My “career” as a guitarist is notable by the fact that I’ve had very few lessons. If you listen to me play, you might say that it shows. I can play five songs. If I want to learn a new song, I have to forget one of the five.
I got my first guitar for my bar mitzvah from my Aunt Mary and Uncle Morris. It was a simple steel string guitar and hurt my fingers. I took a couple rudimentary lessons that were given at my synagogue, but they were nothing more than strum-alongs with three chords. Not very inspiring.
A couple years later, my friend Ira got a guitar and started learning folk music. This was back in the day when folk music was hot. I bought a Yamaha classical guitar for $65 (a lot in those days—at least for a high school kid) and a couple books—notably one that transcribed some Peter, Paul, and Mary songs in a notation that made it easier to see how to do finger picking. (It was not “tablature” as it is now known, but similar—possibly a precursor of tablature.) It was that book—and having a friend to “jam” with—that really taught me how to play.
My skills never rose to a professional level, but I always loved playing. I took the guitar with me to school where I played sitting cross-legged on the floor. And I’ve played ever since. Maybe 10 years ago, Kit got me a nice Martin steel string guitar. (I still have the Yamaha.) On a summer day, you can see me on my front steps playing away.
We all learned guitar on our own in those days. These days, there are lesson. So when my son Nat was in high school, he took guitar lessons. And I took a few lessons with him. But when he stopped, I stopped.
Now, I’m going to try some lessons on my own. If you’re not familiar with Chicago, the Old Town School of Folk Music is the perfect place for it. I’ll be in a group of people at roughly my level.
And maybe I’ll learn a few new songs without having to forget any of the old ones.