‘I’ll probably never learn to play any instrument’ – Me (yes the guy with the shameless self-shot picture with the guitar)

That would be the TL;DR (short summary) of probably every conversation I had in the past about playing an instrument. I never played one, I would never play one. Music just ‘wasn’t my thing’.

That was until ‘the 4-hour Chef’ from Tim Ferriss. He explains how learning easy it is to practically learn any skill and he learns it by showing you how to cook.

Cooking was about the same thing, I knew how to prepare a proper meal, I could cook for a party of 6-8, but I never really understood cooking. I still don’t, but I am on the right track. I am learning how to cook by simple exercises, by trying new things and by practicing a lot.

Today I don’t want to talk about cooking, because well, I knew something about cooking before I picked up that book.

And I didn’t knew anything about music until I picked up a guitar. I probably still don’t know anything about music, as I’ve been only practicing on the guitar for a week now. Let’s explain.

Learning Random Skills: Great for Creative Relief

Simple skills can be a great relief when you are busy all day. Things like juggling, writing Haiku’s and of course making music can be a great help in coping with stress.

Learning skills is also a great way to get into contact with people, talking about your skill or actually doing it together. I love how people react when I pick up three random fruit pieces and start juggling.

But the best reason: it stimulates you in the creative and personal field. I find myself more creative when I challenge myself in learning something random. And I get happy when I succeed, which is awesome! You practice and practice, with probably no result, until it all works out! Until you actually juggle or until you actually strum the right chord.

Learning skills is awesome. Let me tell you how I started to learn guitar playing. You can also skip this and go straight to how I am planning to learn guitar playing.

From repelling an instrument to buying one and taking up a challenge

So I never knew how to play an instrument. I never wanted to either. In music class the piano songs were really, really hard for me and watching my girlfriend play on the piano was way more fun than trying it myself. I wanted to try some songs, but I would easily give up, just because it didn’t went fast enough.

But I liked music. I’ve been listening to old classics for a long while, been listening to Bob Dylan for a couple of years now and I’m listening to other folks songs as well. Folk songs aren’t complicated, the music isn’t too hard to understand. Just good music, with good lyrics. Something I can relate more to than complex rock songs. And I discovered another artist with very simple, but oh-so interesting music.

Johnny Cash.

My friends can tell you all about it, around a year ago I started to fall in love with Johnny Cash. With the guy, with his music. His music is so simple, but so effective, so impressive. If you’ve never listened to any Cash’ song, you should check it out. Begin with ‘I Walk the Line‘ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues‘ as you probably already know them, move on to ‘I Still Miss Someone‘ and ‘So Doggone Lonesome‘. After that, just listen his prison records (‘Live at Folsom Prison’ and ‘Live at San Quentin’).

People say every song sounds the same, maybe they do, but almost every one of them sounds great.

And the best thing? They don’t sound that difficult. I Walk the Line consists only of three chords! EVEN I CAN DO THAT.

Right after that discovery some friends of mine bought a guitar. Great, they want to learn playing as well. Only thing? I am left handed, they aren’t. Damn, still have to buy my own guitar. Nevermind, probably too expensive and not worth the money.

Of course, as all series of events, something else happened. Tim Ferriss published a post: How to Play the Guitar. Read it, and I thought: I can do this. Guitar playing isn’t hard.

So last week I bought a guitar. A cheap one, obviously. And I have one very simple resolution: If I cannot play ‘I Walk the Line’ by the end of the year, I have to give the guitar away. How’s that for motivation? If there are any left-handed people with no confidence in me, please contact me, I might give the guitar to you!

Current status: strumming chords, singing along ‘I keep a close watch on this….. *where is that A chord again damnit* heart of mine’.

How to Play the Guitar

Long backstory, but hopefully somewhat motivating for you. Now, here is my plan to learn a random skill: the guitar!

  • Practice every day. I am not putting my guitar away in a cover or anything. I have it in my room and want to play for 10 minutes each day. If I want to play longer, sure, but at least 10 minutes.
  • I suck at playing guitar and I know it. One of the first things I had to do is accept the fact that I suck at playing a guitar. My fingers are awkward and are sore after 10 minutes playing. This is going to be a long ride.
  • I follow the lessons of ‘Justin Guitar‘. This guy is fantastic. He has beginner courses, complete with chord lessons, simple technique exercises and beginners songs (INCLUDING I WALK THE LINE WOOOOHOOOO). I will follow his lessons, thoroughly.

That’s it! Practice every day, have a plan according to lessons (not random strumming, I actually have a plan). I am going to document the progress in Evernote and see if I make any progress. I maybe even post a video of me playing to song when I am ready.

I am serious about this challenge, learning cool things is interesting. Check out ‘the 4-hour Chef’, it can be a great eye-opener. If you want to know what else I am reading, I made a cool reading list thing on my personal website, check it out!

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