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Guitar Hero

Posted 3/9/2019

My guitarMy guitar

Since October 2018, I have been learning guitar with my group of working profession brothers. At first, I had high resistance. I love singing, but I lack interest in learning or playing music instruments, aside from perhaps piano, for I like piano music. So when asked if I wanted to sign up to learn guitar, I initially declined.


However, because of the possibility of using guitar as an outreach tool, learning guitar became a group initiative, and I had no escape.


So it began, with no guitar and no sufficient funds to afford one, another brother shared one with me. We started with the basics, such as the proper posture when holding and playing a guitar, identifying the strings by their numbering and chords, and tuning. We then learned the finger positioning of chords C, A-minor, D, and G—which took us a few weeks just to master them—before we studied basic music theories such as notes and beats.


We have lessons for most Sundays, except for one Sunday each month, while we were encouraged to practice during the week. I eventually purchased a used guitar online for less than half of its original cost that better suited me—a ¾ sized guitar. With my lack of guitar knowledge, I had to research for the sizes and tried them out at a music store before purchasing.


Over a month into this endeavor, we were attracted by someone from another group playing “Happy Birthday” with a guitar, and after knowing that the song only requires three notes, we jumped on it and started learning. Still barely knowing chords C, D, and G, we practised and performed at a Christmas event for those who have December birthdays. I don’t know how others felt, but it was a disaster for me. I had difficulties rapidly changing chords as my fingers went ballistic along the strings and flats. As basic as the “Happy Birthday” song, it was almost as challenging as mountain climbing—which I’ve never learned either.


As the calendar changed to a new year, we realized that we needed to slow down and be more coherent. We are working professionals with some are married, so our time of guitar practise is limited. Our instructor—who is an on-call medical staff—decided to give us study notes and simply the lessons. After re-learning the basics and practising strumming the few notes together—C, D, G, and A-minor—we focus on familiarity in finger positions and changing chords together, and we only move on to the next step when everyone is ready, so no one feels left behind.


As a group, and with no pressure to perform, we practise “happy Birthday” and “Amazing Grace” once we are used to changing chords at a decent speed. During the past few weeks, I have practised “Happy Birthday” to a certain extent, despite still slower than the song’s typical rhythm, for I believe the saying of slow and steady win the race.


My Visual Impairment, and Courage to Overcome Comfort Zone


It is not easy for me to try new things, not only because of hesitance or lack of interest, but also because of my visual impairment and the psychological barriers that came with it. I will not reiterate about my vision, as it is described in detail in my biography and other blog posts, but the effects are detrimental and discouraging. Despite so, God helps me overcome some barriers by learning guitar.


1. Fear of failure


As if having less vision than an able-bodied person isn’t bad enough, I have realized that I needed to try extra hard not to fail when performing tasks just to achieve the same results as others. So when I first tried guitar, I was nervous, hesitant, and negative. How could I play music if I can't see the chords or music notes clearly? How would others react to my slow learning progress? Would I drag the entire group down?


Like in other situations, my initial plan was to quit—or flight, if given the “fight or flight” scenario. As much as I am a competitior, I have too much pride to embarrassment myself and burdening others. The rest of the group could proceed smoothly without me.


But little did I realize, someone praised me for my fine strumming skill. A group member then reiterated that praise and encouraged me to keep practising so that God will use me to glorify Him one day. I looked at the other brothers who were practising strumming different chords and thought, “No way would He use me first.” But there is no telling who or how God would use for His iminstry and purpose, just like the twelve disciples that He chose, with most of them being merely fishermen.


2. Reluctance in challenge myself and overcoming my comfort zone


With my visual impairment and fear of failure came my complacence of maintaining my comfort zone. Like everyone, I like to be secure and safe from harm, and I would be safe in my comfort zone. Therefore, I lacked motivation of challenge myself. If you don't try, you won't succeed, but on the flip side is that you won't fail, either.


This barrier was present since I was young, when I had trouble excelling in levels higher than that I was comfortable with, whether it was from playing video games, performing tasks, or spiritual pursuit. Once I have reached a certain level, I thought I was good enough and lose the desire to improve further.


Because of this attitude, I wouldn't practise as diligently as I should even after getting my own guitar. I knew, after learning the basics, that the learning curve would become more steep, and eventually I wouldn't keep up. I would stay at the same low level while others excel. Others who have normal vision who could read notes clearly and quickly, others who could adjust quickly on the fly, others who have greater potential than m perhaps because they could retain information better or whatever else.


However, the brothers have been patient with all of us, and no one can question God's work behind the scenes. After being overwhelmed by a couple lessons on music theory, a brother voiced his concerns about our uneven progress with the teaching brother, which led to the decision to restructuring the lessons and redefining our goals. Since January, we have been learning and progressing as a group, so no one is faster than others.


Moving Forward


It has been an eye-opening few months learning guitar. As much as I have my challenges, I have learned a few lessons through God's help and the brothers' encouragements. And that is the thing, that I'm not learning guitar at a typical class setting, but I'm with a group of brothers in Christ who teach and learn with love, and who care for each other's progress and well-being. We rise together, we fall together, and we strive on together.


We don't know what God has planned for us or how He will use us. No, we may not be musicians who have global concert tours, but perhaps—by learning some basic songs—that we can bless the church and others, maybe through performances at events, such as playing the “Happy Birthday” song in December, or use it as testimonies to attract unbelievers to know God, realizing how united and loving we are both as a group and as individuals. The most important thing is to have faith and be diligent, just like in our spiritual pursuit.


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