Beginner rock guitar lessons for n00bs and rusty rockers
So how did I become the "Midlife Rocker"? What drives me to learn rock guitar? Ah, what a long and sordid tale…
Once upon a time, I was going to be a rock star. Everything I did centered around playing rock guitar. I lived, breathed, ate and slept rock and roll.
I figured that since I wasn't any good at sports and wasn't gonna get a girlfriend hangin' out with the nerds and geeks, being in a band was my ticket. I had to learn rock guitar! Okay, there was a bit more to it than that…
In second grade, I started learning how to play violin. The school had a program for kids that wanted to learn a musical instrument, and for some reason I had always been drawn to stringed instruments. We had some old violins in the family, so this was an easy choice.
I took lessons for about two years, but after trying everything to get out of practicing (I even had a possessed violin that jumped out of my hands and smashed on the floor!), my parents made me quit. And I had to tell the teacher! I'm still surprised to this day that they ever got me that first guitar!
One good thing that came out of the violin experience is that I found I could play by ear - once I heard the song, I could figure it out on the violin without sheet music. This proved to be good talent to have when trying to learn rock guitar.
After quitting violin, a couple years passed before I really started getting into pop music. I had a transistor radio that would pick up AM stations, and I would listen to that thing constantly. That led to talk around the neighborhood about starting a band. Of course, I was the only kid that actually followed through and got an instrument.
I asked for an acoustic guitar for Christmas, and Santa obliged. John Denver was pretty big at the time, and I got a greatest hits LP (the old vinyl records for those of you born after the dinosaurs roamed the earth). I went and bought myself a songbook and went to town listening to John Denver and trying to learn the chords in the book so I could play along with the record. Not exactly a shining example of someone wanting to learn rock guitar!
My parents decided that we would try lessons again because of my enthusiasm. They were happy I was leaning towards John Denver folk tunes - they didn't want me to learn rock guitar!
So once a week I'd get a half hour lesson with a local hippie. I think they knew his parents, so they weren't too worried about me becoming a zoned-out dope freak or running off to a commune (just kidding, all you ex-hippie types!).
Anywho, those early lessons became my foundation for playing. While I only got a few months of lessons and had to quit because we were moving out of state, I learned a lot about chords. I also built up my finger strength because the action on that first guitar was so bad.
Fast forward a few years to tenth grade. This was my first year of high school, and this was a big school. I walked into a science class the first day and sat down next to a kid I didn't know. This high school combined at least three junior high schools, so it was a good chance you didn't know anyone in your classes.
This kid was sitting at a lab table playing an air bass, so I asked if he played (I have a keen sense of the obvious). He did, and we started talking about guitars and stuff. I mentioned that I played guitar, so he asked if I wanted to get together and "jam". Yea right, with my little acoustic guitar with the crappy action. "OK, sure!" I went home and grabbed my guitar and an The Eagles - Easy for Guitar songbook and headed over to his house.
He was way ahead of me - he had an electric bass and amp and was already pretty good. But we played some Eagles tunes and decided something had to be done - we needed to put a band together.
Turns out his next-door neighbor played lead guitar and just moved back home from boarding school, so we recruited him. I knew a drummer from my Boy Scout days (yea, I was rock star material for sure!). There you have it - Davey's got his first band. Since I could sing a little, I became the lead singer and rhythm guitarist.
One problem - all I had was this little acoustic guitar. How could I learn rock guitar with gear like that?
Well, a kid down the street from me had a Fender Stratocaster knock-off and a cheap amp that he let me borrow to learn rock guitar, but I had to get some gear of my own. I had saved up some money working my paper routes, so I ended up buying a brand new Gibson Sonex, which had a Les Paul body style but was made of a composite material instead of wood.
I bought a used Fender tube amp head and some no-name single speaker cabinet. I also got myself a Boss distortion pedal. I was in bidness! Eventually I upgraded my amp to a used Lab Series L5 (solid state) so I could get a good rock sound. This amp even had reverb built in.
We started working on songs of the day - Journey, Rush, Pink Floyd, Boston, Joe Walsh, even Rick Springfield. And don't forget the obligatory Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin - everybody's got to play "Free Bird" and "Stairway to Heaven". It's the law. No, really - it's the law!
