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Why Everyone Should Try An Instrument At Least Once

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not musically inclined. I can draft a novella quicker than some can cook breakfast, copyedit with my eyes closed, and do a spot-on impression of Cher from Clueless. Yet, if you put a music book in front of me and sit me down at the piano, chances are very high that you will not like what you hear. It’s a shame, really, because I love music more than just about anyone I know. From the lyrics to the instrumental compositions, I love to dissect a piece and really sink my teeth into it. When I was younger, I kept spiral-bound notebooks wherein I’d write all of the words to my favorite songs. Keep in mind this was about two decades before Google took over and you could quickly search for the lyrics online.

Rather, I had to do it the old-fashioned way. I’d sit by my boombox in my room with a blank cassette just ready to record my favorite jam. As soon as it came on, I’d hit that button, then immediately begin scribbling down all the words I could catch. Some were more difficult (I’m looking at you, “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs n’ Harmony) while others I could get on the first try.

It was around the spring of my seventh grade year when I developed my intense obsession with the band Shenandoah. I say I loved the group as a whole but who I truly adored was Ralph Ezell, the lightning-handed pro behind the gorgeous bass guitar solos that stole the show on many of their title tracks. A country music lover since birth, wandering aimlessly in a family in love with R&B and soul music, I thought if I simply tried hard enough and directed some good thoughts in that direction, I could hone a talent akin to his.

I came home from school one day and begged my mother to sign me up for guitar lessons. It was nearing my birthday, so I informed her that all I wanted that year was a shiny new one. Then, like all moms somehow just know how to do, she pulled some (literal) strings and granted my wish. I was greeted on my birthday morning with a gorgeous new guitar, tucked sweetly into a black case lined with blue velvet. I picked her up and looked her over like someone had handed me the crown jewels. She’d arranged for me to take lessons with this elderly woman a few towns away, who advertised in the local newspaper. A renowned musician in her younger years, she’d said in her ad that playing was the only thing that kept her fingers from cramping up with arthritis, so she continued to play, and to teach.

As I couldn’t yet drive, my mom would load up me, as well as my two younger siblings, into the family van. They’d all sit in the car for 45 minutes while I went inside and learned some chords. I’ll never forget coming out of my first lesson to find them all stifling back laughter, then eventually just erupting in giggles on the drive home. My sister, only seven at the time, remarked that it sounded like someone dying in there. I gave it my best college shot, but the woman’s temperament, coupled with my hard-to-ignore total lack of skill, eventually got the best of me. I asked my mom if I could just “practice” on my own and I’ve never seen her more relieved in my life.

I did just that for about a month, then eventually lost interest and started dating the boy one grade above me who would become my husband in about 15 years. But I kept that old bass guitar and every once in a while, I get it out of its case. I strum my fingers across its strings and our two children cover their ears in mortification. I’ll never regret my time spent dabbling in music, primarily for what it taught me about my family, myself, and the real world.

I learned that my mother and father will do absolutely anything if they think it will make me happy. I learned that musical talent is a gift to be revered and respected, and not something that just springs up overnight. Once I finally figured out how to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” (still my crowning moment), I learned that if you practice long enough, even the most novice among us can grow. Playing the guitar taught me more life lessons in a few short months than many learn over the course of a lifetime. I’ll hold onto it until my own kids are able to ask me for it one day, eager to try their hand and give it a go. Of course, like my own mother, I’ll encourage them ceaselessly, mock them minimally, and love them fiercely all the way.


Courtney Myers is a freelance writer and editor from High Point, NC. A music lover since she could crawl, she enjoys talking about everything industry-related, from the technical side of music to the whimsical. 

Why Everyone Should Try An Instrument At Least Once

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