Earlier this year, I vowed to learn to play the electric guitar that had been sitting in the corner of my apartment and hadn’t been strummed in more than a decade.
Determined to put it to use, I scoured the internet to find the best free tutorials out there and downloaded a tuning app on my phone. My plan was to competently play six songs by the end of the year.
I spent nearly every day for two weeks practicing scales and memorizing chords, realizing I needed to position my hand awkwardly because my fingers kept hitting other strings if I held the guitar’s neck the way I was supposed to.
My practice routine started to slowly decline even though I was starting to learn to switch between chords faster and pick up strumming patterns. Because it would be dark when I got home from work, my motivation to plug in and practice was lacking, and my daily routine tapered off to weekends, then only one day a week before the guitar was again put in the corner.
As a way to remedy the playing slump, I recently checked out a ukulele from the E.D. Locke Public Library. I tuned up the instrument, clicked on the website with ukulele tabs and started to play. Even though it had been a few months since I’d picked up the instrument, it wasn’t too challenging to start strumming again.
But then, I started to challenge myself to play more complex songs involving more than four chords. I wanted to learn how to properly finger pick and play a faster rhythm.
I’d find the tablature but the website couldn’t list the strumming pattern due to copyright laws, so I needed to search for an example or play by ear to decide if it should go up-up-down-down or up-down-down-up or any other combination.
Even though I wanted to play more complex songs, I was still having fun even if I couldn’t quite get it right.
Then I remembered learning the guitar was supposed to be fun; there’s no way I’d ever be a great guitarist, it was a hobby.
So what if my technique wasn’t perfect or I took more time to switch between chords? There was no reason for me to feel pressured to be more than an adequate guitarist. Even when I played cello in school, it was for fun, not because I wanted to become a concert cellist with a massive orchestra.
So when the ukulele goes back to the library, the guitar is going to come out of its case; the uke tab website will be replaced with guitar tutorials, and I’ll practice stretching my hand to make it curve in a way to play the chords.
And this time, I’ll focus on having fun instead of attaining performance level perfection.