I’ve always thought that if you’re going to fall in love with an inanimate object, it had better be a musical instrument, but there are many ways to love. Watching my baby’s disrespectful and curious relationship with my guitars, I’m thinking that this is what grown-ups might be missing when they take up an instrument.
Aside from his awe-inspiring talent and many hours at the task, isn’t this what Jimi Hendrix brought to the guitar? A disrespect for convention where it didn’t serve him and a curiosity that drove him to handle the instrument however he needed to in order to let his voice power through. We all know what resulted. A new way for guitars to speak, unstoppable and overwhelming as a freight train. Children aside, few people are able to communicate so unselfconsciously.
I took the classical guitar up as a teenager, but I was already influenced by my sense of how I should and shouldn’t speak to it, and through it. So, though I loved my guitar, the courtship was a little constrained by convention and I eventually strayed away. When I bought my electric guitar a few years ago there was more of a raw spark, but I still felt watched somehow, as if I needed to compete with those already proficient, as if the instrument was not mine and I needed to have permission to handle it.
Of course, it was freedom from this constraint I was seeking. My happiest moment was turning the amplifier way up and singing to my guitar – listening to its harmonics humming back to me, feeling a spiritual connection in our mingled voices.
At the moment I have little time to play, but I won’t say I have no time to play, because I’m pretty sure that this is impossible. I have sent myself a task of three exercises each day. You might think scales and exercises are constraining but I find them freeing. The simplicity of the repetition is soothing and takes away my self-consciousness. After a few days I already feel a closeness that allows me to speak more fluently, a doorway into my relationship with the instrument. As I reach the end of my novel, consciously shaking off my censoring rational side, this fluency is beginning to enter all areas of my life. Time to let go and risk speaking the truth out loud.
Do you play the guitar? You might like Justin Sandercoe’s spider exercise – it’s like a moving meditation: http://youtu.be/6s32hmkdrDw
Thank you, Justin, for your generosity!