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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Kendall's Korner: All great guitarists had to start somewhere

  • I made a commitment a couple of weeks ago.

    I drove to North Peoria on my lunch hour to drop $100 for guitar lessons.
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  • I made a commitment a couple of weeks ago.
    I drove to North Peoria on my lunch hour to drop $100 for guitar lessons. 
    Of course, being a woman, I didn’t stop there. I had to shop! There were all kinds of little gadgets and colorful devices to look at associated with the guitar.
    I bought three packs of green, black and red marble-looking picks in thin, medium and thick (I’ve since decided I prefer medium). And since I unfortunately wasn’t born a musical prodigy, I also bought a tuning device to attach to the end of the guitar. Lastly, I bought a cloth to clean the strings (I read that one should clean them after playing each time, and the thought of black grimy stuff residing on the strings and getting on my fingertips grosses me out).
    Speaking of fingertips, three of them on my left hand are extremely sore right now. As I type this, I am wincing in pain. They have a red shiny sheen to them currently where the skin has been rubbed off. Another guitarist I know told me when callouses develop, the pain goes away. I am anxiously awaiting callouses, something I never thought I’d say.
    A few weeks ago, a friend gave me an acoustic guitar (thanks John!). I was elated and promptly went home and typed in free guitar lessons on YouTube. Apparently, one of the easiest songs to learn for a beginner is America’s “Horse with No Name.”
    Right. ...
    Even though the song only has two chords, no matter how I strum the strings, it just does not sound like the original. I tried everything: various strumming patterns as taught by different guitar teachers online, watching the video of America performing it live and asking my friend, who plays it so effortlessly, for advice. No dice. 
    This has me a little discouraged, but I’m not giving up. Perhaps this song is just a little too lofty of a goal for a beginner and I should be starting with “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Maybe when I start my lessons officially next month, my teacher, Tim Brickner, will shed some light on this mystery, or he may secretly roll his eyes and think, “Oh, another one on the America kick.”
    I mean, are there certain songs that when guitar teachers hear them requested from their students, they cringe — like when a concert-goer yells “Freebird” at a show?
    Certainly, they wouldn’t cringe about “Horse with No Name” because it’s an awesome song. I’m sure Brickner would agree.
    Page 2 of 2 - In choosing a music teacher, I wanted someone who is serious and professional, and above all, patient. I didn’t want a teacher like the one I had in 1992 when I took piano lessons for a short time. Although he was nice and talented, he came to the lessons in the middle of the afternoon reeking of alcohol.
    Brickner is a professional. He is well-known in this area for his talents, and he’s a touring musician. He plays with the Matthew Curry band, which was opening for acts such as Peter Frampton a few months ago. But, don’t take my word for it, hear it for yourself. Matthew Curry will play at the Blues Festival this Friday, Aug. 29, so you can check them out.
    Each night after I get off work, I look forward to going home to practice the guitar. I’ve learned most of the major chords, although I’m having trouble with C and F. Those are tough. I had to laugh last night when I looked up tips for playing the C chord on the Internet. One site said even the greats like Jimi Hendrix had the playing the C chord blues at one time, but they eventually got over the hump.
    Last weekend, I went to my friend John’s house. He’s a good guitar player (and singer), so I felt a bit intimidated and nervous as I showed him some chords I learned, but he said I was doing great and encouraged me. In fact, he got his harmonica and began playing and singing a bit as I sloppily and slowly switched between two chords. I couldn’t believe it! I was making music with someone and it felt great.
    This is the main reason I want to learn to play. I want to know what that bond feels like — the bond between musicians as they create. I’m also simply passionate about music and have been as long as I can remember. 
    I’ve always envied those who can play an instrument. When I see musicians (and there are a lot in the Peoria area) playing out and about, they look like they are having so much fun. They smile and laugh as they pour their hearts and souls out on stage. I can feel their positive energy floating off the stage, and I want to be a part of that, not only as an observer, but hopefully as a participant someday.
     
      — Jeanette Kendall is the executive editor at TimesNewspapers and the editor of the East Peoria Times-Courier.

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