269. Small Blue Thing

That was the afternoon I started teaching Colin to play the guitar.

It was more or less a dare. “I can’t play the guitar,” he claimed.

“Sure you can,” I argued back, and that led to me teaching him.

I put him with the Takamine, which had low action and was generally easy to play, and sounded good no matter what you did, and I used the Ovation.

“We’re going to start real simple,” I said. “We’re just going to use the top three strings for now, and we’re going to start with ‘Mary Had a Little Fucking Lamb.'”

He was so earnest, he actually asked, “Is that different from Mary Had a Little Lamb?”

“No, except that you’re playing it on a thousand-dollar guitar not a recorder.”

“Why start with Mary Had a Little Lamb?”

“Because that’s how you do it. Now shut up and do this.” I played it starting with the open E string, just the first line.

He copied me. “That isn’t anything like what you’re doing,” he said.

“Yes, it is. You’re just slower. Remember what I was like learning to drive a car? At least there’s no danger of you going off a bridge.”

After fifteen minutes of that, I had him add a chord to the end of the line. I thought it was sounding pretty good. After a half hour he had three chords and could do the whole song.

“I’m still not really playing,” he insisted. “I’m just putting my fingers down and sound comes out.”

“Here’s the secret, Col’,” I said. “That’s all playing is. You put your fingers where they belong. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. That’s it. It’s just a straight shot up the mountainside from here, if you keep walking. You don’t just suddenly start to fly. You just get better at walking.”

“If you say so,” he said, but it didn’t sound like he believed me.

I suppose if I watched every night from the wings the kind of magic Ziggy and I were pulling off, maybe I wouldn’t have believed me either.

(The Kickstarter has just five days to go! Last chance to order an autographed copy of the book, Moondog 3 logo T-shirt, or other cool stuff! Here: http://kck.st/IlE7Bi until noon on May 22! By the way, for those who missed the online video chat, here’s the video of it! I edited out the long pause at the beginning, and then we get cut off at the end, so I re-recorded the end as a second video. Enjoy!)

All the chit-chat!

Daron’s “coming out scene”:


  • Jude says:

    Though some folks have much more of a knack for putting their fingers in the right places than others. I gave up on guitar and piano because I could read the music, I could (mostly) imitate the music, but it just didn’t have anything like *life*. I did better with voice — required less fingerwork — but I’m still no musician. I *do* have a knack with words, sometimes, which is why I’m a writer.

    • daron says:

      Colin’s a musician in ear anyway–you should hear him sing–and he played trumpet. Finger coordination is something I don’t think I was born with. I think I was born with the ear and the chutzpah and the hand-eye coordination came later, through a lot of practice. I could be wrong, though. My perspective on myself isn’t exactly the greatest… (understatement)

  • Sarah says:

    Ok, so the guy that’s started teaching me guitar started me out a little harder than that, but then I have some knowledge of music to start with, thanks to years of band in school. Still, I can’t help but wonder what Daron would think of my attempts at playing Rammstein’s Haifisch. lol

  • Janie Friedman says:

    Daron, it’s way cool that you’re teaching Colin to play guitar (my stepdad builds ’em, so I noodle a bit), but please remember he has a crush on you and be careful. /End of lecture.

  • deb h says:

    loved it ,you notice that guitar players almost always say its easy to play,its not, I tried in high school never could get passed the fingers hurting stage to be much good at it ,did learn two songs though so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

    • daron says:

      I think a lot of instruments require a bit of physical pain to get started with them. With saxophone (which I played all of one year, in grade school band) your lip hurts for a couple of weeks until it toughens up against your teeth. Hm, okay, maybe not that many. Flute, drums, trumpet… tired arms maybe, but nothing like the pain you go through to toughen up for guitar. I barely remember it because I play so much my calluses have never gone completely soft again, but on the other hand I remember it vividly. I remember not being able to sleep at night because it felt like my fingertips were on fire. I’m not surprised that deters a lot of people from learning it.

      • Alex says:

        With flute comes lightheadedness. All the other winds have something to blow against—a mouthpiece or a reed—but flute is just air. Many beginners tend to get dizzy. We leave the calluses to the string section.

        • daron says:

          Yeah. And if you stop playing flute for a couple of weeks and then start again, you don’t have to re-learn to breathe. That lightheadedness only happens to some beginners. Whereas the instruments that require you to toughen up either your fingers (strings) or your lip (clarinet, saxophone), it hurts for everybody, and even if you’re an experienced player, if you slack off you have to go through the pain all over again.

  • Raynay says:

    Can I still buy a t-shrt even though the fundraiser is completed?

    • ctan says:

      After I ship out the rewards I will have some left over, and I’ll put them up for sale! I’ll announce what sizes I have available. (And I know we’ll have tote bags–I had to order some extra of those to make the minimum order.)

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