Finally, At The Age of 38, I’m The Proud Owner Of An Electric Guitar

Specifically this one.

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It’s a Fender Squire Affinity Strat and came as park of a value pack at Guitar Center with an amp and cord and strap and some picks. It’s the design and color that reminds me most of all the guitars my guitar heroes play(ed). I know I was just talking about how much fun I was having with my ukulele but really all the ukulele did was reignite a long-standing desire I’ve had to learn how to play the guitar and I decided now was the time to do it. But instead of buying a cheap acoustic like I always have in the past, I really indulged myself and got my very first electric guitar. And boy did I make the right choice. I’ve been documenting the last two days since I got it on Facebook.

I’ve had my new guitar for less than 24 hours and I’ve only thought about returning it twice. I had fun last night fooling around with it and the amplifier and then immediately got frustrated with what I can’t do on it. I went online and got immediately overwhelmed which did NOT help at all. But this is something I’ve always wanted to do so I’m sticking with it and here’s how:

I have three songs I want to learn: When Love Comes to Town (BB King & U2), and Blue on Black (Kenny Wayne Shepherd), and Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver). They all use open chords I know how to play so I’m going to start with the easiest of them and work on them a little bit every day until I can move between chords easily and cleanly, strum properly, and sing along with the songs. When I can do these three songs perfectly I’ll move on to other songs until I run into chords I can’t play and I have to learn new ones.

There might be an easier or better way to do it, but I think this is what will work for me.

Nice side benefit to playing guitar is that I’m SO bad at it that it makes me feel better about the parts of writing I still struggle with (cough, plotting, cough) because even my worst writing weaknesses are light years ahead of my most basic guitar weaknesses.

Today I found the overdrive settings on my new amp and cranked everything up to ten and jammed to the easy riff on When Love Comes To Town. Also fooled around with learning the Star Spangled Banner

Natalie is sleeping while I wail away on the opening riffs of Highway to Hell. She has the peace that comes with being a third child.

I’d also add that I learned the opening lick and chords for Secret Agent Man today as well. All in all a productive day of ax work.

78 thoughts on “Finally, At The Age of 38, I’m The Proud Owner Of An Electric Guitar

  1. Yep. Agree with the above. Like with writing, you have to suffer through the crap until you get the hang of it. It might help if you learn the power chord. It’s not quite open chords but is easy to master and helps develop the sense of rhythm.

  2. You’re doing it right. Just keep telling yourself it’s ok to sound bad for a long time–that comes with the territory. Play on clean settings so you can hear your mistakes. And spend ten minutes a day practicing barre chord shapes. They’re hard, but the sooner you can get your hand in and out of them, the better. I spent years and years avoiding the F chord, and I wish I hadn’t.

  3. That is the exact approach that I suggest to anyone I know who is thinking about picking up the guitar,. but overwhelmed by the degree of difficulty. If I were you, I’d practice G major, D major and C major until you have them perfected. At that point, you can play about 25% of the pop/country/folk/rock songs ever written. Definitely play songs first. Play lots of songs. People who start out by watching youtube videos or reading books become confusedly rutted in scales, keys and technique, which leads to quitting. “Learn a few simple songs and have fun” before you try to “actually learn guitar.”

  4. My wife cracks me up. She can play Dust In The Wind start to finish and even fingerpicks like you’re supposed to. Plays it waaaay better than I (and I’ve been playing for 20 years). But it’s the only thing she can do on guitar. She knows nothing about guitar except that one day she devoted all day to perfecting that song, but has no interest in learning anything else.

  5. I returned the first DSLR camera I bought within 24 hours because I was completely overwhelmed with all there was to learn and I was super frustrated. I went back the following day and bought another one (a better one) because I remembered that night that I don’t give up on things. πŸ˜‰ That turned out to be a pretty good decision.

  6. Yeah, scales and theory and technique don’t intimidate me because years of band and choir with teachers obsessed with musical theory has actually paid dividends. It’s just a matter of putting in the work and the practice to make my hands do what my brain knows they should be doing.

  7. To tell you the truth, scales still scare me. Being forced to fill in on bass lately has made me overcome my laziness/fear in that regard. But I am still a scale novice.

  8. I also think the $200 I invested in the guitar and amp is the perfect amount to keep me engaged. It’s expensive enough that I need to play it regularly to justify having it around but not so expensive that I feel like I have to play it too much to justify having it around.

