How Learning WordPress Development is Like Playing a Crappy Guitar On Purpose.

Sometimes the nicest tools can actually hurt your ability to learn.  Creative Commons Image Attribution.
Sometimes the nicest tools can actually hurt your ability to learn.
Creative Commons Image Attribution.
I took guitar lessons for years as a kid from a virtuoso named Eric Perrotti. Every week I would show up with my (relatively nice) guitar, pull it out of the case, and plunk through whatever I was supposed to be playing that day.

Eric, on the other hand, would pull this old crappy Yamaha guitar off the wall that literally had a folded over piece of paper forming the nut (where the strings rest against the headstock of the guitar) and would amaze me with some new technique or riff.

Today during a quick YouTube search I found Eric as a guest on a local radio show back in 2003.

Later in the episode he remarks that he bought the guitar he’s playing there for $40, thus reinforcing my point here.

Eric drilled it into my head as a kid, but I forgot it: the degree of quality in the equipment does not make me any better of a guitar player. Learning the fundamentals of guitar, music theory, and other (free!) things is what made me a better guitar player. The nicest guitar in the world in my hands would pale in comparison to that crappy old Yamaha in his hands.

And that’s why I’ve redone my website, not with the Genesis theme framework or some other premium framework, but based off of the free Twenty Fifteen theme that comes installed with WordPress 4.1 and later.

At this point in my developer knowledge, putting Genesis in my hands doesn’t help me learn the fundamentals of WordPress theme development. In fact, it may hamper my ability to learn those fundamentals in the same way an effects pedal system would’ve hurt my development as a guitarist.

I don’t need a distortion pedal so that i can sound like Van Halen (who, according to my guitar teacher, was mostly tricks mixed with good marketing). I need to work on scales, intonation, hand strength, and chord changes. Once I get those down, adding some additional tools like effects pedals would likely enhance the music I am able to make.

Where the analogy falls apart is that the Twenty Fifteen theme is not crappy. It’s just not fancy. Eric was proving a point by intentionally using junk to make beautiful music. My goal is to develop a base understanding of child theme development before I hop into the deep end with a powerful tool like Genesis. (See kids: mixing metaphors makes you jump in pools with power tools.)

So, the site you are reading this on is built atop plain old Twenty Fifteen, using a child theme. Once I get comfortable plunking through the notes here, I’ll peek my head around the corner at Genesis.