A couple of years ago, I bought a guitar. I love music, and rock and jazz look like so much fun to play. I decided it was time to learn how.
This is what I’ve learned so far:
Okay, I’ve learned a bit more than just that – but it’s all been away from the fretboard.
I’m a big fan of honesty, but sometimes it catches me unprepared. I didn’t think the guitar would lie or anything so anthropomorphic as that, but I did underestimate its abilities. I was unprepared for the emotional wallop of holding a six-string.
That’s pretty naive, I get that. Music is humanity’s purest form of expression. It communicates across time and culture. It expresses nuances and tension that we have difficulty explaining clearly with words. It does not change, but is always new in the performer’s hands.
I’m used to words. They’re slippery little buggers, but we’ve achieved a tenuous truce. Most of the time, I can get them to express what I mean and leave out what I’m not prepared to share. It’s a functional relationship.
When I began to study the guitar, I picked and strummed, meaning to say One Thing or Another. My Lag, however, would respond by playing exactly what I meant. Not what I wanted – clean, crisp, tonal purring – but what I actually did – buzzing, twanging, dissonant screeching. I grumbled at the guitar the first day or two, until I figured it was time to “man up” and listen to what I was doing.
I play this instrument. It’s no ones doing but my own if it doesn’t sound the way I want it to.
There aren’t any shortcuts in music. What I put in, what I play, is what will be heard. There’s no substituting time and attention. You have to do the work. It’s honest, and entirely my personal responsibility. I was hoping for an escape in my guitar; I backed into a direct reflection of myself.
This reflectiveness gets dicey for me. I historically have done great commerce in dissociation, and that must fall to pieces if I am to play well. And I want to play well. I don’t want to just watch my life and it’s parts any longer. That sounds all warm and cuddly, but I’ll tell you, it’s damn hard.
As is learning how to play the guitar.
So we take it slowly. We repeat lessons. We review, resume, rehearse. And we learn.