The party is over. I’m taking these guitar lessons as a way to relate to my adult students better. I have no illusions that guitar lessons are even remotely the same as returning to school all day and taking science or chemistry. I know that playing guitar is a hobby, something fun and enjoyable whereas chemistry is not. I’ve been putting in a lot of practice and finding the time to pick up the guitar everyday (I try to practice at least ½-1 hour every evening) all the while keeping up with my job, the gym, home responsibilities etc… and that is where I see the parallel. The commitment to learn, putting in the hours, going to the lessons, juggling everything else is an exercise in the non-cognitive skills required to be successful in school and life. So far I’ve been practicing the scales, strum patterns and new chords as I’ve been asked to by my teacher. I’m sure that anyone, if given the choice between practicing those things or studying for a chemistry test would choose the guitar. There is a certain satisfaction from hearing “do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do” or the familiar classic rock sound of strumming G, C and D in a row, even if it is poorly done and the exercise is repetitive. But my latest assignment brings no satisfaction. It’s as tedious as chemistry nomenclature and has the added bonus that it hurts. It physically hurts. The exercise requires me to stretch my fingers across 4 frets on the bottom string (I think in guitar lingo it is actually the “top” string but I’m going with “bottom” being closest to the floor). I then alternate between plucking that string and moving each finger up to the next string (B string) one at a time, playing it, then moving the finger back down. Once I’ve cycled through every finger I keep them all planted on the bottom and repeat up the strings of the guitar. This is boring and a recipe for a cramp in my hand. The idea is to promote finger independence and dexterity. It is no fun.

The non-cognitive skill here must be persistence and delayed gratification. In the end I’ll say, “I’m glad I practiced that,” but that day seems far away.


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