Friday, November 13, 2009

Thankfulness II

The first instrument I loved.

The first friend to let me express myself without giggling or trying to change my mind.

The first indication in my soul that there was such a thing as unmasterable simplicity, and easily reachable complexity.

The guitar.

I grew up with music as a constant. Older relatives always seemed to have instruments around at family get togethers, guitars especially.

I wanted to play guitar badly, and about a year after my older brother Joe started playing it, I was playing it.
And I got my wish. I played it badly. For a little while. It's hard to be bad for long on such a simple instrument.

But it's deceptively simple. Within a short time I was beginning to explore chord melody style, trying to learn and emulate the moving lines and passing chords of my earliest guitar influences, foremost of whom was my Dad's longtime friend and fellow musician, the pioneering George Van Eps.

Trying to sound anything remotely like that legend, well, things got a lot more complex very quickly!

But the guitar never gripes. It lets you explore as long as you wish, as you need. It will go with you anywhere along the journey.
It rewards patience with satisfaction and practice with self-surprise.

It punishes fingers, and the ears of we unfortunates who notice little things like intonation (I swear I've spent tens of thousands of dollars over these long years on guitars and guitar accessories, and still have not a single guitar with perfect intonation; that animal simply doesn't exist).

But it is always beautiful.
The guitar warms, cools, soothes, tenses, relaxes, excites, attracts, and compels the act of artistic creation even in the newest of students and oldest of pickers.

Plus, it's the instrument for the fashionable Dio De Los Muertos skeleton musician:

God I love Hallowe'en...

Anyway THANK YOU, guitar. Without my even trying, you helped me attract my first true loves, and helped to heal me when they turned out to be untrue.

Thank you, you six-string, big-boxed, narrow-necked pain in the butt. I sometimes think, and once or twice had myself convinced, that if I could get your sound from any other instrument I'd drop you in a second.

But nothing so gorgeous can ever be tossed away. And of course, nothing else ever sounds like you sound.

You enrich us all.



  1. That looks kind of like the Gibson B-25 I learned on. Never was any good, but I still like to pretend I can play. Something calming about trying to pick out a tune. Looking back, I am grateful my parents supported my attempts to learn it.


  2. You're quite right. I continue to find that calming effect as I learn new songs and styles, or even just new tunings just to see what pops up from the fingerboard. I am a guitarist foremost, though I have ended up playing piano and a few other instruments. Being a jazz guy, it's hard to NOT get psyched up about trying new instruments and sounds. But guitar remains the instrument through which I find the most expression. I'll always be very grateful for that!