I’m sitting on the worn, black pleather couch of Rocket Music in downtown Blacksburg. The shades are drawn. The lights are off. College kids stop and cup their hands around their eyes against the glass door. They see guitars and want to come in, and are baffled that the shop is not open.
The shop is closed for guitar lessons.
I’m listening to our daughter’s guitar teacher sing “Renegades, hey hey hey!” He plays his own guitar, then stops to place her fingers on hers. X Ambassadors’ Renegades is her favorite song on the radio right now, and she wanted to learn it. As he did with Rachel Platten’s Fight Song, which she wanted to learn for her 4th grade talent show, he found the song on the Internet, listened a couple times, then showed her how to listen and test so she can figure out how to play.
“The timing is important on this one. Check this thing out I just learned how to play. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 — kind of weird timing isn’t it? Here, listen to this.”
He queues up a complicated song on the stereo so she can hear the timing. They listen for a bit, then he queues up Renegades again. He plays along, counts out loud to focus her attention on the timing, then starts adding flourishes that don’t exist in the original. He shows her how when you get the timing down, you can layer onto a song.
I love these lessons. I have no musical talent. Music is like magic to me. Our daughter puts hier little hands on the strings, and music comes out. The Beatles’ Day Tripper, The Star Spangled Banner, songs on the radio, boogie blues.
I love listening to him critique her — gently. “That was great, let me hear it a little cleaner.” When she resists something hard he tells her, “You have to challenge yourself or else you won’t learn.” And she listens. She adores him, respects him, is learning all about music from him. He treats her like a peer, even though she’s only ten years old.
They come out from the back of the shop, and he’s talking to her as they walk, “Getting from G to B minor is the only part, really. You’ve got everything else.”
She zips up her guitar case and I gather my purse and book. As he always does when we leave, he tells me how amazing she is: the words every parent wants to hear.
“She learned that whole song in one lesson,” he said. “I just can’t believe those little hands can do so much — more than even some of my adult students with full-size fingers!” He wiggles his fingers.
He continues as he unlocks the shop to let us out, telling her, “Your hands are going to be so strong you’ll be able to pick up a boy and just throw him. Rawr! Like King Kong.”
We wave and get into the car, laughing, smiling, and feeling good, as we are every week when we leave the guitar shop.
For the month of April, I will publish a 10-minute free write each day. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page. Trying to get back into the writing habit.