I started playing an instrument because my mother wanted me to. I think I was ten. There was a big guy down our block who was in college and played Pantera on his step at night. My mom approached him one day to come over every week and give my sister and I lessons. My mother never played, but loved music and wanted to see her kids get into it. We started learning to read music and working on basic songs like When the Saints Go Marching In. I didn’t like to practice and spent most of the lessons asking our teacher if he could play us some heavy metal songs, which helped to waste time until our hour lesson was over. Soon enough my guitar went into a corner of my closet and didn’t come out again for a year or two.
I tried playing an instrument again a few years later when my friends and I were talking about starting a band in grade seven. I think this was when we were just starting to try to impress girls, but still weren’t admitting it. I told my new band mates I had a guitar and played, but didn’t tell them I only played When the Saints Go Marching In. That didn’t really matter because none of the guys I was gonna start the band with even had instruments. They said they were gonna ask their parents though, so we were headed in the right direction.
I started taking lessons again at a guitar store in town. They were a bit funner because the teachers would show me how to play rock songs I heard on the radio. Most of the time I only would learn the intros, but that was enough to play for my mom when I got home so she would be happy and maybe feel like her money was being well spent. I still didn’t like to practice and would ask my new teacher to tell me about his years playing in rock bands around town. This helped to waste time until our hour lesson was over. Only one of my new ‘band mates’ actually bought an instrument. We still talked about what we were gonna name ourselves though.
I don’t think I really started playing music seriously until I was into puberty and my voice was cracking and I had bad acne and tripped over my shoes a lot. Music seems to mean more at that age. It’s probably because of the raging hormones, but I would walk around listening to sad songs on my discman and I remember it being extremely intense. I also think there was this need to feel like I was different, or special or something because the thought that I was the exact same as the six hundred kids that went to my high school depressed me. I think this was the age when kids started dying their hair bright colours and getting lip rings. At that age you desperately want to be accepted, but at the same time you want to stand out.
This is also the age when grown ups started telling me that I needed to get my future plans figured out our else I would be closing doors for myself when I grew up. That was when I really started practicing. It became a sort of meditation to deal with the stress of dealing with my scary future. I remember sitting in my basement for hours and playing for as long as I could. It was down there I remember thinking to myself If I could grow up to be a good player I’d be happy. I also really wanted to be a big star and date models, but I told myself if I just got good at playing, that would be alright.
I finished highschool and moved to a bigger city. I started playing in bands and with anybody that would ask me to sit in with them. In retrospect I wasn’t that good and had no idea about the business behind music. But I started playing shows and people seemed to think I was good enough so I kept going. I worked a job driving a forklift during the day. If the boss ever asked me if I wanted overtime I would say no because I had to get home and practice. It became my favourite time. I’d get upset if for some reason I couldn’t.
It’s been quite a few years now and Im not a star and I don’t date models (although my girlfriend is pretty hot). Sometimes I think about all the time I’ve put into playing my instrument. Sometimes I think if I would have put that time into learning to fix cars or on school, that I’d have a lot more money. But it’s been in these years I’ve seen the doors that playing has opened for me. I’ve made countless friends who seem to understand the commitment and who I always have something to talk about with.
I still work a boring job, but I know a lot of people do. As long as I get to practice at night and play songs with my friends on the weekends I’m okay with it. It gives me some place to put my mind when I get stressed and wonder what I’m doing with my life.
I think of playing music as my longest relationship. I’ve had peaks of interest and valleys, but I’ve never let it go. When I don’t get to spend time with my music I get depressed. It scares me to think of living life without it.
If ever talk to somebody and they mention they are thinking of starting out with an instrument I always try to encourage them. If there’s one thing the internet has done it’s driven the price of recorded music down to near nothing and made what was a hard way of earning a living even harder. But that value of what you can get from playing is still the same. It’s meditation and an escape from harsh reality sometimes. It’s a conversation waiting to be started and, with the right attitude, it’s friends and memories around the corner. It’s frustrating, then satisfying, then frustration, then amazing, then eventually it becomes a part of who you are. So if you were ever considering it, I think you should :).