my lap, plunking at strings, making noise, and generally enjoying myself. I didn't really think too much of it.
When we got home, Andrea said to me: "Why don't you get a guitar?".
I laughed at the suggestion. After all, I wasn't a particularly musical person. While I enjoyed the thought of making music, previous attempts hadn't really gone anywhere. On my iPad I have a folder full of apps for making music, and in the closet we have an electric keyboard borrowed from my sister, all history of abortive attempts wherein I tried to make music and didn't really get terribly far.
I had come to peace with the notion that I really wasn't cut out for music.
Despite this, Andrea persisted. The trip to my parents house had co-incided with my birthday, and so I had a gift of cash from my my Mother-in-Law-to-be (shortly!). After about the fifth or sixth time Andrea suggested it, I relented. "I'll give it a shot", I said, not really thinking I'd stick with it given my history. So off hunting on Amazon I went, looking for a cheap guitar -- I was way too self-conscious to go to a store, so Amazon seemed perfect.
What I found was this pretty blue Huntington, being sold at the time for 85$, with extra strings, and picks. Seemed like a pretty good deal, and the guitar itself reviewed really well compared almost everything else in that price range. So I bought it. It arrived in early May, and so it began that I started to learn guitar.
The early days were really rough. In particular, I found myself strugglng to accomlish basic tasks. I wanted to give up. After all, I wasn't very musical.
Andrea kept at me to keep going. She pointed out that I really hadn't had to practice much in years. She was right!
While I was writing this post, I read this article, which talks about Carol Dweck's work.
Dweck proposes that individuals fall somewhere on a spectrum of self-theories. This spectrum varies from the entity theorist on one end to the incremental theorist on the other. An entity theorist tends to view intelligence as innate and fixed, and fundamentally believes that not much can be done to increase intelligence. An incremental theorist fundamentally believes that challenging problems are a core part of the learning process and that intelligence is malleable: it can be gained through hard work. When confronted with challenges, entity theorists interpret them as limits of their abilities and do not try hard to solve them. In literature, an entity theory is frequently referred to as a fixed mindset and an incremental theory as a growth mindset—owing largely to the underlying motivations of the entity and incremental theorists.
Reading this and I realized that, despite me being an 'incremental theorist' in most areas of my life, I had somehow developed a fixed mindset when it comes to music. I have Andrea to thank for helping me change that. By keeping on me with encouragement, and not letting me abuse myself, I've managed to make huge amounts of progress. Over time, I slowly but surely came to the conclusion that practice works. I have gone from a skilless person to someone who can play! I'm no more than a beginner today, but I am so happy with my own progress.
This post is mostly me trying to thank the many people who have helped me on my way.
- My parents for buying that Nylon guitar that got me started. If it hadn't been for playing with that like a toy at their place, I would never have started
- My fiancee (very soon to be wife!) Andrea: Above, I thanked Andrea for helping me keep going. More than just that though, she helped me work through my musical complexes and neuroses, and was totally happy with me diving head first into guitar. Without having her as my support, I almost certainly would have never started, nor continued.
- I am fortunate enough to have a number of musical friends; Chris, Michael, Jon, Gloria, and Pouya, stand out for just generally being excited and supportive of me picking up a new hobby as a fresh beginner. Jon pulled out an electric guitar when I was visiting Edmonton in October, and let me give it a try… a couple months later I went out and bought myself a telecaster. Chris wrote up some lovely tips on guitar buuing for me, and Michael actually came with me when I went shopping for a better acoustic guitar. I was so happy to have his company. That trip was a success, and I came home with a Seagull S6.
- The vast majority of my learning has been at Justinguitar.com, and so a huge thanks needs to be given to Justin Sandercoe. His online lessons are really good, and his beginners course is very well put together.
I am very happy playing guitar, and think I will be doing it for a long time. A year in, and I felt it was the perfect time to thank those who have encouraged me in finding something I really enjoy.