I don’t believe in absolutes, except one: all rock stars want to be comedians and all comedians want to be rock stars.
Unfortunately, I cringe with terror when someone walks on to a comedy stage with a guitar, because the resulting sound is intolerably unfunny and not musically satisfying.
I’ve often seen musicians like Dave Grohl, Dr. Dre, and John Legend hanging out at comedy clubs. I’ve also witnessed comedians like Sam Kinison, Bobcat Goldthwait, and George Lopez open for bands. The worlds often mix.
I am not one of those people in comedy who wants to be a rock star, because my ego isn’t big enough to think I am musically talented. I am barely capable of writing a one-liner and thinking it’s just passingly funny.
In fact, I have never picked up a musical instrument, unless you count a triangle in sixth grade music class. Last Friday, however, my friend Antoinette set out to teach me the beginning chords of guitar playing.
I have known Antoinette since my sophomore year of college when we worked on the student newspaper at Cal State San Marcos. As you can imagine, I ruffled some feathers with my writing, and she always defended me when she overheard shit talkers. She’s also one of three people from college I still talk to, and the only one I still see. Clearly I trust her, and I don’t trust many people, especially when it comes to a person teaching me something.
I learn best when teaching myself, but Antoinette is a college professor, so if anyone could teach me how to do something she would be the one.
Antoinette sat me down, busted out her guitar named “Simon” and then pulled out another guitar for me to learn on. She handed me a guitar pick and then pulled out a tuner. I explained that I wasn’t so clueless that I didn’t know what a pick was, but that I wasn’t informed enough to know how to use a tuner. She explained to me that guitars quickly get out of tune and you need to adjust them before playing. Apparently, the weather can also affect the tuning of a guitar. Who knew? Probably musicians, I guess.
I had no idea an adjustment needed to be made prior to playing. I just assumed you could pick up the wooden box with a strap and start strumming. After we tuned our guitars Antoinette showed me how to properly hold the guitar and instructed me where to place my left hand. From there she showed me which fingers go where to properly play the G chord.
I had some difficulty keeping my fingers steady at first. I felt like I was playing the board game Operation, because the slightest touching of a string I wasn’t supposed to touch caused an awful sound. I eventually got that chord down and we moved on to the D chord.
I effortlessly nailed the D chord and was starting to get more comfortable with the contraption in my hands. Antoinette assured me that I was adjusting quickly, given my lack of musical experience. The only issue I had was that my left hand started to cramp up. We had only been holding the guitars for a little less than a half hour and I was experiencing some discomfort. I half expected that issue to arise, because as I’ve stated before, my hands and fingers are pretty jacked up from being a diabetic and breaking them on multiple occasions.
We took a short break from the lesson so I could crack my knuckles, and Antoinette told me that if I got into guitar playing then I should consider a Hendrix guitar. Apparently Hendrix had his guitar strung in the opposite direction so he could play with his right hand. My right hand is my pimp hand so it would make sense that I too played with that hand. That is no doubt the only thing I will ever have in common with Hendrix, that is unless I die from choking on my own vomit or one day become a black man.
We then moved on to the C chord and I eventually got the hang of that one. Through a gradual and slow process I was able to figure out each chord, but I couldn’t possibly imagine stringing those chords together throughout a song with the addition of other chords. I imagine it would become easier through repetition and practice, but I don’t foresee having the energy to make that happen.
Antoinette proved to be a great teacher, since that’s what she does for a living after all. I don’t think I will be pursuing guitar playing as a hobby, however, because my hands just don’t have the dexterity for the practice. I do have a newfound respect for musicians, however, because I didn’t realize the complexities associated with the art form. I guess when it comes down to it even crappy bands like Nickelback have some talent.
In my case, I’m glad my fingers won’t allow me to have musical talent, because the last thing the world needs is another guitar comedian.