  9. Did you all (David, Christopher, Brent, Gregg) start with electric our acoustic? I was torn between this guitar and an Epiphone electric acoustic pack that had a thinner electric acoustic guitar that felt nice and came with a cool retro looking amp. On one hand I feel like I’m cheating w/ an electric but I also wonder if the difficulty of an acoustic would hamper my enthusiasm.

  10. Sean got a guitar before E got married and played around and taught himself for about a year. Then I got him 4 lessons for his birthday and he really loved that. He grew up musical and played trombone but the lessons really helped with things that the Internet or a book couldn’t really do well. He took a few more as he had questions, and then he bought an electric and took an entire year, played in a recital worth a band, etc. If you get stuck, I’d say find a teacher you like and take a lesson or two. Lessons don’t have to be a big commitment.

  11. I started when I was a kid with a gut string acoustic that I later traded for my first electric. But I didn’t really start playing until I was 35 and we inherited a nice acoustic. I’m still an acoustic player and I’m just now learning how to play electric.

  12. Electric. I wanted to be Jimmy Page. And +1 to what David says: it’s easier these days to get a decent starter electric than a starter acoustic worth a damn. Find out if you like the instrument and then look for the acoustic. (Also, there are lots of kinds of acoustics, with subtle differences. A good electric with an amp that can model sounds will allow you to play a bunch of different types of music. An acoustic really commits you to its sound, and at least for me, the dial-in-the-right-tone component of electric playing keeps my mild OCD entertained.)

  13. I’d also highly recommend, down the road, taking the guitar in for a good setup. Costs between 30-50 bucks, depending on the luthier, but having the guitar correctly intonated, its neck adjusted, and its action set as low as possible really helps out. If you bought the guitar new it’s probably fine for now, but if you picked it up used, maybe have someone check it out.

  14. Also (and I’ll shut up after this): devote a lot of willpower to holding the instrument correctly. Hold the neck the right way, strum primarily with your wrist and not your elbow, keep only a little bit of the pick visible, etc.

  15. Sounds like I’ve made the right choice then. I’ve had a number of crappy acoustics over the years and never did anything with them. I love this guitar though. It feels more intimate because it’s closer to my body and since I’ve always wanted to play blues and country, the electric sound is the one I want.

  16. The Strat is the most comfortable guitar I’ve ever played. Leo Fender really got everything right. (I’m also a giant fan of good industrial design) keep it fun. And think about how writing goes. Sometimes it’s great. At dark times it sucks so bad you want to pitch everything into the yard. This is growth. The key to writing and guitar is persistence.

  17. This is hearsay, mind you, but Will McFarlane told a friend that every player needs a Tele but, like women (my note, not Will’s), you really have to sample a lot of them to find the one that’s right for you, but once you find it, it is love. Congratulations, Chris on love at first sight.

  18. I started on electric. Bryon, I think if you’re taking the “learn while having fun” approach, your next investment should be a Zoom multi-effects pedal. I bought one a long, long time ago. The smorgasbord of 60 effects (including all your standards like wah) was Christmas-morning-special with one hitch: it didn’t play well out of an amp, so I couldn’t ever use it in band settings. I have always – and occasionally still do – play it through headphones and use it to inspire songs and get a few cheap thrills. On the other hand, one of my good friends who is a savant lead guitarist and gear snob -and who, coincidentally, panned my old Zoom mercilessly – showed up in my basement the other night with a new Zoom. It was both zany and beautiful and it perfectly blended in with the rest of the band. Every channel sounded very professional. They’re not super expensive considering how many effects choices you get and believe me, it will be the closest thing you’ve experienced to that very first time you turned on your Nintendo. (Or Sega if you were one of “those” kids.)

  19. I had a Zoom effects box for a while. As fun as a big box of paints. I’d also put in a plug (if you’ve got an iOS device) for the apps Bias and JamUp Pro. They’re frequently on sale, and if you get one or both, plus an interface like iRig, you can basically play through a really good emulation of hundreds of amps/pedals. JamUp also allows you to load a song from your library and play along to it–you can slow it down, loop tricky sections for practice, etc. Not inexpensive, but I think the sound quality is excellent. Also my spouse appreciates that I have a good headphone option for late-night practice.

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