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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Guitar Learning in the Dock – Let the Judge Decide!

How outrageous claims for learning to play quickly could end up in court and turn Jailhouse Rock into a reality

Did you know that you could learn to play the guitar in 10 hours and your first solo in 15 minutes? If you can wait long enough you could learn the piano in 30 days, and can do so without music sheets and exercises. What’s more you don’t have to be musical or talented or young to do so. Isn’t that wonderful? All you need is to follow clear simple instructions and will be rocking and rolling or whatever takes your fancy in no time at all. Forget about practise, learning music, and technical development – those are all terms and concepts we can now discard to the dustbin together with old-fashioned methods and stuffy academics. Yes siree, there is a whole new world out there of fast learning waiting for you, and it is found on the internet. Just key in “learn the guitar” or “play the guitar” or “learn the piano” into your search bar and just see what comes up.

The vulgar language of hard sell has caught up with learning a musical instrument. Guitar learning sites are using the same language as those selling vacuum cleaners and other consumer products. Behind all this is the long reach of the commercial approach which understands that the most persuasive and powerful advocacy for learning to play an instrument is that anybody can do it in no time at all. The language of hard-sell is then neatly employed to counter the most off-putting factors which are the difficulty of learning, the dedication required, and the time one must put aside.

Sooner or later some clever wag may decide to test some of the ridiculous claims being made by learning sites. Encouraged by the challenging notion of “learn to play in 15 days or your money back” our wag decides to take one of these organisations to court.

This is how it could go:
Barrister for the plaintiff:
My Lord, it is our contention that my client deserves his money back since in 15 days he has not been able to master the guitar, let alone play a tune all the way through without hesitation, nor string together three chords with any fluency. The claims made by the accused pander to the deep needs of many and profiteer from their wishes to play an instrument, by falsely claiming a methodology which is shallow and misleading. For these reasons the accused should be obliged to return the £130 pounds handed to them on false pretences, since he has misrepresented what is truly involved in learning to play.

Barrister for the accused:
May I start by saying, My Lord, that my learned friend shows an approach to learning rooted in ancient traditions which while quite laudable in certain contexts bears no relation to the modern world in which we live. People wish to learn quickly their favourite tunes. In an age where time is at a premium my client offers a highly specialised service carefully catering for the wishes of enthusiastic learners who do not have the inclination nor energy to go through previously established procedures such as learning music and hours of practise of what are regarded, even by experts in the profession, as boring exercises.

The Judge:
At issue here is what is meant by being able to play the guitar. Could the plaintiff give us an example of what he considers his failed attempts at learning so that the Court may hear and come to its own conclusion? Please pass the plaintiff a foot-stool and chair so he may feel comfortable.

The Plaintiff:
I will play you “Three Blind Mice”. I have followed the instructions for 15 minutes as indicated and this is what I have come up with.

[He proceeds to produce a disjointed barely recognizable set of note with a passing resemblance to the tune in question].

The Plaintiff:
Now I will play you a three chord sequence on which I worked on for 30 minutes as suggested. As you will see I get my fingers tied up in knots and it takes ages to put them on the right frets, and even then the sound is full of buzzes.

Barrister for the accused:
Objection, My Lord. The plaintiff seems to expect to be able to play three chords in succession quickly and neatly, but at no time did my client suggest that this would be the case. The fact is that the plaintiff has been able to play the three chords sequentially in the space of about two and a half minutes and thus in accordance with my client's brief for learning. My client says quite clearly: as he progresses through the course of 50 lessons he will improve and so may I take the liberty of suggesting that by the end of the course he will be able to play them in 10 seconds. As for Three Blind Mice it may very well be that the plaintiff's fingers are too short or too long or disproportioned to effectively manage the task of playing it. This itself should be a matter for expert witnesses to determine since my client's method is aimed at the average hand and finger lengths.

The Judge:
Please pass me the guitar.

The judge now tries to hold down a few notes and strums quietly across all the strings. Gradually he plays louder and his breathing becomes louder and more shallow. His tongue protrudes out of the corner of his mouth. He leans over the guitar till all we can see is the back of his wig. Suddenly he looks up and says firmly:

The court is adjourned until 2pm. Plaintiff, may I borrow your guitar till then? Thank you so much. In preparation for this trial I watched a video by a singer called Elvis Presley in prison. It was called Jailhouse Rock. Very interesting indeed....now, how did it go?

To be continued....

5th May 2013, London

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=2413 .
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