I Am A Shitty Guitar Player

14May08

I’ve been at it for ten years now… actually, closer to twelve now that I think about it. No, ten. See, I started with the bass and puttered around with the four-string for a couple of years before dropping a hundred and fifty bucks on a piece of shit pawnshop no-name electric six-string. It was black and vaguely strat-shaped with no pickguard and a Jacksonesque headstock. Hair metal residue. It was crap, but what did I know? I couldn’t even play the thing. I remember the strange looks I got when I tried it out in the store, with my repertoire of little more than the bass line to Green Day’s ‘Longview’. I wondered why it didn’t sound like the guitars on my favorite albums. Turns out there were these things called distortion pedals and I was gonna haft to get one. Pronto. Of course, I didn’t even get myself an amp for another year, content to hammer away unamplified within the confines of my bedroom. My parents didn’t seem to mind.

My first amp: a Peavey 10 watt solid-state crap box with one 10″ speaker and a — praise the lord! — gain channel. The distortion was somehow thick and thin at the same time, a fuzzy sort of belch that would make Greg Ginn blush. It was cool by me. Around the same time, one of my friends picked up an equally crappy drum kit and together we began fumbling around making some of the worst god awful racket ever visited on the ears of the innocent. It wasn’t even fun at first. Depressing, yes. Frustrating? You bet. But ever so gradually we started to produce something that resembled music in the loosest sense of the term. There was a beat, oft times uneven and herky-jerk, and there was, well, guitar. An atonal, out of tune squall, but you couldn’t say it was not produced by a real musical instrument. And that was something, by god!

Then came the day I discovered the joy of the power chord. A three-toed sloth could finger a power chord and have it sound half-decent beneath a thick blanket of fuzz and, hell, I had two more digits than those lazy, tree-dwelling bastards. So ha! Now I could play punk. Punk fucking rock!

And we did. And it sucked.

But we kept at it. Eventually, I forced my brother to pick up the bass and, lo and behold, we had a band. Of course, we never moved beyond the living-room, but we managed to hammer out a few passable covers of ‘Cinnamon Girl’, ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘The Magnificent Seven.’ At the time, I thought we sucked, and we probably did, but listening to the tapes now, well, I’ve heard much worse. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was a better guitar player then than now.

Sure, sometimes when I pick it up, ideas flow freely from brain to fingers to pick and strings, but most of the time I just want to firmly drive it into the nearest wall and set fire to my amp. This would, perhaps, make for an interesting performance art piece, but it has already been done a million times and, besides, without the validation of an audience, would come off as nothing more than another nervous breakdown or, at the very least, a silly little tantrum.

So I resist the urge, calmly deshoulder my axe, switch off my amp and skulk away, hoping no one has heard me playing.

Besides, I need my damage deposit back.

 

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