In 1969, when I was about 12, my parents decided that it made sense for the Webner kids to take music lessons. UJ and Sister Cath took piano lessons on the upright in our living room. I didn’t have any interest in playing piano, which seemed kind of prim and stodgy, and it was the era of the early rock guitar gods, so I decided to take guitar lessons instead. Mom and Dad bought me a basic acoustic guitar, and we were off to the races.
Of course, the experience was a disaster. Sure, I wanted to play guitar, but couldn’t I somehow just acquire the ability by osmosis and by really, really wanting to play guitar like Eric Clapton? My teacher was a nice hippie-type guy with longish red hair and a straggly red beard — God knows how my uber-conventional parents found him in Akron, Ohio — but he was never able to motivate me to get past the dull, initial learning-the-basics stage to the actually playing a song you heard on the radio stage, and I was far from having the discipline to get there myself. We started with some basic instruction book, and I quickly realized that I wasn’t really keen about practicing the exercises or the boring and stupid songs in the book and I didn’t have some kind of intuitive knack for playing music. So I didn’t practice, and when I went in for lessons the teacher obviously recognized that I wasn’t practicing, and we both seemed to be okay with that. Within a short period of time I quit the guitar lessons, the guitar went into the closet, and the dreams of rock guitar wizardry were permanently shelved.
It’s a familiar scenario for many parents. Your child decides they want to take music lessons, or you decide they should take music lessons, you buy an instrument for them, and the experience is a dud. They complain about practicing, you hector them to at least try, and ultimately the two sides reach an uneasy armistice in which music lessons are flushed down the memory hole, never to mentioned again. I blame myself for my guitar failure; I admittedly was a really crappy student. But I also wonder if there was something creative that red-haired teacher of mine could have done to get me to the next step, where the enjoyment of playing compensated for the drudgery of practicing.
I thought about all of this when I saw an installment of The Daily Callus, an instructional program on YouTube. My nephew, Miles Greene, is a highly regarded schoolteacher in the Oakland, California public school system. He’s also an accomplished guitar player who, among other gigs, played the processional when my niece Annie walked down the aisle. So it’s logical that Miles would combine those two aspects of his life and start teaching guitar — via the internet. Miles’ focus is in teaching the tools of blues and rock guitar work, and The Daily Callus is the result. That’s Miles pictured above, and you can watch him displaying his teaching skills — and I hope, subscribe to his teaching series — on YouTube.
I think it’s pretty clear that Miles is a very good teacher, and it makes me wonder if I should revive those old guitar god dreams, work through The Daily Callus installments, and see where it takes me. Hey, where is that old acoustic guitar, anyway?