How Those Famous Guitar Players Got Really Good


Yesterday, “Brook” got her birthday present a week early-a 1/2 size hot pink acoustic guitar:Pink GuitarShe has been practicing. She now knows Em, E, D, Dm, and has made inroads toward making G and A ring. This morning I showed her the blues scale and a minor pentatonic scale, and we discussed how improvisation is done and how songs are put together. Once she has the G and A down, I’ll introduce C and F and we’ll start building a repertoire for her.
Purple Haze and Nights in White Satin will be the first ones. We’ll also work on composing our own material, augmented by the dozen or so percussive gizmos I have lying around.

The world’s newest guitarist will have plenty of additional time to practice. She’s grounded again. Can’t spend five minutes outside without forgetting about the simple ground rules. “Stay in earshot” “Don’t go over to the ghetto-ass kids’ house to play” “Stay out of the parking lot”.
I predict that, at this rate, she’ll be famous by the time she’s 11.
The ghetto-ass kids’ dad is next door working on the cabinetry in the recently-abandoned apartment there. I sincerely hope he heard my lecture.
The littlest one, age seven, who goes by the nickname Yaya, is a yeller. She likes to scream and shout to try to get her way. Faith goes outside and she is told “If you play with my sister, you can’t ride my scooter any more.”
Instead of turning around and saying “Li’l bitch, we gave you that scooter, and your sister is more fun anyway,” Faith gets upset and tears around the complex on a borrowed bike, therefore being out of earshot when I call for her.
Ten minutes later, she drags her scooter into the kitchen and bugs right back out again before I can say anything.
I look out, and she’s on the back of Chi-chi’s (the older sister, all of nine) bike, going around the corner of a building about fifty yards away, in the parking lot.
I slap a tank together and go out the other way, to head them off at the pass, but no. They double back and go back in the ghetto-ass apt.
Sitting on the patio, biding my time. I water the plants and look over the gate periodically.
Eventually herself sees me and comes over.
“Get inside,” I say. “We need to talk. And take that scooter gear (kneepads, elbow pads) off–you won’t need it anymore today.”

The ensuing conversation ended, unfortunately, like so many do, with grounding and a turn in the corner, facing the wall, butthurt. During the course of the dialogue, the phrase “I don’t know” was repeatedly used to justfiy actions taken, as was “I just like to play”. The latter is okay. Not so in-depth, but excusable, depending on the behavior it’s used to represent. But the first is one of the two things that are guaranteed to makes things take a bad turn (the other is to lie to my face and have me catch her).

The child knows this. She is apparently incapable of considering the results of her actions, despite repeated preaching, beseeching, reasoning, back-patting, and other conditioning methods used to reinforce a positive behavior pattern.

She doesn’t like thinking. It makes her head hurt.

It makes my head hurt to think of another ten years of this mindless impulse-following. I’m afraid sometimes her head will just collapse in on itself. Either that, or fill up with cats (who abhor a vacuum, you know).

I’m fairly strict. I expect a lot, I’m told. Too much–I expect literacy and some degree of self-awareness and self-knowledge. I want to see some intellectual curiosity and the ability to tell right from wrong and to act accordingly.

Very little of that going on. So I’m looking at music as the way to get that sort of patience and determination going.

Fingers, eyes, legs, toes crossed. Only can only hope.

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2 responses to “How Those Famous Guitar Players Got Really Good

  1. A great read, as usual. Vicarious frustration, to be sure. Makes me endlessly glad I started with mine from infancy and didn’t have to inherit those bad habits and entitled attitude. Thought-provoking. At what age do we begin to take responsibility for our actions? Suppose I was nine or ten the first time I made a move, reconsidered, and went the other direction for fear of the switch.

    Luck and strength!

    • Thanks, Rob! I was younger-my wife believes that is why I expect so much, as if I’m imposing my prodigyness on the child. There’s probably something to that. I never really feared the switch but I disliked losing the freedoms. Really do think that the music can be the way out for her. A substitute for the verbal communications she’s so bad at, and a way to express those thoughts that she cannot.
      If ever a nine-year-old (next Tuesday) could be said to have lived the blues, she’s one.

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