"Hell if I know," I tell the kids. "I only concern myself with the rock. Got any questions about the rock?"
The kids look at each other and shrug, then they dance away, singing hip hop tunes. I love them all, and I forgive them.
But sometimes a young person asks me about THE ROCK. Here's one now:
Good to see you're still alive, man. I've missed your ornery self.
So I've been playing around with bedroom recording using cheap software, a cheap recorder, and whatever guitars and improvised percussion bits I find laying around the house (I'm under the moniker "Tumble Notion" on Soundcloud, if you fancy a stream. Pardon my shameless self-whoring.). I've been absolutely loving this, and I recruited a fledgling guitarist friend to spread that joy. However, after an enjoyable few months mucking about and learning (but mostly mucking about), my fledgling guitarist friend decided that he wasn't good at guitar, and, therefore, hated it and wanted nothing to do with the damn thing. I initially thought it to be kind of a phase thing, but it's looking to be a somewhat permanent decision.
SO. How can I lure my buddy back from the guitarless pit he's willingly stumbled into?
Okay, Tumble Notion, the first thing you have to do is go to your local video shop and rent a VHS tape of a film called "Mr. Holland's Opus," starring the Hollywood's whiniest man, Richard Dreyfuss. Who he? Are you telling me you don't remember his from "What About Bob?" Oh man, do yourself a favor. "What About Bob?" is the most cringe-inducingly hilarious film I ever-- what? Oh, right. Mr. Holland's Opus.
The film is genuine Hollywood pap, meant to inspire us to love music and teachers and being inspired, and everything that makes us feel good and cry at the same time. It's actually good and awful at the same time, but I don't actually care if you watch the whole thing. You only have to watch the one scene about the girl who sucks fucking shitty balls at the clarinet so much that playing makes her cry.
Whoa, you say. She sucks AND she hates it? She should quit. Just like your buddy quit, right? Well, maybe we don't actually want him to quit. Just like Mr. Holland didn't want Gertrude (played by absolute smoke-show hotty Alicia Witt. Red-heads rule!) to quit the stupid clarinet.
He makes her listen to "Louie Louie," which is as fun and as easy as jerking off. And BAM! She falls in love with the clarinet, then goes home and jerks off. If I were her, I would jerk off looking in a mirror. Because she's so hot. And yeah, it's politically correct to call it jerking off when a girl does it.
Here's the scene:
And maybe you're saying, "I don't know Van, she's not THAT hot. She's okay, but..."
To you doubters, I give you the smoke-show Alicia Witt:
For those of you who were wondering if Van Hammersmith has a type, I give you Alicia Witt: my type.
Also, after watching that clip for the first time in years, I have to change my opinion: the film is just fucking dreadful, and I'm sorry if you sat through all seven minutes of obnoxious Hollywood garbage. However, I will know make it up to you by providing the simple formula that will make playing guitar fun for people who hate it because they're no good at it.
STEP ONE! Help the hater discover the joy by teaching them a super-easy and fun song. Something with only a few chords and easy patterns. Something like "Louie Louie," or "All Along The Watchtower." (NOT the Hendrix version).
Play that song again and again until the hater gets good at it. Then play it more and more until it's so easy that it's actually fun, and they can play without having to think about it. Play it until they're ALMOST sick of it, and then learn another song.
Make sure that second song is also mega-easy. Repeat the process, adding easy song after easy song until the hater knows a handful of super-easy songs and can play them without having to try hard.
STEP TWO: Um, just keep going, I guess. Learn more songs. Presumably as he keeps playing, the hater will get better, and hopefully won't hate it so much. Not such a fancy, technical system, is it?
I guess the point is that if haters are gonna hate because they suck at what they're playing, let them build confidence by playing easier stuff. When I was learning I always liked the easiest songs best, because I could rock really hard, and if I screwed up or got lost, I could quickly find my place and keep going.
But that's only half the problem, right? As of now, this hater won't even pick his guitar up to try. You're going to have to get sneaky. Arrange a small party. Enlist the help of a hot girl, and let her know what she'll have to do.
At the party, have the hotty flirt with the hater. Have her ask Hater if he plays guitar. He'll say:
a) No. I tried, but I hate it more than going to the dentist.
b) A little, but I kinda quit.
c) Totally. Me and TumbleNotion are in a band called Tumble Notion. Check us out on SoundCloud.
If he says c), then everything is cool. If it's a) or b) then Hotty will have to convince him to try again. She can say things like, "I'd love to see you play sometime," or "It would be great if you guys played a show."
Then, when the party's over she can basically disappear, as long as she swears to never reveal her deception. She's done enough. It's now up to you to encourage him to try one more jam. Teach him something super easy and have some fun, damnit. Make sure he has loads of fun. Get some ketchup chips, or dill pickle chips, or whatever he likes. Get some ginger ale, ketchup chips, and have fun jamming!
Make sure getting him to fall in love with playing is your NUMBER ONE priority. And then?
Then bro, the world is yours.
Was that helpful? No? Just irritating? Worse than Richard Dreyfuss? Ouch. That hurts, man. I'll do better next time, I promise. The next time someone sends me a question at MisterVanHammersmith "at" gmail.com I'll really do my best for real.
This isn't easy, you know.