This time of year, we often hear this phrase –– “It’s better to give than to receive.” No doubt all of us would agree –– it is better to give than to receive. We mostly think of it in terms of giving presents this time of year. All of us know how overwhelming it gets in December.

Well, I have a confession to make—I’m turning into one of those crazy people. Unfortunately, I’m turning into someone who is thinking more about receiving. I know exactly what I want this Christmas. A guitar. An electric guitar. Actually, I would like to have five electric guitars. As you can see, I’m out of control. Believe me, I need help.  

It all started long ago when I was in a band. Now, on the face of it, that sounds very cool. Yes, I was in a rock and roll band. Like Eric Clapton is in a band. Like Kenny Wayne Shepherd is in a band. Like James Burton is one of the all-time great band guys. 

I assume you have determined by now, the chasm between any of those all-star guitarists and myself is as wide as the Grand Canyon. Here is the truth of the matter. When I was in high school, my brother played drums in a band. They couldn’t find a bass player, so they asked me to join. 

The name of the band was The Koucheomees. (What did you expect from a bunch of high school kids.) You pronounce it just like it sounds. We wore white shirts with big, black polka dots, black jeans and black boots. We played school dances and even played at a beauty pageant one time. If you had taken a survey of all the bass players in the world, I would have been among the worst ever, and that is no exaggeration. 

My band days were over when I left for college. The lead guitar player was pretty good. He went on to play with another band and they produced a couple of albums. All these years later, I still have a love of the guitar. Which brings me full circle to this Christmas and my outrageous request for five guitars. What makes it even more outrageous is that I can’t even play one guitar, much less five.

So, I thought I would seek out an expert in the field and get some advice. Luckily, Corey Bissell agreed to meet with me. You know Corey as the lead guitarist for the band Star Chamber. They have made a name for themselves by winning the 2017 Music Prize and Band Wars last March.

In a relatively short time, Corey has an impressive musical resume. He plays a variety of instruments in addition to the guitar, including the piano and drums. His goal is to support himself through his music, and he is succeeding. Corey teaches music at the Montessori School in Shreveport. He also gives tons of private guitar lessons in the area. I’m thinking, if anyone can give me the answers I need about my guitar obsession, it’s Corey Bissell. 

It didn’t take long for Corey to put life in perspective for me, and I appreciated the honesty. The guitar is a difficult instrument to play, he began. It takes time, it takes commitment and it takes lessons. Corey doesn’t want to teach someone the basics­—he wants you to have a knowledge of the instrument and knowledge of music. Makes good sense. 

Early on in life, we learn a couple of valuable lessons –– the best way to success is through hard work, and you get out what you put into something. That applies to the guitar, as well.

Corey also suggests starting with an acoustic guitar, rather than an electric guitar. (My wife will be happy to hear that, since I have my eye on five electric guitars.) The reason? An acoustic guitar is more difficult to play, and that’s the point. If you begin with an electric guitar, you rarely go back to acoustic, but if you begin with an acoustic guitar, you can quickly advance to an electric guitar.

So, I asked the next logical question. How many lessons would it take for me to be proficient on the guitar? Corey suggests a lesson a week and a minimum of four hours practice a week. Of course, like all the great guitarists, Corey spent thousands of hours practicing his craft. Still, between lessons and practice, it’s still a commitment. He assures me I will see solid results in 12 months, and the big payoff would come in 30 months. If you have a dream, go for it, he would say.

That’s exciting. I have a game plan. Now I just have to see if that white shirt with black polka dots still fits.