Saturday 9 June 2012

Ambitions quashed

Two things I’ve always wanted to do in life are cartooning and playing the guitar. And I failed in both.

No matter how much I try my cartoons just do not translate from what I can see clearly in my head to what is drawn on the paper. Somehow, between whatever straw and cobwebs are collected in my brain and the electro-muscular mechanism in my hand there’s a blockage somewhere that turns my every attempt at drawing into something a small child or Picasso would draw.

As for playing the guitar; that’s no better either.

Some years ago my wife and I took guitar playing lessons at our local college. We were both very enthusiastic and to be fair she progressed much better than I.

From the start, I could see disaster looming from the very first note ever played. There were about a dozen or so “beginners” in our class and the instructor started us on a simple exercise. Hold your fingers tight on these strings and press them against the “frets” and with the other hand run your fingers up and down on the string. Here … near the hole in the guitar.

Everyone managed this well; except me.

My fingers pressed on the frets so hard they almost started bleeding. But my other hand going up and down, up and down, was somehow a few millimeters away from the strings so no sound was coming out. I kept going up and down faster and faster, but speed is not the essence here when you’re too far away from the strings.

The instructor asked me to relax and try again. Slower but nearer … slower but nearer.

I did just that, and this time my fingers got entangled and caught in the guitar strings. TWANG … went the guitar and then everything stopped. My fingers got stuck there as everyone laughed and my wife got embarrassed.

Learning to tune the guitar was no better either.

I just could not differentiate between one note and another. They all sounded the same. You might as well been beating a big drum or have an elephant trumpeting under water it would have sounded the same as my guitar.

The instructor played two notes over and again to get me to appreciate the difference in timbre but they both sounded the same as when I accidentally sit on my cat sleeping in the armchair.

My wife must have thought she married a deaf husband. Although I must admit, like most husbands, I do have selective hearing when it suits.

The next exercise involved using a device called a plectrum or a pick. It’s a small triangular bit of plastic used to pluck the strings of the guitar.

It’s easy to use, according to my instructor. Hold the plectrum with your fingers and pluck the strings one at a time. He showed me how to use it and then asked me to try.

I wish I didn’t … and so did he.

I plucked the string so hard that the small piece of plastic flew out of my hand and hit the instructor in the eye.

What he said next could not be put into music no matter what instrument you use. It was a string of unrepeatable words, none rhyming nor musically melodic, and hardly likely to be ever used in any lyrics I can think of.

He left the room for First Aid treatment and we all decided after a few minutes to give up waiting in the classroom and we went home.

Neither my wife nor I returned to guitar lessons.

I’ve met the instructor in the street a few times since. He smiles and says nothing and walks away in a hurry.


  1. Poor Victor! And poor Mrs Victor!!

    I hope you didn't maim the instructor too badly;-)

    God bless, Victor:-)

    PS. This would make a great cartoon - you should give it a go:-D

  2. I think this would be a sad story if you had never tried. Think of all the people who have ambition and then never try because they fear failure. Well done, Victor!!!! You tried!!!!! Have a grand day! Cathy

  3. Hi Vicky and Cathy,

    Yes, I did try and thankfully I didn't hurt the instructor. Although he did teach me some choice new words!

    I'll try ... again ... to draw a cartoon of this. If it's good I'll post it here.

    God bless.

  4. Sounds like me. I'd love to play the piano but have never had lessons. I always say that in heaven I'm going to play the piano and sing (with a good voice)! I'd also love to be able to draw and paint. I always say that I have the soul of an artist but somehow it never finds its way to my hands and fingers.

  5. I know the feeling too well Sr Ann Marie. Why is it others can play musical instruments and sing and paint and draw and not me?

    I'm sure I'd be a great celebrity if I could sing like Sinatra!

    If you want to see some real talent in painting and drawing visit Vicky here:

    God bless.

  6. Why is it that people who play the guitar make it look so easy, I had guitar lesson as a teenager as I really wanted to play the guitar but it was a lot bloody harder the it looks and I gave up in the end............

  7. That's right Jo-Anne. They make it look easy when in reality it isn't.

    God bless.

  8. On the bright side lots of people can play the guitar, but you have a story that I think no one else has!

  9. What a wonderful and positive way of looking at things Athanasius. Thank you. I shall cherish that thought.

    Thank you for visiting me here and for taking the trouble to write in.

    May God bless you always.

  10. You should try the triangle like I did. It's almost impossible to mess up! No picks required!

  11. Good idea Michael. Does the triangle need tuning? Or do they come already tuned? And how can you tell which note to play?

    I tried it only ONCE. I hit it so hard it fell off the stand and made a lot of noise as it rolled on the ground. I got thrown out of the orchestra as a result. Also, I played it at the wrong time. They should set a timer to triangles, I think.

    God bless.

  12. I had similar frustration playing but after practicing in baby steps for only 2+ hours a day, in only about 6 years I am an almost not awful guitar player. I amuse myself daily in my basement hideaway playing and enjoying where no one else can hear.

    1. It's good that you persevered JoeH. The problem with me is that I have no patience. I prayed about it. I asked God to give me patience and to hurry about it.

      God bless you.



God bless you.