Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The House is Alive with the Sound of "Music"

My mom bought the girls their very first "real" guitars for Christmas, a couple of Fender Starcasters. They're gorgeous little guitars and I think I was about as excited as the girls were. Kyra probably would have been more excited to get a Hannah Montana guitar, but I was glad that my mom didn't go that route and buy her a total piece of crap for her first guitar. It wasn't too much later on that Christmas morning that the three of us assembled in the den for their first "lesson", the girls nearly bursting with excitement as visions of stardom danced in their heads. Those visions quickly evaporated as I wrestled with their inexperienced fingers to help them each form a "D" chord, where they realized that playing the guitar is a painful experience in the beginning.

"It hurts my fingers," Kyra complained.

"I know, Sweetie. Those are steel strings and they're going to hurt your fingers for awhile until you build up some callouses on your finger tips."

I finally get their fingers to stay where they need to, or close to it, and give them the green light to strum away. Pldit, pldit, pldit...not the prettiest sound in the world, but they don't care. They're making music. We "play" for nearly a half-hour until their fingers are totally raw and call it a day. We've had several lessons since then where the primary goal is to play a little bit more to build those callouses.

As a parent, I feel like one of my duties is to recognize the natural talents, dreams and passions of my girls and then to equip and encourage them to develop the skills necessary to see them come to fruition. Not in a psycho Lynn Spears kind of way, where I see the talent of my children as my meal ticket to a better life, but in a much more subtle way, where the girls are happy and fulfilled by the pursuit of their passions. If learning and playing the guitar helps in that regard, great. If not, well we gave it a shot.

My mom recognized my musical talents at an early age and did what she could to encourage their development. She tried to get me to audition for choirs and musicals and even offered to pay for piano lessons. But in my mind, I was a jock, and even though I secretly longed to be on stage and in the spotlight, I was terrified of the abuse I would get from my friends for partaking in such "sissy" activities. I politely declined her offers and to this day, my biggest regret in life has been not taking her up on those piano lessons.

Kailey and Kyra have inherited some of those natural musical talents, so I take up the mantle where my mom left off. Kyra is a natural and driven performer. She actually scares me a little bit because I think she would like nothing better than being the next Hannah Montana. Seriously. She is constantly singing karaoke and performing in the family room. It's her favorite thing to do. She could spend hours a day perfecting her craft and be perfectly happy.

Kailey lacks Kyra's drive, but is probably a little more naturally talented. Kailey could be a fantastic music writer someday. I am amazed by the emotional complexity of the songs she comes up with right off the top of her head. While many kids her age might sing about horses and rainbows, Kailey sings about things like being left out at school or just wanting to be loved. These aren't things that she personally experiences (at least I hope not), but that she's witnessed and that has impacted her enough to permeate her songs. When she's improving a song, Kailey sounds much, much older. One of my favorite things to do is to grab my guitar, play a chord progression, and have her sing an original song. Her stuff is good. Really good. Tempting-to-rip-off-and-claim-as-mine good. But I haven't...I'm not that desperate...yet.

So we'll start off with guitars and callouses and "D" chords, and we'll see where that leads us.


Muddleman said...

I am impressed that your girls are letting you teach them. I know better than to try and teach my daughters guitar, as somehow I seem to suck the fun out of it.

I hope that your kids learn quick enough so that they get some joy out of playing songs, but slow enough so that by the time they want electric guitars, they are too old to want you to buy them these: http://www.fenderhellokitty.com/images/hellokittypinksmall.jpg

the battered ham said...

Well, they're letting me teach them so far. We'll see if it lasts.

And Kyra walked in as I was looking at the link of the Hello Kitty Fender. I had no idea she was there until she gasped and shrieked "I want THAT!"

From now on I think I'll check my comments AFTER the girls go to bed.

WilyHacker said...

I remember those days of building up callouses and torturing my roommate as I learned. One thing that can make it easier to start for the girls is to drop the tuning on all of the strings by a half step. This releases the tension on the strings and should be easier for them to press down. Put a capo on the first fret and you are back in business.

the battered ham said...

That is a great idea. I'm on it!