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For those of us who want to go through a midlife crisis but don’t want to cheat on our wives or buy an expensive car for no good reason, what is the best method…to learn how to play a musical instrument and get some enjoyment out of it? I don’t expect to play as well as you, but maybe I want to have a concert for my wife and three cats. Suggestions? —Chuck Harrell, Oakland, Calif.

If you can hold off the midlife crisis for a couple of months, go to Best Buy and buy a copy of the video game Rock Band. You will get to play along with your favorite indie and alt-rock songs, like the Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” or Radiohead’s “Creep.” That might be entertaining enough for your wife. If not, and you have children, pass the controller over to them. If nothing else, they will get a little education.

After you’ve rocked your family to no end, you’ll be entering that phase of your life where you might actually want to learn to generate music with a real instrument. Earlier this year, I advised a parent to spend a small amount of money on his child’s first instrument. Same advice goes for the budding rockstar parent.

If you’re thinking of learning guitar, I would suggest the Mel Bay finger diagram books—specifically, the ones that teach what I call “cowboy chords.” Those are first-position chords, such as G, C, F, E minor, D. Once you learn those, you will be able to play along with the simpler pop songs. Best of luck! —Bob Mould

Bob Mould blogs at modulate.blogspot.com
. Send questions to askbob@washingtoncitypaper.com.