Daily Archives: 22 September, 2011

More on Guitars

Today’s Music: Dale Goodridge

Yesterday, I didn’t really say much about what the guitar means to me. There were some cool pics, but not a lot of information on “why” I love the guitar
So here you go…
It has all the emotions, from the happiest joy, to the angriest rage.
It has satisfaction of technical skill in making changes form one chord to another, or of finding a riff that sounds great and resonates.
It’s being able to express ideas and emotions, when sometimes it’s hard to find the words for them.

I keep my guitars out where I can reach them, quickly. Often when I’m making dinner, I’ll step away, grab a guitar, and just strum or lead while the water boils/sauce reduces/meat broils.I have several phrases that caught my ear over time. Most are in the minor pentatonic scale, between 1st and 3rd position, and I find their pattern reassuring, like old friends.

Those 5 simple notes, whatever the combination, pull at me. Hard. To hear them (even when I’m playing them), opens a window into another world, where color is sharper, sound is crisper, feeling is freer.
Gimme a good blues rift, and I’m happy man. Even if I’m blue.

Then there is the technical end.
When I first learned a basic chord change on open chords, it took weeks to get it right. Getting the fingers to move together, getting them to come off the strings completely before moving them, getting them to come down on the right strings.
Then being able to do it fast. I shudder at what my parents must have thought all those years ago, listening to an endless cycle of D, E, D, E, D, E, then getting the C, A, and some minor chords thrown in.
It sounded even worse when I started learning barre chords. I have thin bony fingers, which makes it even harder to get them to hold all the strings, instead of just sort of dulling or muting them.
It took weeks of practice to get clean changes up and down the neck.
But the first time I played Hotel California, it was totally worth it.

Finally, there is the union of the two, being able to play the music I hear in my head.
That’s very hard for me, as my ear is undeveloped, and I don’t have the technical skill to translate from one to the other.
But sometimes, the brain and the fingers talk without me having to be part of it, and the music just spills out, with me watching my hands go at it, listening, amazed, wondering what I’ll think of next…

All these years later, I’m not a great guitar player. And I’ll leave it up to others to decide if I’m even any good.
But I still feel a sense of accomplishment when I pull off a clean change between 2 chords, and I keep the tempo. I’m proud of the callouses on my fingertips, and the guitar pick that I always have in my wallet is like a badge of office.

And I still have a sense of wonder when I jam two sounds together into something bigger than the sum of their parts.

For those of you who are interested, check out Clapton’s Guitar – Watching Wayne Henderson Build The Perfect Instrument. It’s a fantastic book about Craftsman/Artist, and the way he builds his guitars.