Obsession: The missing factor

Obsession: The missing factor
I'm only slightly less obsessed with bringing headbands back.

I play guitar. That's what I do. And when I manage to play every day, it might be what I'm best at.

I can also play, to varying degrees, some hand drums, kit, keys, bass, mandolin, other percussives, harmonica... Music comes out of everything if you concentrate a little bit and tap your foot (in my worldview, at least).

My fingers have been tickling piano keys for about a decade, though, and its successes are far diminished compared to guitar. It's getting to the point where I can't determine whether the piano is never picked up because I suck, or that I suck because it's never played. But a recent development has lead me to believe that it's a little of both (plus the keyboard is stupid and I hate it).

A bit of light has been cast on what, exactly, has happened here.

I acquired a mandolin, and planned on learning it while I was down after my October surgery. And I did. Somewhat (at least all the chords).

But after the high of getting a shiny new instrument wears off, there comes the thrill of picking it up day after day after day after day after day after day after day.... If you call that a "thrill" -- there's the key!

Interest in any new hobby can wane a bit after a while, because as we get older, we tend to narrow down the things that we are truly interested in. Time is now an investment.

Guitar, after 13 years of jamming, is still the thing I'm excited to pick up -- every single time -- multiple times per day -- acoustic or electric -- drunk or only thinking about beer. I keep one at my lap to distract myself between doing other things. See? I just played some right there (sorry if that doesn't come across in text)(seriously, it was a massive jam. Aerosmith just happened to be walking down the street and crawled through the window to join in)(I'm sorry. That's a lie. It was just a guy walking his dog who looked like Joe Perry).

Yes, yes -- I do pick up the mandolin every three or four days and it sounds great. I can't wait to add this thing to the Annual Jam.

But I got my Epiphone acoustic-electric about two years ago and it has become my daily go-to. I love its ring, I love that I can set it to loud or terrified-cats-loud and I love that it gives even my well-calloused fingers a steady workout (switch back to electric after that and you're freakin Hendrix).

When I started playing guitar years ago, it was because I was a fan. I wanted to play those songs that I heard on the radio: Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Local H, Violent Femmes, that still-awesome solo from "Alive".. whoa...

What I found was actually-within-my-grasp exciting: so many songs are incredibly easy -- CCR's entire catalog is only three or four chords. Those songs are all about the passion (along with some great pipes and lyrics).

I always say: it's easy to play guitar; hard to get good at it.

You truly have to want to.

There are a lot of components that go into becoming decent at guitar: work, tackling challenging tasks, jamming well with others, playing in-time, staying in-tune (you heard me), but the biggest may be repetition. I tell anybody who wants to know (and many who'd rather not): play every day, even if it's just playing "Stairway.." for the 400,00th time (actually, if you're doing that, just stop).

Is this twisted obsession necessary to be truly great at something?

Probably.

Is it healthy?

Time will tell.

Rock on.

[ Words added to dictionary while writing this post: Epiphone, Femmes, Weezer, freakin ]

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    Dan Bradley

    Writer. Jammer. Fan. {bandwagonDan over at TheHeckler.com .. Follow my hockey tweets @HecklerBHawks (The Heckler: Blackhawks on fb.) }

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