An Accidental Classical Guitarist

by Gerry Busch

During the 1960s, while attending university, I came under the influence of the big folk music revival, but got into classical guitar quite by accident. In an attempt to teach myself music notation for the purpose of writing songs, I bought Carcassi's guitar method.

The guitar I had been strumming simple chords on at the time was a little 3/4-size guitar with nylon strings and a rather warped neck. The fact that it had been designed as a classical instrument had never entered my mind.

In fact, I had never even heard of playing classical music on a guitar. The idea seemed preposterous at first, until I ran across one of Julian Bream's LPs, and then was fortunate enough to see him perform in person on our campus.

Bream's playing certainly helped pique my interest. However, listening to a virtuoso such as Bream can be just as discouraging to a beginner as inspiring, because a virtuoso is always a tough act to follow. If you spend too much time listening to flawless performances of difficult pieces, you may feel that you will never be able to play as well.

"Never let the professionals get you down," a music studio owner once told me -- good advice, which has served me well.

Music was not in my curriculum at all, but on visits to the university library, I always found myself sidetracked into researching the composers of the pieces I was learning to play. Once the obsession had set in, I spent so much time with my instrument between classes that I neglected my course work and had to stay up all night to cram for exams.

A few years after graduation -- yes, I did pass those exams after all -- I managed to find work in music studios as a guitar instructor, even though I was still entirely self-taught.

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Dec 18, 2010
An update
by: Gerry Busch

Just thought I'd post a little update, or sequel, if you will. After I submitted "An Accidental Guitarist", my practicing sessions started to diminish due to problems with osteoarthritis. This is age-related, and has reduced my manual dexterity, which was never the best to begin with.

You can well imagine the frustration, but I've recently started playing more regularly. Since I play only for my own amusement these days, I've stopped being such a perfectionist and have started taking a few liberties with the pieces that give me the biggest problems. Leaving out a few things, an unessential note in a difficult chord for instance, is my way of coping, and usually doesn't detract from the beauty of the piece, since the harmony remains -- at least I can still hear it in my head. A music teacher friend of mine used to say, "When in doubt, leave out." So I'll add: "When in pain, leave out." :)

Here's a little acrostic verse of mine on the word "Guitars"; it describes my situation:

G rains of wood so thin and fragile
U nderneath the strings --
I f a player's hands are agile,
T hen the soundbox sings.
A rthritic fingers barely make it;
R ight or wrong, I have to fake it.
S ure is hard to play these things!

Now, I wouldn't advise you to fake a piece in front of a music teacher or an audience, but neither would I advise you to let physical problems deter you from playing your instrument altogether. Do the best you can with what you've got, and above all, enjoy yourself!

Feb 26, 2010
by: moni ata

your story is as encouraging for beginners as
inspiring , so , thank you .

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