Sunday, October 15, 2006

Jimi never had a capo ...

First Born and Little Guy did really well in school last year so my dad gave them £20 each as a reward. We popped down to Argos where FB bought a CD Walkman and LG chose a guitar.

With no idea even how to hold his instrument, LG started to strum. He maintained his enthusiasm and seemd to show genuine aptitude.

There's no way we could afford private lessons, so when we heard the school was offering free guitar tuition we were the first to put his name down.

He was blown away to hear he'd been accepted! I spoke to the guitar tutor and told him how excited we were given our financial situation and what a wonderful opportunity this was for LG.

Then he brought home the confirmation letter.

I am pleased to inform you that your child has been chosen to begin guitar lessons ...

Brill! I read on ...

A good quality beginner guitar will cost between £80 and £110+ ...

I gasped. Then read on ...

I know that this may seem a lot but quite frankly a cheap Argos guitar is just not worth having ...

My stomach lurched. I read on ...

Other requirements are:
* a gig bag or a padded case with straps to carry the guitar on your shoulders
* a footstool
* a capo
* music manuscript
* a music bag to keep everything together


What??? Maybe he wouldn't need all those things. I read on ...

These you will need even if your shild uses a school guitar! Could make them Xmas stocking fillers!

Well, let me make a couple of points to you, My Guitar Tutor. It's obviously escaped your attention that you teach in a culturally diverse school where not every child celebrates Xmas. And that there will anyway be many children whose stockings - if they have them - are unlikely to contain items costing that sort of money. And wouldn't they have to be mighty BIG stockings anyway?

It's the same lack of thought that results in the children bringing home projects like 'Find a nice shady corner in your garden ...' Er, excuse me. Garden???

It would be easy to launch headlong into parental guilt at not being able to give LG these things. Or I could be angry at the gross lack of sensitivity ...

You probably know me well enough by now to guess which way I'm headed ...

So then I thought about Jimi Hendrix. Born into poverty ... given his first guitar, costing $5, aged 16 ... never had a lesson in his life ...

How ever did he manage without a capo???

13 comments:

clare said...

My father made me a footstool from a few bits of wood - glued together, I think, nothing very technical, when I learnt to play guitar. It did the job very well for several years - and for emergencies I used to use a few books. Don't expect that sort of thing would do, these days, though.

jta said...

Yeah, Jimi had a capo, but he didn't use classical technique, which is what the patzers in school are about to force on LG. We just went through the same thing, with the identical list of requisite junk. It's all fine if LG is determined to play classical guitar, but I don't imagine he is. The class won't play classical either, though they'll use a flawed semblance of classical technique, which is about as useful as teaching them to dress powdered wigs. They'll end the term with a "concert" where forty or fifty guitarists are arranged in a standard orchestral seating plan, playing diluted-to-nothing extracts of classics or pop "arrangements" that leave nothing of the original alive--pedagogical fossils.

It will sound like a swarm of bees caught in a sudden blizzard. It will be embarrassing to the performers and to the audience. Only the schlub with the baton will be happy.

Let LG do it on his own, with his friends, like Jimi (who learned upside down and backwards.) Buy him the books he needs, and the records, and let him claw it out for himself on his Argo.

Speaking of which--Argos aren't the world's greatest instruments, but they have what a beginner needs: the fretboard geography. As he masters the geography his playing will improve, maybe by fits and starts, but improve it will. Then it will be time to get him a better instrument. Most importantly, his love of music won't have been smothered at birth.

jta said...

P.S. I notice your list doesn't include a tuning fork or pitchpipe (probably best for starters) so the beginning student can learn to tune--obviously a key skill. No amount of work will make out of tune playing sound good, and sounding good provides the positive feedback he'll need to progress. I guess the school imagines everyone has a piano to tune from, but obviously this isn't true.

Atyllah said...

Shoot the tutor. Ask no questions, smack him once and then shoot. What a load of old cobblers, what gross insensitivity. Would that I hadn't given my old guitar away - you could have it with love, feathers and lots of clucks. By the way, I learned to play all by myself. LG will do the same and be all the better for it - no dumb rules to mess with his head.
Go LG!!! The Henhouse is rooting for you!

