30 Day Song Challenge #26: A Song That You Can Play On An Instrument

[Day 26: A Song That You Can Play On An Instrument]

Mason Williams – Classical Gas

I have an interesting history (of failure) when it comes to musical instruments. I was forced to learn recorder in primary school like a lot of people, but my skills always remained somewhat specialised in playing Hot Cross Buns. I then attempted to learn a band instrument, however didn’t score well in the application test and so was presented with an option: clarinet, or nothing. I was desperate to play an instrument so I chose the former and stuck with it for a couple of years, however I never really enjoyed it.

A few years later and I tried my hand at learning the flute, figuring that my mad clarinet skills would be somewhat transferable and that it would be a more enjoyable to play. And I did quite enjoy it for a while, however stopped playing just as I was on the verge of actually being alright, after three or four years. So I was left having learned three instruments and being unable to effectively play any of them.

But then I picked up a guitar for the first time, and was determined to stick with it this time. I really got into it, playing pretty much every day for the better part of two years. But then I felt I wasn’t really getting anywhere in my lessons and would be better served just teaching myself, which was probably a mistake. Once again I just had a gradual falling out with the instrument, playing it less and less and caring about it less and less. I still play my guitar every now and then, but it’s only to reprise songs I’ve already learned rather than to learn new stuff (and I still fucking hate bar chords).

It’s interesting then that easily the hardest song I learned on guitar is the one that has stuck with me most: Mason Williams’ brilliant Classical Gas. To this day I still think it is the greatest guitar piece ever written, and back in the day I was absolutely determined to learn it. I obviously didn’t have the skill needed to play it yet, so my time was spent literally rope learning every single note. It took forever, but I could see that I was making progress and so stuck to it.

In the end, I learned the song up until about the one minute mark of the video pretty much up to speed. This was a huge achievement for me, and after the effort and time I put in it’s perhaps little surprise that how to play the song is now burned into my subconscious. I can’t for the life of me play the song slowly, because that means thinking about every note- instead I need to play it up to speed and just let my memory take over. It remains one of my goals in life to learn the song in its entirety, however that might have to wait until I have more spare time.

And I can also play the Starlight riff on piano. Awwwww yeah.

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