“Do you even know how to play the guitar, Dad?”
Now what kind of question is that? Surely ye jest! That’s almost as absurd as “do you really know how to juggle cats, Dad?”
Of course I know how to play the guitar, my son, and now I’m going to teach you. Remember all the other skills I’ve taught you and your brother? Football. Baseball. Soccer. Cheffing.
Let’s review some of the ol’ papa cat juggler’s earlier columns on these topics.
As for football: “Throw it to me, Dad,” my boy, Johnson, then 9, scolded as I launched short, tumbling, uncatchable passes. “You’re not throwing it to anyone. “You’re throwing it out there.”
Why do I sometimes feel like the Berenstain Bears’ Papa character?
Baseball: “He got hit in the ‘goin,’” Johnson’s then-7-year-old brother, also named Johnson, explained as his elder brother hobbled around. Me and the boys had been tossing a baseball back and forth. OK, my aim wasn’t that good.
Cheffing: My mornings as Mister Mom started as Wife ran down the list of things I needed to accomplish. “Now, here’s the box of macaroni and cheese. The instructions are right on the box. You can handle that, can’t you?”
Now we’re going to venture into the world of the guitar. How hard can it be? It only has six strings.
I’m not sure Wife believes I can play. “‘Strum, strum, strum …’ No, wait. That’s not it. ‘Strum, strum …’ No, wait, I’ve got it now …”
That’s Wife giving her version of one of my guitar concerts. She says it would help if I’d actually learn to play a song.
My return to the music world actually started when the Johnson boys’ younger sister, Smith (who sometimes goes by Julia), began taking piano lessons.
(How hard can it be to play the piano? It only has 88 keys.)
We enrolled Smith/Julia, who is 6, in Howard Payne University’s pre-college music program. Her instructor is Mrs. Dunlap. We have a cheap 36-key electronic keyboard at home, so that’s what she is practices on until we can get something better.
In a few weeks, Smith/Julia has gone from knowing nothing about playing an instrument to being able to read a simple line of music and play simple melodies.
Looking through Smith/Julia’s books, I have struggled to recapture what little musical literacy I once had. At one time, I could barely read the trouble clef, as long as it was one note at a time and the notes didn’t go way above or way below the lines.
I was shocked one day to learn that the piano also uses another clef and the notes aren’t the same as the trouble clef. I could study the note for awhile and say OK, that’s a “C” note, count up two notes and so it’s really an “E” note That was the best I could manage, and it’s still about the only way I can do it to this day.
One recent night, I sat down at our little keyboard and cranked up the volume dazzled the family.
“You’re better on the guitar, Dad,” the elder Johnson boy said.
OK, I’ll juggle clean: I will teach Johnson all I know about playing the guitar, but what’s he going to do after that first minute? So we’re going to enroll him in real lessons, probably through HPU’s pre-college program.
I think his younger brother is musically inclined, but that Johnson hasn’t said what instrument he’d like to play other than the harmonica.
I can see him taking up the drums, and maybe Wife will learn the bass guitar. (It only has four strings, so how hard can it be?)
Yes, we’ll become a family ensemble, kind of like the Cowsills. We’ll be famous, don’t you know.
Steve Nash writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.