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Numb Fingers, Big Balloons and the Claw - Baby Steps Taken to Learn Guitar

Updated on February 28, 2011
Learning how to play guitar... start off with baby steps. Or you can just pose with a guitar and act like you are cool while strumming!
Learning how to play guitar... start off with baby steps. Or you can just pose with a guitar and act like you are cool while strumming!

At 31 years old, I decided I was going to pick up another hobby. I wanted to learn how to play guitar. Not that this is something new, I have always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. The first lesson; it takes baby steps to get where other guitar players are today, even if you are 31 years behind the curve.

I haven’t had my guitar for very long. Starting out seemed a bit overwhelming. Without much instruction, because I want to teach myself, knowing what to do was difficult. I decided to just start strumming. After all, I couldn’t really play anything, but at least I was faking it pretty good. It was a confidence booster.

My support group includes a family friend who has taught himself to play (and is taking a course in college), my mother in-law who has played in the past, and of course a trusty Dummies guide to playing the guitar. With this information by my side, it is time to get strumming and create some music.

Numb Fingers

I never knew true pain until I realized that 2 out of the 5 fingers on my left hand were completely numb. They felt as if they had blisters on the tips (and they just don't go away!). It is painful and I’m not gonna lie, but it kind of makes typing a little difficult. I guess this is the formation of calluses. And momma always warned about women have calluses on their hands; I guess they aren’t meant to be playing guitar.

I kind of expected the numb fingers, after all, I had been warned. Pressing down on a little metal string that feels like it is going to cut through your finger is not normal… at least not for a person who doesn’t play guitar. Yet, if you want to one day play a song on the guitar, you have to eventually do more than just strum. So I started to tackle some chords. The E chord and the A cord. I don’t know if that really matters, but you got learn one cord first before you can learn another. So based off my friend’s suggestion, these were the chords we practiced switching between. Later I learned about a floating E, or whatever actual guitar players refer to it. I guess it gives it a jazzy effect.

The first day I only practiced for about 10 minutes total, the second day probably less. I know that probably doesn’t speak volumes of success, but at least I strummed for a while. Not to mention I actually held the guitar much longer; but I guess it depends on your definition of practicing. I would guess practicing is actually doing something purposeful that will push you closer to success. I was just strumming. I even went to Borders and looked at some of the guitar books. I saw one that was Easy Beatles Guitar songs and dreamed of a day I could play one of those songs.

With the numb fingers right now, I can only imagine myself plucking away at Row Row Row Your Boat. I am pretty sure you won’t be rocking out to it, but my kids will probably enjoy my guitar talents. So, while I can only imagine, the day is coming where I might be able to enjoy a song that adults won’t mind listening to as well, especially since the itch to practice my guitar is still very strong, even with the numb fingers!

Big Balloons... need I say more!
Big Balloons... need I say more! | Source

Big Balloons

This is a difficult topic (because I don’t want to be flagged by Google Adsense for being inappropriate by using the B word!), but I do want to say how difficult this part that makes a woman a woman really gives an extra obstacle to playing the guitar. Yep, you heard me right, having balloons on your chest will give a woman a big disadvantage. In fact, I am not even sure how Dolly Parton did it. Maybe she had incredibly long arms.

Upon first grabbing my guitar, I realized something was getting in the way. My flotation devices made it difficult to get comfortable, especially since I am trying to imitate pictures of males, who don’t own flotation devices. They made the look of holding the guitar easy. Yet, what is a girl to do? Okay, maybe there are some answers, like using duct tape or an ace bandage to hold those babies down, but I don’t assume that it would be very comfortable! I guess I am gonna have to deal! Yet, thanks to my mother-in-law, I was shown a way for a woman to hold the guitar so you don’t have to deflate the balloons, you just have to work around them.

The Claw

This is probably one of the most useful, yet most painful parts of learning to play the guitar. The proper positioning of your left hand… which I have nicknamed the claw, purely because of how deformed you must make your hand to play properly, is an important first step in starting to play. (Unless you plan on doing nothing but strum. And if that is your plan, strum away. But eventually I want to play a song!)

I have heard that it is uncomfortable at first (which I have witnessed first hand - or left hand!), but I have also heard that eventually it starts to feel normal as your hand memorizes the different chords and patterns. Let me tell you, the claw is awkward. I didn’t know that you could stretch your pinky in such a way to land on one string while your other fingers rest on another. Playing the guitar is almost like Twister for the Hand…. Thumb behind bar, Pinky finger on fret 2nd second string, index finger on fret 12 6th string - impossible. Okay, so that isn’t an actual fingering, but if you are any bit familiar with the fret board of a guitar, you are probably imagining Hand Twister on the fret board right now!