MTV had just started, so we were drunk on rock videos and learning new songs. I got to learn rock guitar from some great musicians. We had a great time playing and learning songs, and we got pretty good. We had a tight sound. Then my parents struck again - we were moving.
We got to play one gig. It was a block party in front of the lead guitarist's house. I missed my queue to start singing on the first song, but recovered, and after that, I was hooked. I worked hard to learn rock guitar. I practiced all the time. I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
Funny how life throws you all sorts of curves to throw you off the path…
We moved forty five minutes away, so I started driving into town to do rehearsals, but it just wasn't working out. After some false starts looking for another band, I finally met some other kids at the new school that had a band and needed a singer/guitarist. We played out and were pretty tight, and then the next disaster struck - I met a girl. I fell head-over-heels. She was jealous of my playing, so like an idiot, I quit the band.
Life took over - my pursuit was to get an education and career, do some investing, get rich and retire early. That girl I gave up my dream for, well, she ran off with my best friend (true story), and I spent the next few years lost.
Things happen for a reason, as they say, and here we are 20 plus years later. I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful little girls. I found a career path I could follow. But something has been missing.
I had sold off all my gear and all I had left was a decent acoustic guitar so I could play every once in a while. My wife knew there was a hole in my life, so she started hunting for an electric guitar for me.
I now have a nice Hamer Les Paul (Slammer Special 2 Flametop in Cherry Sunburst) style guitar and a Roland Micro Cube amplifier. It's good enough gear to learn rock guitar, but this gear can't compare to the Mesa Boogie S.O.B (Son of a Boogie) amp and B. C. Rich Mockingbird I got rid of to pay bills.
Sounds like a "boulevard of broken dreams", but I ain't done yet!
Santa was very good to me! He decided I must've been a good boy, because I'm the proud owner of a B.C. Rich Bich. I've been drooling over this guitar for quite a while, and now it's mine, all mine. Mwhahahaha!
I went out and got a Line 6 Toneport GX, which is a computer interface and guitar amp modeler. We'll learn all about these when we cover guitar hardware. Just a quick note, the Toneport allows me to simulate my beloved Mesa Boogie (along with a bunch of other amps, cabinets and effects) through my computer. I can even use it to help record my playing... definitely a great tool to learn rock guitar!
My most recent guitar gear acquisition is a Bugera 333 amp head and 4x12 cabinet. 120 watts of all-tube power - I can now officially wake the neighbors!
I met a guy at work that really got me thinking. Here I am in this stuffy corporate environment, working a job that pays the bills but doesn't satisfy the soul. I had put my music on a shelf and left it there. Well this guy was determined to live his dream, and he reminded me that it wasn't too late for me, either.
OK, no delusions now that I'm going to be the rock star I dreamed of being. Here I am staring mid-life square in the face, but I can get back into rock music, maybe even get a band together to have some fun again...
So why start a website to help people learn rock guitar? Well, I quit my passion to learn rock guitar once before, but life's too short. I feel like I've got another shot.
I want to share my passion for rock music and guitar playing. I want to grow a business doing something I love, rather than work a job that I endure for the rest of my life - "just to get by" on the salary my employer pays me and whatever I can scrape together for retirement (when I'm too old to enjoy it).
And maybe, just maybe, I can inspire someone to never give up on their dreams...
The sad truth is, most people don't jump out of bed in the morning excited to go to work. It's a job, a way to pay the bills. It's called "making a living", but it sure ain't making a life! All too often we settle for what we've got, rather than going after what we want.
What about you? Do you have a passion for something you want to share with folks but weren't really sure how to do it? You should check out Site Build It! to learn how to turn your passion into a business you can love. I'm glad I did...
SBI! gave me the tools and knowledge to build a website around my love of rock guitar. And the guidance to share it with the world. I got the coaching I needed from a community of like-minded people, and in turn I can help someone in need with what I've learned.
What do you think? Everyone has a unique perspective on life, and I'll bet you have people in your life that come to you for advice on something. Guess what? There's lot's of people out there that would relate to your perspective. You just need to get it out there for folks to see!
You owe it to yourself to at least think about the possibilities - doing something you love on your terms. And admit it - it would be pretty cool not having to make that drive to work anymore!