“The dog ate my G chord…”: learning a new skill as an adult

Allison Tait blog
Posted on April 20, 2010

If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a kid, may I humbly suggest you try learning a brand new skill. Not how to use a new iPhone app, how to flambé a crème brulee with a mini-blowtorch (though this idea has merit), or how to speak in those corporate weasel words that continue to infiltrate common speech (I’d ‘go forward’ with that ‘dialogue’ but it would be too ‘outside the box’ for this ‘agenda’).

I mean a real, honest-to-goodness starting-from-scratch skill.

As you may know, Mr6 and I are learning to play the guitar. After one term, we have made some progress. We can now play four notes – enough to jam together as long as we play ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’. We also have, as he will proudly tell anyone who stands still long enough to hear, a few chords in our repertoire. He plays half-chords – twang, twang, twang. I play full chords, full and throaty (or so I tell myself).

When we began, we were both nervous. We both had to concentrate hard. Then our confidence began to grow. And we both came a cropper.

See what I mean. A new skill is a great leveller.

We didn’t have the same problem. He practised one song a few times, until he could sing the notes out loud – B, A, G. B, A, G. B – A. B – A. B, A, G. Trouble was, singing them wasn’t playing them. When it came time to play the song for B, our gorgeous 17-year-old teacher, the pauses between the ‘plink’ of each note were painful.

There was silence when he finished, before she said: ‘It’s great that you know the notes, but by the time you’d finished I’d forgotten what song you were playing.’ His ears went red. He’s practised harder since then – actually playing the guitar rather than walking around strumming an air version.

As for my cropper, I have been diligently practising a song – my first song! – over the school holidays. Very basic chord structure, very repetitive. I was doing great. It sounded a little strange, but I just thought that was due to the untuned nature of my guitar. Then, tonight, three days before we are due back for term two, I came to the realisation that the basic G chord I’d been diligently practising wasn’t actually a G chord at all. It was E. Which is why the song sounded so strange.

So now I have three days in which to reprogram my mind (and my fingers) to play the real G chord when B asks me to show her what I’ve been practising. Three days in which to learn enough to make it look like I didn’t spend the whole holidays eating Easter Eggs and watching tele. Three days in which to show I did my homework.

See, just like being a kid all over again.


  1. Jodie at Mummy Mayhem

    I went through a stage of thinking I would learn the guitar, but it hurt my fingers too much.

    I know. I’m a wimp.

    Good for you. And good for Mr6!

  2. Megan

    Well done, and it must be a great feeling – learning something with your son.

    I tried to teach myself to sew, but lost interest when I decided I could buy things on sale cheaper than making them. I’ll try again one day though, because I think the pride of doing something yourself is greater than money.

  3. Seraphim

    It’s an interesting idea learning a new skill from scratch. I think you are terrific for learning guitar. *wanders off to book tap dancing lessons*

  4. RubyTwoShoes

    Yes, I am thinking -go with it, see what kind of *creative* spin you can put on it, because will be bloody hard to unlearn!

  5. Stacia

    Just consider yourself a music pioneer, like Hendrix or Cash. Turning major chords into minor (?) ones … all part of your brilliance. (Or blame the dog.) =>

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