I was playing the piano at school yesterday and a substitute teacher happened by and remarked: “You are lucky!” I stopped and asked him why he thought that. He explained that he meant I was lucky I could play music to which I replied: “Luck had nothing to do with it!” Whatever skill I possess is a product of desire and hard work. Perhaps in a sense I am lucky to work at something I love. I only just thought of that now as I write. I may be lucky in other ways, but good luck and bad luck go hand in hand.
Our conversation continued as I queried whether he loved music or not. He said that he adored music and was an eager consumer of recorded music and a frequent attendee at live venues. I told him that that was great, and he and his ilk are very important to me and my ilk. Listeners and fans are important to keep the art alive.
I thought a bit and drew a parallel between the subject of our conversation and the subject of cars. I said that I enjoy driving, but had no clue how to do any but the most basic repairs on a car. Mechanics also love cars and have the skill set to repair them. I have a skill set to write and/or interpret music. Like the mechanic, I had curiosity, I gathered knowledge and experience. I may have had an underlying aptitude, I don’t know. I do know that learning the guitar (and continuing to learn daily) has been a lot of hard and frustrating work. Rewarding work. Enjoyable work. But definitely work.
It is ironic that all this “work” results in ability to “play”. People often remark on how easy I make it look. They refer to this quality called “talent”. Looks are deceiving. I have worked hard on and continue to work hard on: tone, technique, harmony, chord substitution, etc. Many many thousands of hours. My guitar playing friends know.
Today I encountered a little girl in grade one who told me she “knew how to play the guitar well!” and as I enquired further, she told me her dad had been teaching her for years. I was skeptical, but I asked her if she could play me a song on my guitar. At school this rarely happens. My guitar is “off limits” at all times. She said she could play “My Heart Will Go On”. What transpired next was baffling. The dreadnaught guitar in her hands reminded me of Snoopy playing at the Christmas pageant. She started to sing and was scratching and flailing at the guitar with both hands. Neither hand making any cohesive sound to accompany her able singing of this dreadful song.
I asked her if her dad maybe held his fingers on the chord shapes while she strummed. I asked her if that was the way she always played it and whether she “knew” another song. She answered that this was the way she always played it. I asked her if there was anything she could do to improve it and she said it was perfect. Her Daddy and Mummy think she should go on “La Voix”. (Crappy artificial TV talent show). I hope not.
I like this little girl. She is very smart! Quick as a whip. There was something that struck me as odd about this, though. I asked the other children in the class if they enjoyed the performance, and the answers were all of the opinion that the guitar and the song didn’t “quite” match. They were kind, but truthful. One child said they couldn’t hear a beat.
I did not want to discourage her. I told her she was very brave to perform for us.
She must get a great deal of positive attention at home for an admittedly cute performance, but rewarding a dreadfully unmusical and nonsensical performance that is beyond her skill set and fine motor development should not be thought of as perfect. I hope this little girl’s delusion will one day be replaced by desire to actually learn the guitar which will of course, require work. I hope it is not an indication of how the music dies.