Monday, December 28, 2009

Coming back to feed the blues...

I think the blues is straight up bad-ass. I love it, and since I first started making any semblance of music I've wanted to tear off some sweet blues riffs. It's tough though, really tough.  I can feel it on the inside though, but I cant let it out.  (Catch up left hand! And right hand for that matter.) The good news it that I can definitely *feel* it, like you're supposed to with all music. The blues is easy to feel though, isnt it?  That's what makes it the blues. You can almost anticipate where the sound is going to go, aka call & answer, the best though is when it does something unexpected. Someday, who knows when, hopefully i'll be able to really embellish and throw my own surprises. Until then, I'll just keep doing finger exercise and that pentatonic scale. Both of which I've been doing in between typing these fragmented sentences. The finger exercises are not fun, scales arent that fun either. I just keep telling myself to push through it, to get a little closer to that elusive mastery. Which is to summarize my determination to learn the guitar.

Last spring after I'd decidedly quit the guitar and before I picked it back up. I was talking with some friends about instruments, music, and the like, when "man hours" were referenced. I cant remember the specific context but I think I was gushing about how I marveled at talented musicians. Anyway, that's when a friend referenced another conversation he'd previously had regarding learning an instrument. He said anyone could learn an instrument with 500 hours into it.  Some would obviously learn quicker but if you were willing to spend 500 hours you'd most likely get your head wrapped around it okay. I learned the guitar reciting that convo over and over in my head. I'd hear a faint "500 hours!" "500 hours!" While simultaneously thinking "I wonder how many I've put in so far?" And then wondering "well, I'm progressing, but i wonder if i'm learning as efficiently as possible?" That latter thought is probably why I'm taking a few lessons. Also, Abe at Portland Music insisted I should, citing his lack of doing so as his only regret as someone 100% self-taught.  And since Abe is the main reason I own a Ukulele, we have a bond, (blog to come on that later.)  After all, "500" is doable, but it'd be nice to get better mileage if possible.

I havent read any study on whether 500 hours is accurate in terms of "learning" an instrument. It sounds fair to me though, particularly since we're not really defining the requisites of the measured accomplishment - we're simply saying to "play" the instrument.  Along those same lines, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book last year called, "Outliers: The story of Success" that came out in November.  I havent read the book, but as I understand it, the underlying theme is that it takes 10,000 hours to reach what most would consider a world class expert in any particular field. Now 10,000 hrs is a long long time, and it will be a lifetime before I'm there. My only consolation is that I'm not expecting to "master" the guitar, but forever accept my role as a student.

We have 8,760 hours each year and almost two thirds of those are spent sleeping or at a job we may hardly enjoy. Then we have that remaing 1/3, or somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000 hours, to do whatever it is we feel like.  And out of that 3000 we all probably spend a lot it looking forward to something or glorifying our rear-view. Facebook status updates are a great indicator of who thinks like that.  How many people have you seen, or maybe you yourself have, put out "cant wait til Friday" or "is it Friday yet?" or "uggghhh... Monday". Not trying to sound overly poetic, but I honestly enjoy everyday.  I mean, sure everyone loves Friday, but there's an opportunity to better ourselves everyday, right?  I think of how many hours I've wasted doing nothing?  Countless.  And while learning the guitar is not something that's going to make me amass traditional wealth, I'm certain the treasures will be worth the voyage.

I'm 27 years old and god willing will be 37 someday.  I have over 87,000 hours until then and so many things to do.  It can be overwhelming.  I wonder if I'll have 10,000 hrs to spare on the guitar.... What is that, 3 hours a night?

Practice Practice Practice

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