Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lessons Learned from Taking (Guitar) Lessons

I recently took up the guitar. I've always been fairly musical. I took piano for 10 years as a child. I'm one of those adults who can look back and say, ruefully, "I would have been really good if only I'd practiced..." I sang in my school choirs from middle school through college. I've always enjoyed how easily music comes to me, but I've become rusty over the intervening years of not exercising my gift.

One of my fond memories of childhood is sitting with my dad and singing folk songs with him as he played the guitar. He was self-taught. My musical talent comes from his side of the family, down in a straight line from my great-grandmother, who was a concert pianist. He bought me a ukulele and started teaching me a bit when I was little - a full-size guitar would have been difficult for my petite hands - but I didn't stick with it very long. In high school, I went into a guitar store in my neighborhood and bought a classical guitar and case for $150 of my own hard-earned cash. I tried to learn a bit. I may have mastered E minor and a few other chords, but I was frustrated by not being able to figure out how to make the strumming and chords together sound like a song. I couldn't afford to find a teacher and take lessons at the time. I don't remember what happened to that guitar. Of course, now I wish I still had it.

It's important to me that my kids are exposed to music. Of the four, at least some of them should have inherited some musical ability, right? I haven't been good about finding them a teacher or having them choose an instrument, but they're also still young. My seven-year-old has expressed interest in learning "piano...and violin...and guitar!", and we've tried to oh-so-gently steer him toward piano for now. We have a piano, generously given to us by a friend and badly in need of repair and tuning.

A few months ago, my husband finally found that he has time for something outside of work, and he's always wanted to play the bass. He bought himself an electric bass and started taking lessons. I was drooling with envy. Here was something he was doing only for himself, for his own pleasure and benefit, because he wanted to. My itch to learn guitar returned, and he encouraged me to buy a guitar and sign up for lessons at Guitar Center, too. We figured out that I could take a half-hour lesson on the weekend and he could hang with the kids.

It has been an absolute delight. For 30 minutes, I have only myself to answer to, only myself to please. For 30 minutes, it's all about me, about improving myself and doing something I enjoy without having to constantly be thinking about someone else. I can wander into our "music room" (the spare bedroom, for now), pick up my guitar for 10 minutes, and play something. I don't know a whole song yet, but I'm getting there. It's coming very quickly and naturally to me, too, which I didn't expect. Having a teacher to guide you makes a huge difference.

Because I am a mother, I still feel like I have to justify anything I undertake and find a reason that it's good for my kids. And it's really not that hard to do in this case. There are many benefits:

  1. They see me work hard at something, practice, and improve.
  2. They see me taking joy in music.
  3. They hear music, can ask me questions about what I'm doing, and pick up some music theory and get exposure even without formal lessons.
  4. I can make memories with them by playing and singing for them and with them, like my dad did with me.
  5. They see that it's important to have a hobby.
  6. They see how working hard at something is a form of self-improvement.
I'm sure there are many less tangible advantages as well. My 30 kid-less minutes a week rejuvenate me, up my tolerance for my kids' little annoyances, help me enjoy my time with them more because I do get that break once in a while. The serotonin burst I get when I master a new technique or chord progression on the guitar improves my mood in general. The pride I have in myself at being good at something makes me a more confident person overall.

Many new moms are warned not to "lose themselves" in their babies. Many new moms lament that they feel they no longer have time for the things they once enjoyed. I'm here to tell you, after four kids, find that "thing." Find some thing. If you're a musician, keep playing. If you're in a book club, keep attending. If you are a runner, keep running. You may have to cut back, it may not be as intense as it once was, but don't stop. And, if you didn't have a hobby before your baby was born, don't use your baby as an excuse not to find one. You are a whole person, and you need to nurture that whole person.

No comments:

Post a Comment