When I first started professional guitar classes, I chose a teacher who I had heard was really cool. My friend told me that he was the kind of guy who’d let you play what you wanted, and who wouldn’t get really upset if you hadn’t practiced so much during the week. And since I was just starting guitar lessons, I didn’t want a teacher to make my lessons a chore; I wanted to learn guitar for myself.
At my first guitar lesson, I found out my new guitar teacher was a Texan with long salt-and-pepper hair and a glazed look in his eyes. Man, could he play. Best of all, I could tell that we were going to be friends. At first I was just going through the basics, trying to read music, learning the scales and chords. But within a few weeks I was ready to play songs. He asked me what I liked to play. At that time of my life I was just getting into Bob Dylan. He asked me if I ever listened to Nashville Skyline. I had never heard of it; he said it was Bob’s first foray into country music. “You know the song ‘Lay Lady Lay’?” “Of course,” I said. “That was on Nashville Skyline.”
I went home and listened to that song and fell in love with it. The syncopation, the lyrics, everything about it epitomized the romantic notion of guitar playing that had made me want to start taking lessons in the first place. My learning of the song coincided with my falling in love with a friend, and when things wound up not working out, I had to tell my guitar teacher. “Don’t sweat it man,” he said. “How old are you?” “Twenty-one,” I responded. “Twenty-one? You’re free to live the rest of your life! Now pick up your guitar and let’s get playing.” The chords I played attenuated my sorrow, making me feel better about everything, like a songbird singing before a new dawn.
I stayed with my guitar teacher for a year, until he decided to move back to Texas and get back into playing with bands. We still keep in touch and he asks me about my playing, but I’m so busy I don’t play nearly as much as I used to. And I don’t find a different teacher because something wouldn’t feel quite right, as though I were being unfaithful to my first guitar teacher. Which just goes to show how important choosing the right guitar one for your lessons can be.