Am I too lazy to learn an instrument?

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I've taken guitar lessons off and on (banjo lessons too but to a much lesser extent), but they've never fully taken, largely because I don't like to practice (then again who does), which I think is also a product of some lack of dexterity/strength in my fretting (left) hand. Making chords has always been a challenge (finger positioning, anything that involves long distances on the neck, etc.), which screwed up my rhythm and made me sound like a grade schooler (though technically that's probably where I was as a guitar student), and so of course I'd get frustrated with a lack of progress and end up giving up. (TBF, the last time I was taking lessons, it was the pandemic that put an end to it, and I just never picked it back up.)

That said, I still want to learn ~some~ kind of instrument, simply for personal enjoyment and maybe to appreciate the (professional) music I listen to more. Is there something else that I might be better suited for? I'm thinking piano, just because so many people play it? I'm wary of it turning into another abandoned hobby, though.

Kim Wipers - Youth in America (Leee), Wednesday, 5 October 2022 21:21 (two months ago) link

Guitar is self-contained and portable, which makes it appealing (and clearly you wanted to learn). One of the hardest things is overcoming the basic-competency hurdle, where you're always thinking about the mechanics of doing it instead of enjoying the sound you're producing. Two ways I can think of - go through music you like and find stuff based on e.g. 2-5 straightforward chords, so it's not a big skill load, and enjoy the fact that you're playing it - gives you a chance to lock in the finger patterns so other stuff becomes easier to tackle. Another option is to find a song you know just 1 or 2 chords for, play it on your stereo, and jam along on the bits you know, again making the movements more automatic so you can tackle more complex stuff with less effort.
e.g. there is one chord in Wilco's "Spiders / Kidsmoke" (an E played as a power chord, second string, 7th fret) that you can hammer away at for ten minutes and feel like you're in the band. Or Radiohead's "How to Disappear Completely" vamps between C and Em with an added 7th (?) on alternating bars. The Church's "Under the Milky Way", all easy songs with pretty good payoffs if you like those artists. Learning Bowie's "Space Oddity" unlocked guitar fun for my (admittedly very musical) daughter.
tl;dr it's not laziness, it's a lack of enjoyment in the process, and if you can find a way to enjoy it it becomes self-sustaining.

assert (matttkkkk), Wednesday, 5 October 2022 23:14 (two months ago) link

also get a good instrument, there is nothing worse than putting in the work, getting it right, and still sounding like shit. Find something that gives you a buzz when you pick it up, adds to the motivation. Never tell yourself "oh I'm not good enough for this" if it speaks to you - who cares, it's your money. With guitars, you should always buy used if it's electric, use the savings to get it set up right. Used acoustics, you need advice in case it's got hard-to-remedy problems.
That said the current Squier "Classic Vibe" and "Paranormal" ranges are of outstanding quality. Not so much the Affinity models, but the CVs are hard to go wrong with. I bought two recent Squiers this year and both are fantastic guitars, right up there with the Fenders I own, and in some aspects actually better.

assert (matttkkkk), Wednesday, 5 October 2022 23:19 (two months ago) link

I've played a $200 acoustic guitar for 37 years, you shouldn't be intimidated by the need for a fancy instrument if you have a desire to make music. Admittedly if it had been a $20 guitar I probably would have tossed it out the door, a certain level of playability will make it a lot more enjoyable.

Halfway there but for you, Thursday, 6 October 2022 02:46 (two months ago) link

for sure, “good” can easily be $200, I once bought a 50s parlour guitar for $14 which I love. All I meant was don’t buy the cheapest package at Guitar Center or whatever.

assert (matttkkkk), Thursday, 6 October 2022 04:36 (two months ago) link

I have a Yamaha classical guitar, which I bought before finding out that their necks are thicker, which makes thumb-over chords much harder for me.

Matt, that's good advice, and it's stuff that I have done before as well (Warpaint's "Billie Holiday" was one of the last that I tried to play along to). Maybe I need to reassess what I want out of it playing and what to expect from it.

Kim Wipers - Youth in America (Leee), Thursday, 6 October 2022 21:32 (two months ago) link

Thumbs up on Matt's advice!

I feel like there's a small but significant minority of people who can decide "I want to learn an instrument" or "I want to learn a foreign language" and can actually follow through on such an abstract whim, and their success sets an awful example for the majority of everyone else, because we're not wired that way, and that sets back effective pedagogy for the general population.

I think most music instruction in particular is poor, and it's telling just how much more successful fake music instruction like Guitar Hero and the like is at getting people excited to get good at something. I think one obvious takeaway is that Guitar Hero is intrinsically song-centric, which maps far more closely with most people's intrinsic motivations in that there are specific songs people like to inhabit, rather than increasing some abstract instrument-playing ability. When's the last time you thought someone was lazy for quitting Guitar Hero?

So if there's one thing I'd want a guitar teacher to do before anything, it's to map out a course of songs a student is genuinely excited about learning, and making everything subordinate to that, rather than vice-versa (e.g. here's a technique, now practice it 1000x in this garbage drill, then learn this garbage song you don't care about.)

I do think it would help to ask how other people might order the difficulty of songs you'd like to play, and tips for negotiating tricky parts. Ramones songs are a notorious example of being supposedly bonehead easy but to this day I don't think I've ever gotten the downstrokes up to speed.

Philip Nunez, Thursday, 6 October 2022 22:28 (two months ago) link

Totally agree on that stuff!
also one last thing, electrics are WAY, WAY easier to play, playing anything other than classical on a classical guitar is really pushing it uphill. The wide flat fretboard is great for precise positioning in classical playing but for chords and rocking out? forget it IMO. I'd recommend something like a Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster or Strat (again not Affinity models) and it'll be loud enough to enjoy unamplified. Unfortunately the pandemic blew up guitar prices but you should be able to find a used one around 200 if you're patient. If you like the hollow body / Gibson thing there are good Epiphone Dots for a little more than that. Then if you want to get an amp, a Fender Mustang is a cheap one with good amp modelling, or a Vox Pathfinder 10 (or Pathfinder 15 if you are crazy lucky to find a used one). There's also such a thing as an Amplug which is a tiny amp circuit that you can plug into the guitar jack and listen on headphones.
Happy to comment if you want to put up a possible purchase for advice!

assert (matttkkkk), Friday, 7 October 2022 00:34 (two months ago) link

one thing i'll add--fender play has its quirks but for a pretty cheap monthly rate you can access a ton of varied lessons which mix up drills, techniques, songs, etc. if you're a 20 minutes a day type of person when it comes to practice i think it's a good option.

call all destroyer, Friday, 7 October 2022 01:23 (two months ago) link

w/r/t piano, that's something where the fake instrument rhythm games end up actually teaching you piano, provided you get a keyboard peripheral, but that does bring up the idea of every computer already having a (typing) keyboard.

My thinking is that with just a bit of tweaked training, a typing keyboard can be just as expressive an instrument as a MIDI keyboard. In a lot of tracking programs, they even crudely map piano keys to typing keys as an alternate form of note entry. But it doesn't have to be limited to that -- you can have keys correspond to any paradigm: https://www.patatap.com

What do y'all think about a computer keyboard as a musical instrument as something you'd be enticed to learn/play with the same kind of dedication as with a traditional one? I've heard piano players with smaller hands complaining about the standard sizes of most concert pianos -- they wouldn't have that problem with a computer keyboard.

Philip Nunez, Friday, 7 October 2022 17:18 (two months ago) link


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