Marie said...

A lot of famous guitarists taught themselves. My brother (no, he's not famous but an excellent guitarist) taught himself. He bought his first electric guitar from the catalogue. He didn't need all that other stuff that so-called guitar tutor seems to think LG needs.

I agree, let him learn with friends and get him some guitar books. It might be more fun that way.

Kath T said...

Cannot believe the bare faced cheek of schools today - this proves the point that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

All it needs is a teacher to teach a few basic cords on any guitar (Status Quo have managed on three or four for years). This you could learn from a book (discount book shops have plenty).

Not sure whose Christmas stocking the guitar teacher was thinking of - an elephant's? Often wonder what planet some of these teachers are on.

Anonymous said...

What a prize prawn that guy is...do what the Hen says, she's right!

If it makes you feel better, big fecker and his mates started a band - without lessons - and they were surprisingly good...big fecker is still teaching himself chordds...and there are often reasonable guitar noises fom his bedroom.

Truth is, lG will have more fun learning himself, than practicing skip to the loo at school for 6 months!

Helpful hint...an argos catalogue would make a reasonable impact on a prawns head.......

The Wandering Author said...

I can't tell you what's best for Little Guy, since every child is different. And I'm terrible at music. But I will say that, for myself at least, I have never learned anything so well as those things I learned on my own, working it out in the way that worked for me. So if he wants to learn, buy him the books, and let him figure it out himself; the accomplishment will be that much greater, and his creativity won't be suffocated.

As for the school's list of "requirements" - I'd write "you've got a real sense of humour" across it, and send it back... The prawn might burn out a few circuits trying to puzzle out what you meant, and what to do about it.

Debi said...

A prawn! He's a prawn! (But not the dregs???)

Seriously though, what a wonderful medium this is. I wrote this post as a rant simply to vent my spleen. And it helped - so much more than writing it in a journal ... Knowing I'd expressed it and it was Out There would have been enough.

For all of you to then respond with such compassion, wisdom and empathy is more than a bonus. It's overwhelming, validating and uplifting.

Thank you all so much. I feel very very lucky!

jta - Jimi DID have a capo? Damn - I really liked that headline ...

Sharon J said...

A capo is the least of your worries... 50p or so should cover that. As for the other stuff... stocking fillers? That implies that they wouldn't even be the main presents!! Jesus, how much money does this 'teacher' think the average family has?

I bought my daughter's guitar from a second-hand shop for £40 including the case. Richard bought her a 'learn to play guitar' book and off she went. She's no Hendrix and I doubt she ever will be, but she enjoys plonking away on it, making her form of music and that's really what it's all about, isn't it?

I'm sure that if you get LG a book and help him understand the basics, he'll soon be plonking out some tunes without all that stuff the the tutor reckons he has to have. Oh... a pitch pipe or similar's handy, though. LM had a dreadful time trying to tune her guitar without one. Her's cost about £2.50 I think.

gentlemanoracle said...

It's ashame that money is so important in everything we do these days.

I took trombone lessons at school and didn't have to pay a penny. I didn't even need to buy the instrument as the school provided it.

i was lucky

Tell him not to despair though for all the reasons everyone has said. Passion for something always wins out in the end and those who pay hundreds of pounds because it's no problem tend to lose interest quickly. If you have to fight for it and wait a bit longer the success and achievement is much sweeter.

Anonymous said...

L doesn't realise the high entertainment value of his pompous assumptions. No point in getting wound up over his clangers. They are legendary and it's his loss. Think of the school lessons as warm up finger strengthening and an introduction to one aspect of the instrument. It's good to have a grounding in theory and then go home and learn the blues scale. I still think it's great that music of any kind is on offer at school but you can find the tabs to most songs (eg Forever Young /Redemption Song) on the internet.
Rock On!
Meloney Lemon

ISLAND MONKEY said...

Good for you for inducting him into music at an early age. You should be able to pick a decent geetar up on ebay or down the second hand stores for a lot less than that. (They say it's best to start on an acoustic..and you can get a half decent one of those fairly cheap)