All shredders have to start somewhere


Photo credit: Andrea Nebhut

The tips of the fingers on my right hand are throbbing. I’m left-handed, which is good in a situation like this, although I do use both hands to hammer at the keyboard, so I’m frequently reminded of the pain as I type this column. There are many possible causes of finger pain — the fact that I recently turned 40 could be to blame, or maybe this is cosmic retribution for years of torturing students with mathematics courses — but it turns out that the culprit in this instance is the guitar I got for Christmas.

For some quick background, I didn’t ask for this guitar, nor did I ask for the lessons that came with it (the first of which was this week … see above mention of finger pain, which my instructor calls “a rite of passage”). This was all part of a thoughtful gift package given to me by my wife and in-laws, all of whom know that I L-O-V-E all types of music and that I’ve always imagined how awesome it would be to play guitar.

But, if I’m being honest, this gift scared the hell out of me. I mean, it’s been so easy to make up excuses for why I haven’t, up to this point in my life, actually learned to play guitar. The fact that I didn’t own a guitar was a gimme, but the list is much more extensive: I’ve never played an instrument before; I’m simply too old to learn how to play an instrument (a point my good friend, Dr. Paul Myers, recently said was backed up by science!); I just don’t have the time, etc. The reality is that all of these excuses were just cover for the fear that I could try really, really hard to learn guitar, but ultimately, I may just suck at it. And I guess that’s still a possibility, but now that I’ve admitted aloud that I’m learning to play, it’s too late to go back to the excuses.

So, onward and upward with my dream —and I have to say, the initial progress is quite astonishing! The number of chords in my repertoire has literally grown infinity-fold in just the last three days, which is what happens when you go from knowing zero of something to knowing some of something. To be exact, I can passably play four chords — C, D, G and A — and many people have told me that those four chords will likely allow me to play 95 percent of the songs I’ll ever want to jam out to. Further, picking up these chords has allowed me to compose four different original songs for my two young daughters. The most requested tune in the Miceli house is “G Song,” which consists of me strumming a G chord repeatedly while singing, “G, G, G … ” and you can probably guess how the other three tunes go.

Although “G Song” shows some phenom-like potential, I anticipate the road getting harder from here. It’s not the first time in my life that I’ll have to struggle to get better at something that is important to me, but luckily, all of those previous trials and tribulations left me happier and more fulfilled in the long run. Plus, I haven’t been this excited to learn something new in a long time, and that surely counts for something.

(Note: To all you current strummers out there, I welcome any and all ideas for songs a brand new player can pick up quickly. I’ll even give a shout out in my next column to whoever is the first to suggest to me a song l learn to play.)