So we meet, Yousician. You almost have me already, you seductive little bitch. Dragged my old guitar out from underneath the bed today – which was a chore, all by myself – but I am getting quite good at doing chores all by myself, lately.
My trusty old thing. A classical nylon string guitar. Got it when I was 15 from my aunt, as a confirmation present, and I still remember going to the music store with my cousin and uncle to pick it out. My cousin has been taken guitar lessons in school for a year already by that time, and since he used to be something like my big role model at the time, I knew I needed to take guitar lessons as well. And I can tell you: I used to be able to play the classical guitar really well back in the day… partly because I was so very much in pimply, angsty teenage love with my guitar teacher at the time. But mostly because I really loved this instrument, and my teacher knew very well how to motivate my friend and me to play the most beautiful classical pieces together. A highlight was when we – my friend, my teacher, and I – performed Carmen’s “Habanera” on stage together during a school concert. Maybe I’ll even find the video of that somewhere at my parents’ place… will ask about that when I see them again.
That said, you can see that I was always really into fingerpicking – and never had much interest in learning how to strum chords, if any at all. Lots of water under the bridge since those days, though. As with anything in life: you lose it if you don’t use it. And I didn’t use it anymore pretty much from the moment I graduated from high school and lost access to my fabulous teacher. My friend and I did find a nice private teacher after high school for a while, whom we visited once a week for a few months, but it never felt the same anymore. The magic was lost. Post high-school life took over, my guitar was put away, all but forgotten.
Fast forward about 5 years. Life had thrown me a curveball, and I somehow found myself living and studying on the West Coast of the USA for a few years in the early 00’s. My boyfriend’s best friend played the drums in a Spanish Rock band called “Vudu Iguana” at the time – a pretty cool 3-man-show who wrote their own songs. Vudu Iguana consisted of a singer/guitarist, a bass player, and said drummer. One day I was asked if I wanted to strum along a bit with the band… to sorta take over the rhythm guitar. Bewildered, yet cautiously excited, I tentatively agreed – but made sure to warn everybody that I – frankly – REALLY sucked at playing rhythm guitar, and that I hadn’t touched a guitar at all for a few years. No matter, they said… and thus began my really AMAZING year-and-a-half playing in a band in Los Angeles.
Admittedly, though… my time as their rhythm guitarist was quite short-lived for the reasons mentioned above. And my whole time in the band would have been equally short-lived, had the bassist not decided to move to the East Coast, which put the other two in dire need for a replacement. I am not sure whose idea it was in the end, but suddenly I was handed an acoustic bass guitar one day – and thus my fate was sealed. I found that I REALLY enjoyed playing the bass, and that the techniques and requirements sat really well with me, and all the stuff I had previously learned. All my (long lost) knowledge of fingerpicking really came in handy now, and I found that I managed to learn the bass lines of the band’s songs quite easily and quickly – even though I still lacked the fluidity and ease that I would have had, had I not stopped playing the guitar half a decade prior to this. We soon went to buy an electric bass for me – a red Schecter Diamond – and from then on I was actually Vudu Iguana’s resident bass player.
My fluidity returned a bit over time, thankfully – and I ended up writing the bass lines for a couple of our songs myself, even recorded some for our CD. (Yes, we recorded an actual CD. Not a demo. What a bucket list item that is, isn’t it?) I learned how to perform on stage, discovered that I actually enjoyed being on stage a great deal – and really had one hell of a year-and-a-half. It was an experience I wouldn’t want to miss for anything in this world.
Alas… even the best things come to an end. In this case, the reason for my rather abrupt end with the band during a time when we actually started to gain a little bit of attention in the local scene, was my move back home to Europe. It broke my heart in more ways than one… but I took my Schecter bass across the world with me, at least.
