The Reason I Began to Learn the Guitar

OCTOBER 6, 2020 – The passing of Eddie Van Halen was a particularly shockingly sad day for me. He was the reason I began to learn the guitar.

I was planning on getting tickets the next time he was in NYC. I was excited about it!

I had not known he was battling cancer, as the family kept that private.

Hearing his debut album in 1977 when I had just turned 12 years old changed the direction of my music study forever; I never imagined (nor did anyone else at that time) that an electric guitar could sound like that!

I started playing piano keyboard first, when I was around 6/7 years old (self-taught), then learned some percussion, and then bass guitar before the age of 12.

I knew the electric guitar was absolutely the next musical instrument I had to learn to play after hearing Van Halen’s first vinyl LP on my turntable!

That infamous tap on section in “Eruption” especially had an affect on me, but the whole album was packed with with so many innovative sounds too.

“How is he doing that?!” I asked myself, a curious and precocious 12 year old.

I pursued learning the electric guitar with an intense passion for many years with 8 to 10 hours of daily practice sessions, sometimes even 15 to 18 hours, were very common.

I would eventually go on to studying the Classical guitar after hearing a song from Van Halen’s album Diver Down titled “Little Guitars,” which featured an intro with a tremolo effect commonly used in the classical guitar repertoire like in “Recuerdos De La Alhambra” and/or “Una Limosna Por El Amor De Dios” (An Alm For The Love Of God) – but Eddie was doing it with a pick and left-hand hammer-ons, as true-to-form in an Eddie Van Halen style!

My last year in high school the principal Cecelia Cullen decided to hire a guitar teacher (Paul Suchow, a Berkeley grad) who explained to me that classical guitar is played with your right-hand fingers rather than a guitar pick, and he demonstrated it for me and recommended a good method book too.

He also thanked me openly on our first day of guitar class, “Who is Juan García? I want to thank him personally.” So, I stood up and approached his outstretched hand and he continued, “I wouldn’t have gotten this job if it wasn’t for you!”

Apparently, my impact on the school culture during my years there had a direct influence on the principal seeking a music instrument curriculum.

Featured Image Credit: EVH Tweet