My dad taught himself to play guitar when he was in the Coast Guard in the 1950's. As a child, my brother, sisters, and I would come running in the evenings when Daddy pulled out his guitar. We'd sit on the floor at his feet and listen as he played and sometimes sang. Good old songs like "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain", "The Old Gray Mare", as well as songs made popular by the likes of Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, and many old favorite hymns. If you're old enough you remember the TV show "Hee Haw." In our minds our daddy was every bit as good as anyone who ever sang and played on that show and we told him often he ought to appear on it. Still, I never thought much about playing guitar myself as I wasn't naturally gifted in music.
After we became adults, my younger sister took some guitar lessons, mostly from friends, and learned the basics. I picked up her guitar a couple of times, but strumming hurt my fingers so I never pursued it. Several years ago after I'd made an off-hand remark about wishing I could play guitar, my husband gave me one for Christmas. I realized pretty quickly that I didn't know the first thing about the guitar. I didn't have any idea how to make separate notes, nothing more than a quick strum across the strings. So, the guitar stayed in its case for about 3 years. I thought occasionally about taking lessons, but couldn't really afford to do so. I did ask my dad to teach me, but somehow what he told me never made sense.
Then one day I saw the new Small Group class listings for church, and someone named Bob was going to lead a Beginner Guitar small group. I figured, "Hey, I have nothing to lose if I still can't play after taking lessons, and maybe I can make my daddy proud of me." The first night of class, I came away feeling completely inadequate. Not only did my fingers hurt after just a few strums of the strings, but nothing that was said made any sense to me. The teachers (Bob and Barry) promised me that if I practiced strumming every day, my fingers would quickly toughen up. I did, and they were right. I was amazed at the difference it made so quickly. So the next week I felt ready to go, ready to learn! But after that class I still felt overwhelmed. I was the only one who didn't know at least a little about a guitar, and most had done some playing in the past. I didn't even know enough vocabulary to talk about a guitar! I was the only woman in class, and felt intimidated by that also. I almost quit several times. Bob was so patient with me, he knew I was totally clueless from the first night.
I told my dad I was taking lessons. I'd wanted to surprise him, but I couldn't wait. Most nights after class I would call him on the way home and tell him what we'd discussed. He was so encouraging, he kept me going when I felt totally overwhelmed and wanted to quit several times. I'll never forget the first night in class that we all strummed through a song while Bob played and sang the melody. It was mostly using only G, and maybe a C, but it was exhilarating when we ended the song and I realized I had pretty much kept up and we had completed a song! That night I called my dad and told him I had played a song, and it was cool to hear his chuckle of approval!
My very favorite class was when Bob taught us how to read tab notes. It felt like a light bulb went on in my head. I had picked around on a piano years before, and I knew a little about reading notes. So tab notes made sense to me, and I could finally pick up my guitar and hear a tune, a real song, coming from it.
These days, I'd love to say that I practice and play my guitar often and entertain others with it. But lying is a sin, so I won't do that! I do pick it up and remind myself of the basics every so often, then sit and pick out a few songs. I have played with my dad a few times, and my sister. I'm ashamed to admit that the last time I did, my dad could tell right away that I had NOT been practicing! Daddy doesn't get out much anymore, and spending time with him and my guitar is one way I can bring him happiness.
Taking lessons from Bob gave me the basics of guitar playing and one day I may be ready to play more and use it for others. Right now though I am content to know how to pick a tune out of it and enjoy it in my own home and occasionally with my dad and sister.
Thank you, Bob, for your patience and for never ever making me feel that playing was out of my league and above my head (because I sure felt that way). You always assured me that I was capable of learning, and helped me to believe in myself. I appreciate the opportunity you gave me and am so glad you were open to using a talent you have to glorify God and benefit others. You have proven that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!