Not that I would use it again anytime soon. It took another year or so, but as life sometimes has its weird ways, I eventually ended up on stage again: with my drummer from Los Angeles. Huh? Let’s just say that love made him part of my family – and he, like my boyfriend along with me, moved across the globe to be in this here country as well. Vudu Iguana was history, I am not sure our singer/guitarist has ever really gotten over it. Me neither, actually. And this new thing here… it was not the same. The new singer/guitarist was one hell of a diva, to put it very mildly and politely, and after just one gig “Competencia Injusta” disbanded again, before it even had a chance at being anything. And it was just as well: the skill level required to hold my own in this constellation was FAR beyond my reach. I then went on to have husband and babies… and my Schecter collected dust in a corner alongside my nylon string.
Fast forward another few years… maybe 3 or 4. My memory eludes me on this. Some other dude showed up in my life, and again I found myself with “my” drummer – and this new dude as singer/guitarist. “La Banda D” seemed promising at first, especially since New Dude and I seemed to get along greatly, and he seemed to respect me at the skill level that I was at, even gave me some one on one practice sessions to help me improve. Turned out that he was really trippin’ though… we soon realized it was his way or no way: he made us learn all of his own songs with little to no room for change or personal touch, and in turn didn’t want to (- or could not) learn a single one of ours from our Vudu Iguana days, and flinging attitude around at every opportunity. My drummer soon gave up on the project after getting into a fight with this dude, which was around the same time when this guy started to purposely schedule practice session at times when he knew I was not available due to my kids’ schedules/my husbands’s work hours. He then used this as justification to give me the boot, stating that: “You quite obviously don’t care for the band if you can’t make the time for scheduled practice, or just simply find a babysitter – how hard can that be?” He then finished me off with: “You never bothered to try hard and learn anything in the first place.” That REALLY stung. I had practiced my ass off and really tried to improve, even with his help, and learned to play ALL of his songs in a rather short amount of time – all while he struggled with that ONE song we wanted him to learn. I developed a logo for the band… and stickers… and all sorts of things that went beyond just practicing the music. His accusations and reasons to kick me out were so unfair, I wanted to just scream into his face. Because by that time I had really wanted to be back on stage with a band quite desperately. I knew that my skills hadn’t been all that awesome, but I was willing to put my all into it… and I did… and suddenly I wasn’t allowed to participate anymore based on mean accusations that weren’t at all true. I could have lived with “I don’t like you, I think this is not going to work out” – even with “I know you tried, but you just aren’t up to par” …but having been told that I supposedly never tried and never bothered… that was too much for me to bear.
After that, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I would never properly play my instruments again, would never find anyone willing to put up with me and my limited skills again in a band setting, would never play music on a stage again. A couple of years ago there was one more opportunity for me when I joined a friend for a jam session… but that whoe thing has been a rather unpleasant experience, involving a lot of alcohol and some drugs – both of which I am not tolerant of at all – and even if it hadn’t been for these two things: jam sessions with random people aren’t what I would want to join in the first place. Because I can’t jam. I am not creative when it comes to music, and I don’t understand music/the instrument well enough in order to even try. All I wanted was to find people who’d let me study their bass lines diligently, and then let me play them along with them. Just like it had been all these years ago with Vudu Iguana.
I never looked for people like that anymore, though. Life is busy in so many other ways, and that’s okay too.
In the meantime my daughter turned out to be quite the music-o-phile, currently learning how to play both the flute as well as the violin, at 9 years old. For her, music is everything… and she actually inspired me to get myself a tenor recorder so I could play along with her when she is practicing the flute. Which I really enjoy doing. But my guitar? No more. I’ve had my chance, and I blew it. At least that’s how I looked at it until very recently.
Until yesterday, to be exact. When one of my co-workers told me that she has found an app for her to learn how to play the piano, and so that’s what she is doing now, because she always wanted to know how to play one. I looked it up later… and stumbled across Yousician. Much researching and reading later… and I dragged my old nylon string guitar out from her dusty grave beneath my bed. And this is where I stand today: with my nylon string guitar in my clumsy hands, holding down strings with stiff and oddly immobile fingers. Having used up my first practice time of the free version of the app – already contemplating a subscription.
And contemplating the purchase of an electric guitar. Because I always wanted to have one but never thought I was worthy. And because with an electric I could practice silently, with headphones, while my kids are alseep. With the nylon string I’ll never be able to practice once everybody is sleeping. Fact. Rationalizing a big purchase like a pro.