Women, rock on.

You will feel pain. But keep at it. It is so worth it.

Girls, it’s going to hurt. Sometimes you won’t be able to do it for more than an hour at first. The tips of your fingers will sting. And when you start playing the barre chords, your arms will ache. You will feel pain. We are not like guys, who build muscle more quickly, have more natural strength. It will be a struggle.

But keep at it. It is so worth it. There’s no greater confidence builder, no matter what age you start. When you can stand in front of people, and you can rock out, the power surge is amazing. You will feel invincible. When you’re not playing, you’ll wonder, is that really me? Can I really do that?

I remember my first time in front of an audience. I had learned “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, and had drilled it at home, crying out my heart into the mic and accompanying myself on rhythm guitar to a backing track.

At rock band class
Playing Nirvana at the beginning rock band class

That song had become my anthem during a truly horrific time in my life, when sudden ruptures in both my working and personal lives had coincided like a biorhythmic triple critical. It brought me to my knees, plummeted me into an identity crisis, and made me understand in a visceral way what the self-loathing inherent in grunge was all about.

I listened to Nirvana for two months straight.

Like a phoenix struggling to reinvent myself from the ashes, I took a music performance class at the local community college called “Beginning Rock Band.”

On the fourth or fifth Saturday of the class, I stood with my guitar in front of a microphone with the makeshift rock band assembled by the instructor from the other younger-than-me beginning musicians. My stomach clenched as the drummer counted into the song. I launched into the dissonant power chords, belting out Kurt Cobain’s disaffected lyrics like my life depended on it.

I think it actually did. The power of performing with a band backing me surged through me like godfire.

I don’t know what would have happened if the effort had failed, but it didn’t.

At the end of the song, the rest of the class didn’t just applaud, they cheered.

It was an amazing feeling. I think my pain from all those months of darkness came through.

Life only got better from then, filled with music, new friends and experiences.

Rock had saved me, once more.

When you’re up there playing, and the music is flowing through you, and your soul is in it, then you will understand why it looks like the guys are making love to their guitars. Despite society’s oppression of women, this will give you the same power as the men. You will be their equal — and not only in the eyes of the audience, but in your own mind.

Playing guitar might be the single most important cure for a girl’s low self esteem.

Women, rock on.

Don’t let a guy talk you out of playing guitar

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Don’t ever let a guy talk you out of playing guitar. You might be still early in the learning stages and not that good yet. Or you might play them a song and he’ll tell you not to give up your day job. Or when you play him the rough recording, he’ll say it sounds like warbling. That’s what happened to me. The words will smite you to the core. It will make you want to give up playing and writing songs. Don’t listen to him.

As I found out later, he’s jealous. Either he isn’t interested in music, or thinks rock is for the immature, or girls shouldn’t play instruments, but should just sing. And if he’s a rocker himself, he’s probably a drummer who always wanted to play guitar.

Don’t do what I did. Don’t stop because it makes him feel that his opinion is more important than yours. Don’t stop because it pleases him. As Journey sings, don’t stop believing. Do what pleases you. Because someday that self-centered asshole will be gone or dead, and you will be left without music and without in yourself. If you’re like me, you might have even forgotten about how great playing guitar made you feel and it might not even occur to you to pick up your guitar again until years later.

There’s one man who would never ask you to quit playing: Keith Richards. He is the ultimate guitar hero. He is and always has been my personal guitar hero. And Keith says if he was locked in jail for life, he would be just fine if he had his guitar.

Sometimes being in a oppressive relationship with a man is just like being locked up in jail. It happened to me. And if I had still been playing guitar, I wouldn’t have been in so much pain. In fact, I might have had enough belief in myself, and enough power, to break out of the prison.

But for me, that didn’t happen until much later. Don’t let it happen to you.