If I Had Some Talent

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Story Submitted by Justin:

Fiona and I met at a party that mutual friends threw. She had come there with another guy ("Not my boyfriend," she told me) and we spent a good amount of time talking. She gave me her number, and the next thing you knew, we were on a date.

Fiona was a musician, and she asked me if I wanted to hear her play her guitar after dinner. I did, and after we were done, she led me to her car, and she pulled out a guitar. We walked to a nearby park bench, we sat down, and she played.

It took less than a minute for me to realize that she had likely not been a guitar player for very long. In fact, I wondered if she had ever picked it up before that evening. I don't think she formed a single cohesive chord, although her singing voice was good.

She finished playing that first song and I told her, "Very good. You have a great voice."

She thanked me, then launched into another song. Again, she was basically just strumming and moving her hands about at random. She sang along, but there was no rhyme nor reason to her playing. It was just plain strumming.

"I've been playing for five years," she told me, "I've written some original songs that I want to put onto an album."

"Your playing is sort of... experimental," I offered.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Well, your voice is great. The playing is... not like anything I've heard before."

She beamed and said, "Thanks!"

"Have you taken lessons?"

She laughed and asked, "Do you really think I need them? I'm a natural. Name a song and I'll play it."

I named the one of the few songs I knew how to play, myself: If I Had a Hammer. She butchered it. I asked her if I could try it. She handed me the guitar, and I played it, a mistake here or there, but ultimately at least it sounded like the song.

She shook her head as I played and said, "You're doing a few things wrong." I handed her the guitar and she stumbled through it again.

I said, "But you're not really playing the tune. It's mostly random strumming."

She said, "It might sound that way to an untrained ear, but I can assure you, I'm playing flawlessly."

I replied, "You're just strumming randomly.  Half of the time you're not even making chords."

"Okay.  Everyone I've ever played for has told me how good I am.  Your jealousy is showing."

I said, "It's honesty.  You have a nice voice, but I think your playing could use some work."

"My playing is flawless.  You made fifty mistakes on a little folk song.  Count how many I make on it."

She played something, which I guessed she thought was If I Had a Hammer again.  No chords, no tune, just strumming and her voice.  Once she was done, she asked, "How many mistakes, Jimi Hendrix?"

"None.  You can't make mistakes on a song you're not playing to begin with."

"I'm going to be big," she said, "You wait and see!"

She jammed a bit more until she stopped for a bit and said, "You're messing me up.  Leave me, please."

I did as she asked.  I haven't yet seen her name lighting up any marquees, but that could also be because I haven't been looking for it.


  1. ^That made me laugh. A lot.

  2. Only problem with that Howie is that he says she had a nice voice.

  3. I was feeling for OP until he called her out on the random strumming. It's just not necessary to try to make someone feel bad about something they love. Of course, her reaction in the end wasn't stellar but I wouldn't have been at my best in her shoes either. My second grader knows enough to think through whether something is true (I'll give OP that), kind (it wasn't), and necessary (it definitely wasn't) before sharing. Surely a grown up on a first date could manage that.

  4. Oh, and love the title.

  5. Bluejae: I disagree. Critique is necessary for an artist to progress. Granted, a first date isn't the best environment for it.

    Genuine critique isn't putting someone down or trying to make them feel bad. It's trying to help them improve. In the case of this girl, no-one had ever pointed out that, if she wanted to be a professional musician, she needed guitar lessons. They told her she was amazing, because that's what you tell people if you want them to like you. So now she is basing a career move on false information.

  6. I'm with metaleaf. There is nothing wrong with criticism as long as it is polite and constructive. He didn't say "OMG, your music SUX!!1!"

    Frankly, I thought she was rather arrogant to think she was some expert guitar player when she'd had no lessons. She reminds me of those people on American Idol. They go through their lives with people telling them, "Oh, you're a great singer" because they're too afraid to tell them how horrible they actually are, they believe it, and they embarrass themselves on National TV with their horrible singing.

  7. Sounds like a really fun pissing contest. I don't understand why it didn't work out. Sounds like the "Michael Bolton's School of Michael Bolton" sketch.

  8. I don't think it's that often that you find people lacking in musical abilities who are also very delusional about it. I'm a musician, singer and producer and, if anything, it seems the average person is rather shy and modest when it comes to their musical talents. Many who actually could do well say that they're "not that good" - the OP sure seemed to be trying to tactfully convey the opposite to someone who appeared to be in neede of hearing it.

  9. 'They go through their lives with people telling them, "Oh, you're a great singer" because they're too afraid to tell them how horrible they actually are, they believe it, and they embarrass themselves on National TV with their horrible singing.'

    This is unfortunately so true. I remember meeting some girl at a party who said she was going on Idol cos she was a great singer who everyone said was awesome.

    Turns out she couldn't even hold a note and people had just been overly polite to the poor girl for years ;-(

  10. Unfortunately, I suspect she was being completely honest when she said "Everyone I've ever played for has told me how good I am."

    It's very VERY difficult for creative types to get anything resembling true criticism these days. Sure, nobody wants to stifle the next Mozart or anything, but it's gotten so bad that some people go through their whole lives thinking they're fantastic at something when they're not.

    Whole lives have been ruined because nobody had the stones to be honest, even once.

  11. @ Jason: What did you say to her?

  12. Whenever I'm looking for honest feedback for a theatrical performance I've done, I turn to my otheer theatre friends. We know how to be tactful; part of that includes suggestions as to how to improve. If Fiona (were you referencing Fiona Apple, Jared?) Had asked actual musicians their opinions, she might had learned a good lesson and improved her skills. Then she could pursue her dreams.

  13. I wrote a song once called "Delusions of Grandeur." It was fantastic. Everybody told me so. ;)


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