Remember that New Year’s resolution I made to become a better guitar player in 2010? And how I was going to dig out my guitar instruction DVDs and work through the program?
Yeah, me neither.
Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. I did lessons 2 and 3 and even practiced the exercises, and am pleased to report that I now know the notes on the two highest strings without having to think about it for five minutes. But that was it. Oh, I left the case of DVDs out on the table next to my music stand, kidding myself that as long as they were still out, that was kind of like I might do them, maybe, at some point, possibly, eventually. But as the pile of music grew higher on top of them, I had to admit that it was a pathetic attempt at self-delusion at best. It just wasn’t happening. In fact, I wasn’t even that interested in playing guitar, so while I felt a little disappointed in myself that I’d bailed on the whole proposition, it wasn’t enough disappointment to overcome my avoidance.
Meanwhile, back in the Old Pueblo, there is a band named Ryanhood that I’ve mentioned here and elsewhere before. They’re two local guys who play what they describe as “acoustic rock,” and they do so with great skill, sweet harmonies, and considerable charm. Scott and I first ran across them in 2005 when they were the second of no less than THREE opening acts for Jason Mraz when he came to town. First of all, nobody needs three opening acts. Ever. Especially for a concert on a school night; by the time the headliner takes the stage, my sciatica is torturing me and I’m fantasizing of pajamas and 400-thread-count sheets. (It’s entirely possible, though, that we were not the target demographic for that show, and were dancing on the borderline of being “creepy old guys.” Nonetheless, we were there, because I love Jason Mraz.)
Our fervent desire for an adult rock show notwithstanding, we suffered through the first opener, a bunch of shaggy teenagers with rotator cuff surgery in their distant futures who made up in volume what they lacked in musicality. With that kind of start, we had little hope for the remaining two acts. Sighs and eye-rolls were exchanged during the interval, and then Ryanhood took the stage.
Entirely unexpectedly, they rocked the joint. Everybody in the house, including the aforementioned middle-aged sighing eye-rollers, was on their feet after the set. There may have even been an encore, nearly unheard of for an opening act, though I can’t remember for sure, what with the being middle-aged and all.
This, of course, made the third opening act, who were not really our thing, a total letdown, and I commented to Scott that the night would’ve been perfect if Ryanhood could’ve just kept playing until Mraz was ready to take the stage. So impressed was I that I stood in line to buy their CD after the show, and I was moved to send a fan e-mail the next day, which they BOTH answered. Awfully nice fellas, right?
We’ve seen them a few times, I’ve bought their other albums as they’ve come out, and I’m on their mailing list, and this is where the story starts to get good. On their most recent e-mail, there was a mention that the Ryan half of Ryanhood, Ryan Green (the one on the left) was accepting guitar students.
Brutally aware of my failure to progress on my own, I took it as a sign. After the exchange of a few e-mails, I had myself a guitar teacher and a lesson scheduled for Tuesday nights after work. I’ve had two so far, and it’s been totally worth it. After a fairly steep learning curve over the last almost-six years, I found that I’ve run up against my own limitations as a largely self-taught guitar player, and while I have a pile of songs I want to sing, without being able to bring anything new to the guitar aspect, I haven’t been motivated to play. And I haven’t had any ideas of where to go next; I know a lot of music, but cannot translate what I hear to my hands. My formal instruction in guitar has been limited to those three DVD lessons, whatever I picked up at guitar camp once a year, and bits and pieces that Antiguo shared with me. This is the first time I’ve had an actual one-on-one teacher, and in two lessons I’ve already learned six new things. When he showed me an easier way to grab a troublesome Cmaj9 chord I’d been fighting with in a song, I told him, with complete seriousness, that that alone was worth the lesson.
I have to confess that I was, and remain, a little star-struck that I’m now taking guitar lessons from someone whose band I’m a fan of. Fortunately, he’s a pro and a good guy, and I don’t think my dorkitude has done any irreversible harm to the teacher-student relationship; I’m sure I’ll settle down soon enough. In the meantime, it’s really nice to have someone to help me take the next step, who can explain how to get there, and whose brain I can pick about guitar and performing stuff. I leave my lesson excited about music, ready to practice, and eager to learn more. And that New Year’s resolution that was nearly DOA? Totally within my grasp, like a Cmaj9.