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One morning during Spring Break, I awoke with a feeling of determination. I had the entire day to myself and, with an empty schedule at my bare feet, I knew exactly what I was going to fill it with.
When my grandpa passed away, I inherited one of his acoustic guitars. For quite some time, I had wanted to learn how to play. I also had a set of bells under my bed that I had purchased in fifth grade. That day off was going to be dedicated to learning how to play guitar and read sheet music for piano and bells.
I got out of bed and put the instruments and music in the middle of my floor. I turned on my computer and started the internet. Going through songs I thoroughly love, I came up with a few to look over and attempt to play. I settled on learning “The Only Exception” by Paramore on guitar and bells.
After I printed out the sheet music, I wrote the notes down and went over them, over and over, until I had the general flow memorized. After these accomplishments, I went to the kitchen for some lunch. Even the most spectacular rock stars have to eat.
D sharp, E, F sharp, F sharp, E, D sharp, D sharp. “The Only Exception” was learned rather easily. I had some trouble getting used to using two hands to play; I am not very dexterous.
For a while, I stumbled through the song. It took an extremely long time to get through the song. I could not get up to a speed that fit the tune. Playing it was like trying to power walk through dense brush-you can’t do it quickly without tripping and falling. But, after practicing more, I finally played through the entire song with no mistakes. And I sighed deeply and grinned.
Finishing that song was like watching sunshine break through a cloud. All the shadows are gone and you see pure beauty, pure grace, and hope surges up and bubbles over your soul. That is precisely how I felt. It was a simple accomplishment but it was monumental to me. I lose patience quickly and give up when I do not succeed at first. But that day I found myself far more dedicated to learning music than I ever had before.
After I played “The Only Exception” through a few times, I kept smiling and decided I needed to share the news. I texted my boyfriend, Tommy, and best friends, Austin and Hayden, to tell them of my accomplishment. I wanted to share it with the world! I was absolutely thrilled to be able to play a song I have on my iPod and sing along to on the radio. It was incredible, and for the first time, I realized what it felt like to have a superpower. It was something unexpected and exciting to be able to do.
I decided that, since I had learned the bells rather well, I would focus on guitar. I picked up the acoustic and tried to tune it the best I could. I twisted and tweaked until it sounded just right; finally, all the strings sounded like they should and I went to work on learning the chords for “The Only Exception”.
Chords are not my forte. Tabs are not either but I have worked with them far more than I have with chords. That day was my first experience with chords and at first, it was extremely challenging. The playing styles are almost the same-you still strum down and your fingers have certain places to go. But a chord is a set position for your fingers. Tabs are relatively the same but the string placements are separate, not grouped together. A chord is a placement of one to sometimes six finger placements. Remembering where each finger goes for each chord is challenging. That spring break day was a daunting one, but I am so thankful I took the time to learn.
The three chords I focused on were G, D Minor, and C Major 7. At first, I had to look up the finger placement pictures and force my fingers into the right places on the neck of the guitar. Finally I had them figured out. I could play each chord and even strum along to the tune of the original song. Joy! I was so thrilled! I danced around my room for a moment, and then returned to the instrument. I had to focus; up next were chord progressions. I had to learn how to change from chord G to chord Dm and then on to chord Cmaj7 and back to G. Thrilling, terrific, and terrifying. How does one move their fingers so deftly? I learned how not to progress, that is for sure.
After much work and blistered fingers, I had it. I knew what to do and I could even play the song, chord progressions and all. It was timid, it was sloppy, but it was a song. And I had learned it. At about this time, I received a call from my mum. She was on break at work and called to check up on me. Asking how my day had been going, she was greeted with ecstatic mumblings. “Mum, I’ve learned a song. I have! I really have!” I was so excited and ready to share the news. Upon hearing the song I had learned, “The Only Exception”, I could hear the smile in her voice. The song is truly beautiful. I sing it often and have always wanted to play it on guitar from the moment I considered learning the instrument.
I chatted with my mum for a bit longer and then went back to work on honing my raw skills. I worked some more on chord progressions. I tried my hand at smoothing out the strumming and I worked on my fingers until they could reach all the frets when they needed to. It was challenging, my hands, and my nerves were a bit fried, but I did it.
The rest of my day was spent working over “The Only Exception” on bells and guitar. I worked and worked, and finally, I closed up and went to bed. The feeling I had as I tried to fall into unconsciousness was absolute contentment. I was so proud to have accomplished what I did. I succeeded in doing something I had never done before. It made me want to go out and try more and more things and learn as much as possible. That feeling of accomplishment is truly addictive. It kept me up until I almost passed out. I was exhausted from satisfaction. It was a splendid day off. I will always remember that day and how thankful I am that I spent that time on learning the guitar and bells. Music, in my opinion, is one of the greatest art forms. You cannot touch the final product. Getting to know how it works from the inside out is truly remarkable. I felt honored to have the chance to learn music. The sleep I had that evening, once I did fall into it, was wonderful. It is amazing how well you can sleep when you have really done something spectacular and unexpected.