I may have a son with no rhythm.
It’s worrisome to me and even my wife gets visibly frustrated.
He’s been hinting at wanting to mess around on my stuff for a while, back-ending the hints with suggesting that he wants to learn how to play.
“Give it a few years.” I reply, “Let your hands grow some more, so you can grip the neck.”
We got him an annoying Paper Jamz guitar for Christmas. It might be spelled with an “s” at the end, but I’m willing to bet they went with the hip “z.”
When it’s powered on, it automatically goes into some shitty Ok-Go song. I figured out how to set it to “freestyle,” which enables you to play it like a regular guitar with pre-loaded chords.
It took him a few tries to learn how to set it to free style, and once he had, he just runs around with it, strumming fast and licking out his tongue. I tried to point out that you could actually play a song with it, if you put your mind to it, but he ignored me and watched his reflection on the sliding door to the deck.
I used to do the same thing with a tennis racket.
Last week I was making dinner for the family, and I had my IPod in a docking station in the kitchen. I put the thing on shuffle and did a little dance with my daughter to Elvis Presley’s “His Latest Flame.”
The boy must have noticed and felt a little jealous about the one-on-one time with my daughter. He ran upstairs a grabbed his little toy guitar and ran back downstairs. He came into the kitchen-the stupid OK-Go song blaring over my music while E proceeds to take off his shirt and flick his tongue wildly.
I tell him to cut it out because he’s disrespecting me and The King.
Suddenly, D.J. Shuffle goes from Elvis to The Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner.”
“That’s an idea!” I thought, noticing how impossibly simple the song is. It’s merely two chords, certainly enough for even my son to learn.
I borrow the Paper Jamz and quickly determine where the fingers should be on the guitar in order to plan along with The Modern Lovers. I give him back the guitar and point out where the finger placement should be.
There wasn’t any trouble in putting his fingers on the correct frets, but he was really struggling with the timing of the chords. They were fast, they were slow, and they follow no linear rhythm at all.
“It’s real easy! Listen! Ba ba bom! Ba ba bom” I repeat, in unison with the song in the back ground.
“Follow the beat, buddy.” Offers my wife who stopped in as she walked by the kitchen and noticed what I was doing. She clapped her hands to help him find the beat.
“One. Two. Three. Four.” I tell him, using my index finger like a baton.
It’s no use. He’s not following.
My wife throws her hands in the air with exaggerated frustration. “You’re not going to be one of those kids who can’t keep time, air you?” she questions, knowing that there is no way that he can really answer that question.
“It’s ok. I don’t need to learn how to keep time. I’ll just solo!” He explains, glancing again at his reflection while returning to what is apparently his signature move: playing one chord fast while scrunching up his face as he flicks his tongue in and out of his mouth.
While I admire his gumption, I tell him that even lead guitarists have to keep time-unless you’re Yngwie Malmsteen, and everyone follows the vapor trails from his meticulous shredding.
I try to explain that timekeeping is an essential part of any instrument and think of ways to better explain it. He’s good at math, so I begin talking about 4/4 rhythms and beats per measure.
It’s no use. He’s now incorporated putting the guitar behind his back while playing and wagging his tongue.