Here’s a little history. Back in college, I had the grand idea that I would learn to play guitar, join a band and have some fun. I didn’t have any dreams of making it big, just of having a creative outlet. How did I go about trying to achieve my goal?
I bought a bunch of guitars and bass guitars on credit.
Yep, before I even knew how to play, I was buying musical instruments. This pattern is probably pretty common, but I sort of took it to an extreme. In the summer of ’99, I lived by myself, had no cable TV, no car and had a part-time job to keep busy. So I went down to the music store to check out their deals. I bought a Fender pack with a guitar, small amp and some “learn to play” books.
I gave up trying to learn the electric guitar fairly quickly because I just couldn’t get my fingers to contort on the strings. Failure #1. So my next idea was to buy a 4-string bass guitar. Hey, had to be easier, right? So back to the music store I went and traded in the guitar towards a bass guitar. I don’t remember the brand of the first few basses, but here’s the quick synopsis:
- Got bass #1 for a few hundred dollars after exchanging my electric guitar
- Got a 6-string bass for about $800 because it looked cool. More strings had to make me a better player, right? So now I had 2 bass guitars
- Sold bass #1 on a local auction site. Left with just the 6-string
- Bought another 4-string bass for a couple hundred because it sounded good in the shop. It was crappy quality though, which I soon found out. Back up to 2 bass guitars.
- Sold the 6-string for about $450 to the bass player of BlueSuedeGroove (I know at least one of you remembers this State College band!). Back down to 1 bass.
- During my last semester, I bought the 5-string Washburn XB925 (the one I was trying to sell all this year) for about $1,100. Back up to 2 bass guitars.
- After college, I realized I’ll never have the discipline needed to both learn to play the bass AND join a band (why else would you play bass?), so I went to a music shop in Virginia, traded in the crappy 4-string bass and got a 6-string acoustic Washburn guitar (not a bass) for about $350. Now I have a bass guitar and acoustic guitar.
- About 5 years later, early this year, I decided to put the Washburn XB925 bass up for sale.
There were finally some updates about the bass sale this past weekend, but that’s for another time. All in all, I’ve spent a couple thousand on musical instruments, and never even knew how to play. Sure, I could play some cool, long riffs on the bass, but it never translated into anything more.
So what should you get out from this?
- Don’t buy before you know why. Figure out WHY you want to play an instrument first. Talk with friends and people who already play that instrument.
- See if you can rent the instrument vs owning it. Had I chosen to just rent a guitar, perhaps I would have realized quickly that it wasn’t for me, and just gave it back. However, I was on a buying spree, and never even thought of renting. I wanted to OWN it!
- If you HAVE to own the instrument, pay cash. Part of my $12,000-15,000 debt when I left college was this”musical chairs of instruments” routine.
- Get one instrument and stick with it.
- Take professional lessons. That’s unless you’re ALWAYS the motivated type to teach yourself something on your own. However, back in college, I didn’t even have the money for the instrument, much less $50 per hour classes! I bought books and tried to learn off tablature. It was like tracing a picture vs drawing the full thing from scratch for yourself. So find a teacher and thank me later. Takelessons.com is a great place to start looking or you can ask your local music shop if they offer lessons.
- Learn the fundamentals first. Don’t think you can buy a guitar, join a band and be a hero before you can read music (usually). Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but you’re probably not one of them. Sorry.
Any other tips from my fellow readers?
UPDATE!: I added pics of my second 4-string and my 6-string bass guitars. The first picture is my 5-string Washburn bass.