Learning to play guitar

I started playing guitar when I was about 15 years old. My first teacher, Ms Kidd, taught me how to play basic things like Greensleeves. So I did that for a year or so: Greensleeves over and over again. After that, I had teacher called Paul, who was in his early 40s, with long hair, faded jeans, and a stack of Led Zeppelin records. He also liked ACDC. A lot. In the first lesson, he asked me what I’d like him to teach me. “Mariah Carey”, I replied. At the time, I mostly enjoyed listening to pop music, so I didn’t have much interest in learning Wonderwall or Smells like Teen Spirit. Lessons with Paul didn’t last for much longer. He’d play complicated riffs, and tell me that he couldn’t believe that someone with a guitar wasn’t listening to Hendrix. “Hendrix who?” I wondered. (I’m just kidding, but I didn’t know much about music).

A year later I went to University. My bedroom in the accommodation halls was close to a jukebox bar, and I remember hearing this amazing song again and again: the most beautiful song I’d ever heard. I didn’t know what it was, but every time I heard it, I just stopped and listened.I found out later that it was Radiohead’s Paranoid Android. Shortly after, I bought the Best Of Blur and started listening to bands like Ash and Idlewild. I went to indie nights and watched people jumping up and down to Debaser by the Pixies, or head-banging to Rage Against the Machine. I had no idea that music could be that good.

My first gig was Ash at the Brixton Academy; one of the most exciting events I’d ever been to, just because it was all so new –queuing outside for ages, wearing an Ash t-shirt (I wore this so often that I’d be referred to by strangers as ‘the Ash Girl’), being at the front, waiting for the band to come on, feeling envious of Charlotte Hatherley, hearing all my new favourite songs. Ash were perfect for me: they were tuneful, and – best of all – they played live all the time.

The more indie and rock music I listened to, the more I wanted to play guitar. I (finally) learnt the chords for Wonderwall. In 2001, my parents bought me an electric guitar for Christmas: a black Squire Stratocaster, with a small amp and an effects pedal. I played along to my favourite Ash songs and wondered what it’d be like to be in a band.

I wrote probably about 10 songs when I was at University. They were all fairly short and simple, and they weren’t personal songs. They were just sad stories. A song called Lost, for example, was about a woman who gave a child up for adoption and later regretted it.

After I left University, I became interested in other things: films, art, historic houses, football, baking, museums, books. I spent most of my free time in cinemas and art galleries. I still went to gigs, and at least one festival a year, but I spent less and less time playing guitar. When I did play, I’d be frustrated by my incompetence.

In 2013, I met Ross, who I’ve now been with for nearly 3 years. Hearing him play his songs, and seeing what he was working on with other musicians inspired me to start taking things more seriously. I wrote a song called Do you Know on a warm Sunday afternoon. That was my first proper song, and I went on to write some more songs that formed my first EP.

Playing guitar is now part of my daily routine. I’m not great at strumming, but I’m really proud of how much my fingerpicking has improved, and while I'm still only very average, I would never have been able to play (or even write) a song like Ghost this time last year. You can listen to Ghost at the link below - probably the hardest guitar part i've created for myself!


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