Picking a dream: face the music and learn to play guitar

The coronavirus is compelling us to change the way we live, and for most of us it means spending more time in the home.

This represents a lifestyle change, but it doesn't have to be a limiting experience. It could be quite the opposite. It could be offering you the time and space to fulfill a long-held ambition.

Have you secretly been jealous of the skill and down-right sexiness of guitar players? Well, embrace the desire, and believe me, this is not a fantasy.

Anyone can play guitar.

So, what's your problem? You're tone deaf, you can't whistle, you have no sense of rhythm, you can't clap your hands in time, you can't sing Happy Birthday, your hands are too small, you're too old to learn. Yeah, I've heard all these things and in fact at some time or other I think I've used all these excuses myself.

Let's begin by debunking some of the myths around musicianship. This is a skill that is learned by practising, it is not a "natural" gift. With practice and patience, you will start to "hear" the notes, you will find the rhythm, your hand will move gracefully across the neck of the guitar and you will play complex strumming patterns without even thinking about it.

Believe me, this is not "fake news", this is the truth. Music belongs to everyone, and it's just waiting for you.

Step one: get an instrument. Okay we've all heard of the friend, who in the midst of a mid-life crisis decides they want to rock out and they come home from the music shop with a $2000 Fender Stratocaster and a $3000 stack of Marshall amps. Upon realising it takes more than two weeks' practice, they shuffle their rig into the garage where it remains an embarrassing symbol of their foolishness.

Lets not do that!

But don't buy the cheapest thing on the rack either. They don't sound great and they don't stay in tune. Spend a few hundred dollars and get an instrument you can love. It's probably best to get a steel string acoustic until you've got some chops, and then reward yourself with an electric guitar later if that's your style.

Do you need lessons? No, not really. Sure they are no doubt helpful, but you can find any number of great teachers on YouTube (with links to their websites). I'll leave a list of some good online teachers at the end of this article.

Get yourself a book of basic chords and look around for some songs that aren't too demanding. You can find the chords for most songs online. Ultimate-guitar.com is a great source of both chords and lyrics.

Initially it's your left hand that has to get to work and you have to be patient while your fingers wake up and grow a brain. Muscle memory is a fascinating thing in itself and you will be amazed at the way it works on the job while you're sleeping.

While your left hand is getting skilled up on chord fingering, your right hand will be hammering away in the rudest fashion, driving your partner, flatmates or children crazy. But stare down all nay-sayers and harsh critics. Before long they will be making requests.

Oh, did I mention your fingertips will hurt like hell, become scarred and develop callouses? Well, no pain, no gain. Those callouses will soften in time and become your badges of honour.

One more thing. If guitar playing was really easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn't want that. Remember, you're special.

At some point you're going to have to negotiate the "barre chord". You will try to avoid it, but one day you will just need to play a B minor and you will have to confront this tricky beast. Come to terms with it and you'll own the neck.

In time, playing the guitar will give you more than it asks of you. It will be a friend for life. I never go anywhere without one.

Oh, and by the way, I learnt to play the guitar when I was 50 years old. I play every day without fail and my enthusiasm for it never wanes. So, what's stopping you?

Good online teachers for beginners include Marty Schwartz (Marty Music) and Justin Guitar. They have beginner courses and they are both excellent teachers. As you progress try Anyone Can Play Guitar or one of my favourites Active Melody.