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Learning Guitar

gary-lushbaugh-north-high“You really should just give up. I don’t think this is for you.” I was in the 4th grade, attempting to learn how to play the trombone when my music school teacher said those words to me. After 4 or 5 weeks of trying, I took his advice and called it quits. I didn’t attempt to play a musical instrument again until high school.

1983 North High Choir

In 1980 I got lucky. My high school began offering a guitar class while I was a sophomore at North High in Hagerstown, Maryland. A new music teacher arrived that year, and someone decided it would be a great idea to offer a guitar class in addition to choir and musical theater. Mr. Gary Lushbaugh was a great teacher and a really nice fellow. I even enjoyed the choir class he taught.

alfred-learn-guitar-bookI don’t remember exactly what lesson book we used for guitar. I recall it was rather thin and perhaps had a brown cover. Maybe it was an early Alfred book? I don’t know. But the funny thing was, our teacher didn’t know how to play guitar!! He was an accomplished piano player, teacher and choir director. But guitar? Nope. So that made things a little more, um, interesting.

I still remember the first day. After the usual introductions, he told us to go out into the hallway where old used guitars were stored in the closets. “Grab one, bring it back in here and get a book and read the first lesson”, he said. “If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to try and answer them.”

Uh. Okay.stunned-look

After failing miserably with the trombone, I was more determined this go round. My grandparents were generous enough to buy me a used acoustic guitar from a local store. So I practiced most days and I became a teacher’s assistant before the end of the school year. I was hooked. I ended up helping Mr. Lushbaugh the following year as an aid. I had a blast!

My early worn out songbooks
My Taylor 514 CE

Now I wish I could say I’m a truly accomplished guitar player. I’m not. Even after all of these years, I’m just an intermediate player. (I have a brief sample at the bottom).

Back in 1982, I bought an Alvarez Yairi DY45 which I owned for 25 years before I replaced it with a Taylor 514 CE acoustic guitar (shown). It was one of the few times during my first marriage that I splurged on something for myself. Boy, was I glad I did. What a wonderful guitar! It revived my interest and got me playing a lot more.

I grew up trying to learn Beatles, James Taylor and other songs from the 70’s. Pictured above are four of my most worn out song books. It includes a “Great Songs of the 70’s” collection plus and a Phil Keaggy songbook — an amazing Christian guitar player and song writer that I discovered in 1983. I still like to pluck out a few of his melodies. I spent a majority of my adult years playing Christian contemporary tunes and occasionally I played in church as well.

If someone asked me what my two main hobbies were, I’d answer with ‘playing guitar’ and riding my motorcycle. I hope to write a little more in the future about guitar and music.


  1. KIA

    Sounds great. I played trumpet thru high school (84 grad) then nothing till 1997 after I came back from a short term mission in south korea. Only started to help my prayer life at the time. Then started playing for the children’s church, then helping the regular church. Never got past simple chords. Started bass after that.
    Since deconversion, I have lost the fire for playing though. It’s always been associated with church and worship of a biblical god I no longer worship and never existed in reality.

    • Clay

      I know what you mean about feeling a strong association between music or an instrument and a past life with church and worship. I spent so many hours of my life in learning and playing Christian songs. Now what? After deconversion, it was liberating to re-embrace a lot of my old favorite secular artists.

      If you ever choose to pick it back up, I’ll be writing a review for an online ‘learn guitar’ site in the near future that I really liked.

  2. Stan Adermann

    I played a little electric guitar when I was in high school and college. I never had lessons, just picked up a few things on my own. I eventually dropped it, and then a year ago I decided to start again. I got an acoustic, got lessons, then soon picked up a classical. Even though I’m still not great, I’m at least playing consistently. Best thing I’ve done in a long time.

    • Clay

      Very cool. I’ve never regretted time spent practicing / playing guitar, but I often regret time spent vegging out in front of the boob tube.

  3. Megan

    It’s so great to see how much happiness you get from playing guitar! Guitar is such a fun instrument because you really don’t have to be great or know a lot to have a lot of fun with it. Glad you didn’t give up on music after some of those early experiences!!

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