Monday, July 22, 2013

You are Never Too Old to Learn Something New

For me the whole concept was summed up in a Facebook post that someone placed about the legendary cellist, Pablo Casals. This man knew how to live and how to stay young.

When Casals (then age 93) was asked why he continued to practice the cello three hours a day, he replied, “I’m beginning to notice some improvement.”

Today, I took delivery of 4 Books for Dummies specifically relating to guitar, piano and bass for the sole purpose of learning something new about instruments that I have been playing for a period of time over my life. I’m coming up on the half century mark for my time on the guitar and sort of learned how to play the piano by transferring what I know about guitar and reading music to the piano so I’m really more of a right-handed keyboard player than a pianist.

I learned to how to hit a sand wedge properly from Golf for Dummies and used some of the computer books they sold for purposes of learning more about software while I was working in the business world. The sand wedge technique was learned by the description that Gary McCord (the handlebar mustache guy on CBS and a playing member in the PGA Champions division). Gary shared how he got Kevin Costner to hit a “sand wedge” shot with a garden hoe.

It didn't work at first since it just dug into the sand every time until they bent it into a shallow curve and now it slid along the sand and the ball popped out. I learned about the concept of bounce that day and when to use my sand wedge and when to use my 64 degree wedge (which has virtually no bounce). I also know how to pick a shot out of a hard sand bunker which is something I had to learn at the semi-private course where I worked for year. Essentially, the bunkers there were a little sand on top of a hard clay base.

I also learned how to hit a smooth swing shot that goes straight and was down to about a 16 handicap at one point. I did take some lessons later but the book made it so much easier to understand what the teacher was trying to get me to do. In fact, he said I needed to work on my grip but not right away. I opened up Golf for Dummies, studied the grips and picked the one that felt right for me. The next lesson my instructor said don’t change that grip; it is perfect. The book did a great job of explaining where the v’s in your hands (between thumb and pointer finger) should line up. I fixed a lot of golfer’s bad habits on the first tee due to the stuff I read in the book.

And so I am hoping that I will find similar stuff in the various “musical instruments” for Dummies books that I just got. One is just a song book of old R&B tunes (my first love in music) and lo and behold it is part of the Hal Leonard series that I used way back in the day when I actually took structured guitar lessons. I was getting pretty good according to my instructor (who wanted me to teach entry level players) but I quit because he wasn’t teaching me what I wanted to learn. I wasn’t about to perform with an orchestra or small music ensemble.

I wanted to “play like Domenic” which is a reference to the best guitarist of my time by the name of Domenic Troiano aka Don or Donnie by his closest friends. I did meet him on several occasions at clubs I worked at or at dances where I booked his band The Rogues, who became the Mandala. I always remember asking him after a performance in our high school “How the hell did you that” and will always remember that polite and sheepish smile that said thank you for recognizing my talent. 

I can actually do a lot of that stuff that he did on stage but I know why he was so good. He practiced just like Pablo did. Sadly, Domenic left us before his time when cancer took him but he is up there playing in Rock and Roll Heaven because his reputation among other musicians was well known.

Learning something new is a lot of fun which is something a lot of older folks don’t do much of anymore. I think we all need to take a page from George Carlin and turn the life cycle around and learn how to play all of our lives just like Pablo and Domenic.

How’s it hangin’, guys. 

I bet you are teaching each other some new tricks.

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