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Remedial Guitar?

The Cmaj chord in guitar, with bass in G

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I began taking guitar classes last October. I had wanted to learn how to play for many years.  I used two criteria to “pick” which class to enroll in: the time of day and the instructor (his bio sounded interesting.)

Every Monday I went to class and played while pain erupted in the nerve endings of my fingertips.  As the weeks rolled on, I learned new chords, formed calluses on my fingertips, tried to jump my fingers into place (and pretended I was Sheryl Crow.)  I loved going to class and little pieces of  songs started bouncing around in my head.

In January, I had to change class days and instructors due to a schedule conflict. I really wanted to  stay with the same instructor. I liked his style, not to mention his song selections.  My new instructor warbled while she sang. I couldn’t help but think about how my Grandma used to sing. She tried to make us play Johnny Cash. I don’t do Johnny Cash.

My enthusiasm waned as winter set in. I no longer arrived home from class eager to play with lyrics trying to find their chord dance partners inside my head. I made excuses not to practice. When I did practice, I played songs from my old class.  Some of the students in my class whined about playing chords they perceived as difficult. I didn’t sign up to play the guitar with Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. If I wanted wine, I would drink it from a fancy glass, not listen to it sloshing out of mouths while I was trying to play.

I almost took a break from the next session, but I didn’t.  I decided to stick it out, hoping that soon my schedule conflict would allow me to switch back to Monday’s class. Then one day something happened. I took a make-up class and this is how it played out.

“Is this Guitar 2?” I asked before class began.

“It sure is,” the instructor told me as he handed out a course packet. (My instructor for the last 2 sessions did not even have a course packet. She just handed out sheets of music.)

I scanned the song selections and began to feel nervous. I saw notations for finger-picking. I saw songs indicating the need for a capo. I saw F chords. I began to wonder if maybe I had walked into an Honor’s Guitar class.

It was too late to leave, so I tried to strum softly to cover up my many mistakes. I felt awful for the man who sat to the right of me. I confessed that our class was not playing at the level that his was. He patiently showed me some of the finger picking-patterns his class was working on and gave me other tips. I survived the class and thanked him for all of his help. He smiled and said “you’re welcome”, but I’m sure he was saying a silent prayer that I would never set foot in his class again.

All the way home, I kept thinking about how much harder the class had been. It made me feel as though I had been in remedial guitar class for the past 3 months. I started to worry about my original plan to transfer back to the instructor that I enjoyed. I contacted him and expressed my concern that I wasn’t at the same level that his current students were at. He invited me to visit his class and play.

The material was challenging, but not unmanageable. Once again, I silently applauded his song selections. I knew that if I enrolled in his class I would have to practice more often and catch up. He told me I’d be fine.

A few weeks ago I switched classes again. I looked forward to attending my class each week,  and practicing too. And guess, what? Songs started appearing in my head again. I decided to make them more interesting by using a capo and adding some finger-picking. Good-bye remedial guitar.

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