October 15th 2007 A Musical Inspiration

When I was in high school, I used to play music a lot. Typically I played bass, since my friends didn’t know a lot of bassists, but I played guitar a bit, too. Unfortunately, since coming to college, I switched majors from English to computer science and subsequently stopped playing guitar for the most part.

Back in August, I thought that this year, I should do something “useful” with my time—like play guitar. I’d always wanted to learn, but never really did. Oh, sure, I learned how to play the guitar, but my technique is really, really bad. It would be nice to increase my musicality vis-à-vis the guitar.

So I went home to get my guitar, a sparkly purple old Lyon that I got almost seven years ago. Unfortunately, the instrument had set in my basement for years without maintenance, so the strings were rusted, the neck was a bit warped, and the electronics were not in the greatest condition.

I ended up buying a used—but practically new—Fender Jag-Stang. Not only does it look cool, but it has the sound I’m looking for: a bright, twangy sound, reminiscent of The Beatles or 60s surf guitars.

The problem is that I still don’t really know how to play the guitar well. I’m also not the most musical person in the world. Sometimes I even get frustrated and feel like I’ll never learn how to play the guitar. Maybe it’s too late; maybe I shouldn’t even bother trying now.

Then I read the Wikipedia article about Tom Morello, the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine and one of the best rock guitarists ever. I always figured that Morello had grown up playing the guitar, but that’s not the case. He didn’t start seriously playing until his second year of college, in 1984. In fact, his early attempts in high school ended in failures.

I found this story to be inspirational. Sometimes I worry that I can’t really develop any new skills or “get good at something”, but Tom Morello’s story shows that anyone can learn to do something—such as play the guitar—with enough dedication. There’s hope for everyone to become adept at a skill, as long as they’re interested and determined enough to become good. If Tom Morello can become an amazing guitarist after starting as a college student, then any of us can get good at something with enough perseverance.