Skylar Harris – Learning to Play Guitar

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

For my STEP project, I chose to take guitar lessons at a shop called Music & Arts. My lessons were typically divided into two categories: songs and theory. On song days, my instructor would teach me how to play a song of my choice, or occasionally a song that he felt would best help me apply my newfound theory knowledge. On theory days, we learned musical concepts like the Circle of 4ths, the Circle of 5ths, and the 7 modes. We then took that general theory knowledge and learned how to apply it to the guitar.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

The major lesson that I was able to take away from my experience playing guitar was to not take life too seriously and that sometimes you can do things just because you enjoy them. When I initially started taking lessons a little over a year and a half ago, I did it with the intention of eventually performing live, or posting covers to YouTube. I had always enjoyed singing, and I wanted to learn to play an instrument so I could accompany myself and possibly make a career, or at least a “side hustle”, out of live performance. With that mentality, I always walked into guitar lessons trying to be the best, and if I played badly or missed an assignment/weekly practice I would always get upset and apologize to my instructor.

Over time, I learned two things that changed my view of the world today: if you want something, you have to make time for it and not everything needs a deadline. By saying “if you want something, you have to make time for it,” I mean that learning new skills takes practice and time management. I would often forget or not have enough time to practice because I was poorly managing my own time. This meant taking on too much work, or doing things that I wasn’t totally passionate about. To change this, I had to cut back on some things that I was doing, but I also had to recognize that missing a practice for another activity was okay and I shouldn’t punish myself for it.

The second thing that I learned, “not everything needs a deadline,” means that I have all the time in the world to learn to play guitar. Although I would love to become the best guitar player ever and to pick up live performance, I have to recognize that that is not a short-term goal and it doesn’t have to come to fruition right away. If I want to continue to take guitar lessons and pursue performance after school, I can absolutely do that, but right now I should be focused on my education and having fun while learning a new skill.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

One day, when it was clear that I was frustrated with how busy my week had been and how little I had practiced, my guitar instructor said to me, “It doesn’t matter to me if you haven’t had time to practice this week, all I care about is that you can come here and enjoy yourself for the half an hour we have together, before you have to go back to the stress of the rest of life”. That moment made me realize that not everything I did had to have an immediate deadline or ulterior motive. Although I still love singing and playing guitar – and would like to perform sometime in the future – I do not have to put so much pressure on my self right away, and I can take the time while I’m still in college to focus on my studies and other things going on in my life. If I still want to take guitar lessons and work on performance in the future, I can, but right now I should focus more on enjoying the process. Talking to my instructor is what made me realize that I should focus more of my attention on relaxing and having fun, rather than pursuing a goal in everything that I do.

One key aspect of my experience in guitar lessons that helped me to learn this lesson was my instructors flexibility with scheduling. Although we typically met on the same day every week, he was always open to changing days or times if I had something else going on. This meant that I could take time for myself if I needed, whether that be to finish an important school project, or to have fun at an OSU football game.

Another aspect of guitar lessons that really helped me learn to enjoy myself was my instructor’s teaching style. There are many music instructors out there who focus on teaching their students by a book – first you learn scales and then you learn to play Yankee Doodle and so forth. Instead of being so rigid with his teaching, my instructor allowed me to choose what we were going to do for our lessons. Some weeks we would go over theory, but then we would take two to three lessons to learn a song that I loved from start to finish. I have learned so much music from my favorite artists, who are the reason that I love music so much in the first place, which made me really appreciate my teachers style and allowed me to enjoy the process.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

I think that learning to relax and have more fun with life has really helped me better my mental health over the last few years. Since I was young, I have always been the person who takes on too much work and ends up incredibly stressed out and anxious when deadlines roll around. The summer after my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with a panic disorder, which forced me to really reevaluate how I wanted to live my life and what I wanted to focus my attention on. I think spending the last year and a half playing guitar made me realize that I have to learn to take time off from pursuing work or school or other stressful things in life to enjoy the things that I love.

While this doesn’t really seem like it directly pertains to my academic and professional goals, I believe that living a balanced life is essential to achieving goals and becoming successful. When I am stressed out, I suffer and so does the quality of my work. By taking time for myself throughout the day, I can ensure that I am performing well both in my classes and at work.

Here is a photo of me practicing my guitar skills on a beach in Chicago.

This is a link to a video of my guitar teacher showing me how to play “Honest” by Mali-Koa, which is a beautiful song if you would like to check it out.

One thought on “Skylar Harris – Learning to Play Guitar

  1. STEP is proud to be able to support your growth and the realization that you need to take time for the things you like to do to balance the things you have to do.

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