Some imagine that the life of a medical student is a rather monotonous one: study, eat, sleep, study, eat, sleep. To be sure, there is lots of that (more study, less eat and sleep), but surprisingly, there is still quite a bit of time to enjoy people and things apart from those basic functions. If you're efficient, you can be an excellent student without having to compromise too much of the things that enrich your life.
I'm not always as efficient as I'd like to be, so hobbies and leisure activities have sadly fallen by the wayside over the past few months. But with the P/F grading scheme, and with a more tractable class schedule (I don't have to go to school everyday for the next few months), I've decided to take the time to try some new things and revive some old ones.
A few minutes ago I was practicing the classical guitar. I have no background with this instrument. I have a fondness for spanish/classical guitar music and I've always wanted to play, but I really don't know much about playing any instruments. I've tried a couple of times to pick up music in the last few years, but for one reason or another - usually finances or lack of time - I've never followed it through.
This time I think the conditions are right. I really would like to be able to play the classical guitar with a reasonable degree of skill. Music - both listening to it and playing it - is something one can enjoy over a lifetime. It engages parts of the brain and soul that crushing Step 1 questions just doesn't : ) So, two weeks ago I took the steps to start playing guitar.
As it turns out, my neuroscience professor mentioned in passing that he plays classical guitar and that he picked it up as an adult. I asked him how and he told me that he works with a teacher 1x/week. Over the last 6 years, he's gotten pretty good. If he can do it at twice my age, I should be able to.
I contacted his teacher and made an appointment. My professor was kind enough to let me borrow a guitar for a while so I can see if I like it. Hobbies are expensive, and music is particularly expensive.
I went for my first lesson last week, and it was not what I expected. The teacher, while quite talented himself at playing the guitar, was very scattered and seemed to not know how to train a beginner. He assumed I knew things that I didn't, and he wasted a lot of time (and my money) with tangential topics. I left his house disappointed, not knowing if I'd be able to play the guitar at all. With a wedding and honeymoon to be saving for, how could I justify more than $150/month for an indulgence. More importantly, how could I justify that kind of money for an experience that I wasn't going to enjoy or benefit from too much?
So, plan B. The internet is my friend. No longer do teachers have a strong hold on knowledge. With some discipline and the right resources, one can teach oneself just about anything. Classical guitar is no exception. With a little Googling, I found a plethora of sites offering guitar lessons with high quality video, message boards, and other instructional material. I went with a site called Jamplay, which offers thousands of hours of instruction for $20/month. That's half the cost of a single lesson with a live instructor, and I'm getting so much more. I can play and practice when I want, where I want, and in a systematic and methodical way. What good fortune we have to live in 2011! All that information at my fingertips.
So that's what I'm going to do. I'm learning to play guitar from some books, videos and just practicing. Like most everything else I've done in my life, I usually end up having to teach myself. I think this time, there is a real chance of staying on course. From what my more musically inclined friends tell me, there is benefit to having a live instructor work with you. But invariably, they say that the benefit comes more when you're in the intermediate/advanced level, not the beginner. That's somewhat counterintuitive, but I believe it. So when I get better and I find my progress starting to plateau, then I'll go back to the teacher and see what he can do for me.
I'm going to practice a little more and then get to bed.
Let me leave you with one of my favorite guitar musicians. Enjoy!