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Planning Retirement Online

Out of the box - Learning the guitar

                         November 2009


This is our regular OUT OF THE BOX feature where we give suggestions on different things to try.    

If you have tried something unusual or different, tell us all about it - and send in a photograph as well if you can – so that we can share your experiences with others.



This month……

guitarOnce you are over 50, without doubt it is the time to try something new in your life. Seeing some of the entries we have already had in the 2009 Laterlife Challenge is a real inspiration and a clear indication that learning something new can add a new dimension and enhance one’s life enormously.

For over a year we have been looking at new things to try – if you haven’t entered this year’s Challenge but nevertheless have started something new, do let us know. It can be an enormous encouragement to others when you read about what some people have done, the problems they have faced and the fun and satisfaction they have achieved from learning something new.

I decided to take this advice to heart and have started learning the guitar..... so I thought I would include my early experiences in this month’s OUT OF THE BOX.

Learning the guitar.

The son of a friend of mine is a keen musician and plays at weekends with a band. Sometimes in their home I hear them practicing together but I haven’t really taken a lot of notice – gigs are for kids, I thought.

Not any more! Last month on more of an impulse than anything I walked into a music shop and bought an electric guitar. I had vaguely thought about doing something musical, maybe the keyboard, but this shop had a special offer on. Middle age madness and impulse buying mixed together and I emerged with a beautiful shiny navy and white electric guitar plus a big amplifier box and cover.

I couldn’t even work out how to turn it on! Luckily near to my home there is a top professional guitarist and I quickly booked in lessons. What a revelation. I had no idea the variation of music that is obtainable from a guitar; beautiful classical, modern hard rock – the guitar is so versatile.

The first thing I learned was how to hold the little triangular plectrum – even that is a specific skill. Then I started pinging a few strings and finally learned 4 chords. Practicing them through the week made my fingers ache and the tops of my fingers really sore but speaking to another friend, he said this is fantastic for co-ordination as well as for creating music, so I persevered!

My next lesson was just as fascinating, I learned much more about the guitar, how to tune it, more chords and even a five note scale. Suddenly I was beginning to play. At home, I was having as much fun strumming as practicing the chords I was meant to be playing – and even better, people were beginning to take an interest. A girl friend of mine said she had always wanted to play and headed off to her local music shop, coming away with an acoustic guitar (bigger, fatter and doesn’t need electricity to make a big noise) and a slot in regular evening beginners’ classes. My guitar teacher told me of a man who had started learning at 58 with the sole objective of playing in a band by his 60th birthday – and he did it!

Lots of pubs around us have live music but I have always avoided them, assuming they were for young people. However, having visited one just to see what the guitars do in a band, I was surrounded by 50, 60 and 70 year olds all having the time of their lives. The music scene has certainly changed since I was a teenager.

The best thing about the guitar is that it is so easy. I just pick it up every so often through the day and play the odd chord or tune and then pop it down again. I leave it out of its case so there is no time consuming preparation before practicing.

There is a mass of help on various web pages and many people learn the guitar without having any lessons at all – just pop the words learning guitar into google or your search engine and you will find numerous free lessons on line. Music shops are also very informative and all of them are used to beginners calling in and wanting advice.

Learning the guitar has also opened up a whole new conversation area with all the youngsters in our life – instead of talking gardening, I can now talk the talk! I even know what a riff is!

I have a feeling this sudden impulse to take up the guitar will lead me into many years of new fun and interest; but even if I find I am no good and tire of it in a few months; it has still opened my eyes to a whole new world, and what could be better than that.


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