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A Guy and A Guitar - Part 1: My First Love

So how did it all begin? What made me choose the guitar anyway? Well that’s simple, I have no idea. As a young boy, I had some music instruction. Attending a religious private school, choir was mandatory. I also played trumpet in the band for a short time. I had some piano lessons for an even shorter period of time at the music store around the corner. None of that early learning lasted, I was really more interested in sports. I didn’t start playing guitar until about the age of 12 or 13. The shift from sports to music set about when I gained a taste for hard rock and heavy metal. I think a major tipping point for me was music videos - especially Van Halen. When I saw how much fun they seemed to be having, I wanted in. I had no idea who Eddie Van Halen was or how influential he would later become to me. All I knew was that I wanted to play music, so arbitrarily I chose guitar. That decision changed the course of my entire life.


Now it was off to that local music studio with a new purpose. I convinced my parents to buy me a beginner electric guitar and some lessons. I didn’t stick with the lessons too long though. Honestly, I wanted to be in the band, but didn’t want to put in the work. I almost pulled the plug on that whole guitar thing. What kept me going was a few of the connections that I made at that time. There were a couple of friends around the neighborhood who also played the guitar. Learning songs from older peers and jamming with them inspired me to play more and get back into taking lessons. This time, by sheer coincidence, I met the right teacher.


I took lessons from a guy named Steve for quite some time. He was a very encouraging teacher, and taught me based on my interests to start. He understood that for students like me, it was watch and learn. I didn’t read music and didn’t understand fundamentals. However, if he demonstrated how to play a Metallica song, I could pick it up. (This was when dinosaurs roamed the earth before YouTube). The music reading and fundamentals would come later. First, I had to gain a deep interest. Also, he was the one who first peeked my interest in classical guitar.


For some reason, I felt like I wanted an acoustic guitar to go along with the electric that I already had. When I was browsing at the music studio, the owner showed me a couple of the guitars that they had for sale. Of course the question was, steel or nylon strings? I had no idea why, (really I don’t live my life so random) but I liked the sound of the nylon stringed guitar better. So, I bought it. I never heard classical guitar music before I brought that guitar to my next lesson. Steve, who happened to have a degree in classical guitar, played some for me while he was checking out the guitar. I was immediately intrigued by this new music I heard. I was so impressed that I asked him, “can you show me how to do that?” What teacher could say no to such a question from a young inner city punk like me? Thus, another life-long journey was under way.


I just started learning a couple easy classical pieces and how to interpret the music and all. I had to sit down with the music, figure out what the notes were, then memorize everything. Not the most efficient process, but that didn’t deter me. I did get a recommendation that would have a huge impact right around that time as well.

There was a drummer from the neighborhood that was an acquaintance of mine. He was a few years older, played in bands, had long black hair, and I thought he was so cool. We were in the same Boy Scout troop. One night after the meeting he and I started talking about music. When he learned I was a beginning guitarist just learning classical style, he made a suggestion. He said, “Check out Andres Segovia.” I never heard of him, but of course I would take the advice from the cool kid. So I went out in search of Segovia cassettes. My surprise when they all had pictures of some old fat guy with Coke bottle bottom glasses. I did buy one of those cassettes and listed to it repeatedly. I was hooked on classical guitar.


Lots of happy accidents helped lead me down several unexpected roads in my guitar playing career. I’m thankful for some of the people that I happened to meet at the right time. That timing was one of the keys to my success as a musician. A couple of friends, a teacher (mentor really), Van Halen, and Andres Segovia were among my initial influences. Who or what inspired you to pick up a guitar or any instrument? Share your story in the comments.


JP

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