Basically the claw is all about the chords, and for someone just starting, there is a whole lot of chords that need to be memorized! It doesn’t take much once you learn to read tablature, to figure out how to pluck out single strings. The chords are what ultimately make the music… and the claw.

So just be warned, if you don’t play the guitar currently and you are planning on picking up this hobby, the claw is something you need to learn. It is difficult, but it will be rewarding. After all, nothing easy is ever worth learning; and nothing rewarding ever comes easy!

Possible future rock star.... he already has the glasses!
Possible future rock star.... he already has the glasses!

Baby Steps

I hate to admit it, but I don’t look like a rock and roll star yet. Although I am not sure if having an acoustic guitar will make me look like a rock star. Maybe once I figure out a few more of those chords I will have to get myself an electric guitar!

Either way, I have learned an important lesson, and it has nothing to do with the different chords. (Although that is an important lesson too!) Playing guitar requires baby steps. As a young child learning how to walk, they will fall over a few times before they run. While a baby learning to walk is cute, I am however pretty sure no one would say the same thing about the first notes strummed while learning to play the guitar. Maybe painful, but not cute. But, it will take lots of practice - a few baby steps - to get to where I am going and where I want to eventually be.

As of right now though, I have got the itch, so it is time to go grab my guitar and practice some of my chords… and of course the claw, while attempting to displace my balloons as to not interfere with my ability to play until my fingers go numb.

Happy strumming!


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    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      @Peggy W - I agree - playing a musical instrument is a priceless talent. Although I will admit it seemed much easier to learn when I was much younger! :)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I can certainly relate to the balloon part! Haha! Just another obstacle in our path to holding and playing a guitar in which flat chested people have no issue. Oh is all worth it in the end...even if it is for our own enjoyment. Love your sense of humor!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 6 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      @molometer - It is definitely a good skill to have, especially if you learn the proper way by learning the notes and the chord names. I haven't progressed very far since I started. I guess it is my impatience - I just want to play. I might have to grab it out again and give it a shot! :) Glad you enjoyed playing it... and I can only assume your friends just became friends from a distance... at least until your practice sessions were over ! :)

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      This brought back many memories of my guitar practice days.

      The callouses will become tougher as you proceed. Stick with it.

      I too had the complete works of the Beatles and eventually would play the whole catalog.

      With over 180 songs in that one book. I would play them all in one practice session.

      My poor friends had to endure my hours of

      My fingers were so numb but they got used to it.

      Then I bought the Eagles songbook, and lost any remaining friends lol

      Keep it up it is a nice skill to have.

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Thank you DaNoblest... I need someone to keep me going! I have already got all the E chords memorized and my fingers almost go there naturally. Unfortunately there is so many other chords... I need to start working on them as well!

    • DaNoblest profile image

      DaNoblest 7 years ago from California

      Hello neighbor. Since you convinced me to follow you around ill be an evil taskmaster and make sure you keep up with your practice.

      Your calluses will build up in layers over time. Give your fingers a rest here and there though. Let the calluses harden up a bit instead of keeping your fingers raw. Your off to a good start so keep going. Remember I'll be watching !

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Okay... so if you video tape you learning the flute... I will video tape me learning the guitar... ha ha... deal, handshake! LOL

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Gosh I'm in need of some serious lessons! That was hilarious though! My mom and Laurel wanted me to read it to them but I kept getting so hysterical I couldn't get through it:-) oh and get this! Syndey got her registration package for middle school next year - she wanted to play guitar (which of course they don't offer in middle school) so she's going to play the flute! I'm going to learn with her:-)

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      So professional... I substituted boobs for big balloons. I learned my lesson about writing "stop" words and getting the ads banned after writing the Booty Pop hub. Which, not surprisingly hit over 120 views in one day.... and no ads... bummer! LOL

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      See what I mean? LOL! Professional yet sprinkled with laughter and wickedness:-)

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      Ha Ha - I have no patience! LOL.. but I am working on it!

    • Harvey Stelman profile image

      Harvey Stelman 7 years ago from Illinois

      barber, Unless you're a natural, you can only go slow. H