Learning Guitar at 30

When I was younger, probably middle school, I remember trying to learn guitar. Mom had purchased a simple guitar for me as well as a guitar lesson book (and I may have even had lessons now like the piano lessons I took in elementary school, though now I can’t recall). But despite her support, I didn’t learn. In fact, I’m pretty sure I gave up because I only wanted to sing. Or maybe I gave up because I was also playing the trumpet. Or maybe there was another reason that wasn’t related to music. Regardless, I didn’t learn the guitar back then.

I never would have imagined myself trying to learn the guitar at 30 years old, and yet, that is exactly what I am doing.

Darin, the drummer in our band, gave me a starter guitar and showed me how to tune it a couple weeks ago during band practice. Since then, I have purchased a chord book, a sensor/tuner, a comfortable leather strap for standing and playing, and even a guitar case… also some pretty, medium Fender picks that I love.

I have been practicing every day.

Note that I have not been practicing the chords, but rather a couple of simple songs that I found for free on Ultimate Guitar. My husband was the one who gave me this idea since I was having a hard time focusing on learning random chords. He said “play ‘A Horse with No Name’” and so I did. I found the chords/tabs and started struggling through singing while trying to play chords at an even rhythm.

The first thing I met was actually NOT a fly with a buzz, but my own inability to play because my nails were too long. So, I filed them down. I started playing again. And I broke the high E chord and cut my hand.

I think at that point anyone else might’ve said to themselves “maybe this isn’t for me,” but not I. I went to Guitar Center and asked them to repair it, ($10 I think?) since I didn’t have the tools to fix it myself. Then, I was right back at it. After a few different sessions I realized that my nails were still too long so I filed them down even more, almost to the point where the nail attaches to skin. It’s sore, but I can hear the difference (less plunks and more twangs). I’ll admit, I still get plunks when I’m being lazy with my positioning, but it’s gotten much better.

After about a week of A Horse with No Name by America, I felt pretty comfortable with it. Unfortunately, this also meant that I was bored. Thus, I started looking for another song.

Turns out typing into a search bar “beginner chords acoustic guitar” was not helpful. Nor was “acoustic guitar simple chord songs.” So eventually, I just sat there and tried to think of a song that I really liked and that I also wanted to play. I came up with a whole bunch that ended up being too complicated, but then I found the tabs for “Wolven Storm,” one of my favorite songs to sing (I even sang it a’capella on youtube). I started practicing that one and even though it is hard to get my fingers to switch from A to G, I feel like it’s slowly getting better.

At least, I felt confident in my efforts until I heard Albert Gyorfi playing The Wolven Storm, and I realized how much I still need to learn.

Now, after 1 week of extra-short nails, I am beginning to get calluses on my left hand fingers (excluding the thumb, of course). But, I have to wonder if the odd numbing sensation when I touch them is normal or not. I remember when I learned trumpet that there was always a red ring around your lips while your lips got used to plowing air into a horn, but that overtime it would become normal and the circle on your lips would go away. So, I’m hoping that this numb feeling will go away at some point.

What can you expect when learning guitar at 30 years young?

  1. You need to shorten your nails as much as possible.
  2. You need to pick a song to start with that is easy and that you enjoy.
  3. You need a place to go when your guitar string breaks or you need a pick.
  4. You need to expect your hands and fingers to hurt and cramp.
  5. You need to accept that you may take a while to sound good.

I’m enjoying playing and there is a level of pride when I strike a chord well, but I know I have a loooooonnnnggg way to go. So, Chin Up! If I can do it, so can you!

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