The Shoreline

A sandy beach with waves and blue sky
Photo by Michael Jin / Unsplash

Learning to focus on the important things is so damn hard to do. I have been getting back into playing guitar, which of course is great in and of itself. What is not great is falling into the fallacy of thinking that great gear will make me a great guitar player. All the greatest gear in the world will not help, like buying the most expensive sports car will not mean a thing in a race if you cannot drive.

In retracing my steps of where I was in my guitar journey years and years ago, I now found myself on the same shoreline, staring into the sea of music theory, again feeling the hesitation to get in to swim. I scoured the internet late into the night searching for tips and tricks to, well, avoid swimming. Video after video and article after article drove home the importance of learning the fretboard of the guitar. Being able to navigate the frets and know what notes were being played was the first step. And there was only one clear path to learning the fretboard. Yes, there are patterns, but behind the patterns laid the facts that each fret has an irrefutable note associated with it. Learning these truths would take time, learning takes work.

I had to accept was that if I wanted to get better it would take work. And the work would not be practicing the things I already knew, but the mysterious and unknown things that I did not. Taking something like guitar and understanding that it takes work is just the same as persevering through other areas of my life.

I suppose that we all set up barriers. Either to separate people, or ideas, or sometimes work from play. And mentally, I think I had barriers set up with guitar, and with these blog/website attempts. Everything that was not school or work-related at the time was automatically dumped into the fun bucket, which avoided work because “I did enough work at work”. What an ignorant way to live my life. Most good things in life take work, so why would not working hard at these fun activities make them any less fun. Surprise, they do make them less fun.

But here is the thing, doing something for fun will only get you so far in life. Sure, I can keep using tabs off the internet to play guitar, but I will never progress or get better if I do not put in the work. The same goes for wanting to start a website or a blog. Yes, it takes work, and yes, I can see my Nintendo Switch staring at me from its Legend of Zelda dock across the living room. But if I just veg out and game, this little blog thing is never going to get any content created for it, and the only way to do that is to do the work.

Lay down your insecurities and preconceptions of how things should be, and take a swim, the water is fine.

Learning all the notes on the fretboard of the guitar would open the instrument that I confusingly pride myself on being good at playing. I am good at reading tablature and following directions with the stringed instrument, and that’s about where the adequacy ends. Improvisation. Playing by ear. Theory. Lots of room for improvement. Well, I should say lots of room for growth. I recently had my acoustic guitar set up by a professional guitar luthier and the results were phenomenal. Not only does it feel nice and clean after being in storage for over six years, it sounds better than I remember. Louder too!

Getting caught in the weeds. This is the best way that I can explain what has been happening in the above examples. Trying my best to stay focused is a constant war I wage on the daily against well, everything.