Zen and the Art of Playing Guitar

My fingers are numb. But it’s a good numb. Tonight, for the first time in over a year, I looked over at my lonely, dusty little red Fender guitar and I think it actually spoke to me. “Susan, pick me up…dust me off…play me badly…I don’t care!” And I did it. I dug out the old song book, flipped open to “Wheat Kings” (3 chords, how hard could it be?) and stretched my fingers into the squeakiest, crankiest G Chord you’ve ever heard. But you know what? For the first time since I ever tried to awkwardly pluck a guitar in the 6th grade…I didn’t care how bad I sounded. I just played. And it was fun.

Now, much to my relief, and I’m sure, the relief of my pets, I’m a pretty decent singer. So if I sing loud enough, it kind of drowns out the squeaky, off tune, cat-dying drone of my playing. About 1 verse in, the pain started. First, the hand cramped up. Then, the fingers, callous-free for over a year now, started to scream as if being sliced by a dull knife. But I just kept playing.

I somehow muddled through the song and for the first time in weeks, my mind felt clearer. I eagerly flipped to the next page – “Far Too Canadian” by, I think, Spirit of the West. But I can’t remember how to play Fm7, so I just play the chords I know. Now, normally, I’d have just stopped and moved on to something else, or struggled to find Fm7 somewhere, or just given up. But I didn’t. I was having too much fun. And my guitar (and the dogs in the room) don’t seem to care that I don’t know the chord. Or that the guitar playing literally sounded like a bag of cats. I just kept playing.

Something transformed in me tonight when it comes to playing music. Singing, for the most part, I find relatively easy. I can do 4 part harmony, blues, jazz, folk…it all kind of comes in stride. But playing guitar…that is something I have always wished I could do well. I’ve taken lessons, farted around, tried to figure it out on my own..but I always get discouraged. Tonight, I realized one thing…just play.

Maybe it’s that I have so many friends that are brilliant at it. Greg Wyard, Pete Webb, Tony D…as if I could ever be THAT good! Of course, I am fully aware that these guys combine their God-given talent with one thing that I have NOT done…PRACTICE. I’m not saying I couldn’t get good if I worked at it as hard as they have – then again I’m not looking to get that good at it, really. I just want to play.

There is one thing I do share with my musician pals. That is passion – passion for creating music…no matter what – just playing. I’ve suddenly realized it’s about the process, not the end result. About doing it because it’s fun, relaxing, stimulating, rewarding.

I may never play guitar in public. I may never even play it around a campfire. My only audience may be my dogs. But I will…just play. And sing. Because it’s piles of fun for me. Because I can. And darn it, if I figure out how to play Fm7…you bet I will blog about it.

3 comments
greg walker
greg walker

Susan, I loved the account of your experiences. Indeed it is about the journey because once you have embarked and traveled a little, you will always realise that there is no end destination only happy stations on the way. I teach guitar and I always know who is on the train and who is not. Another factor I have noticed is that we can divide guitar playing into two states : playing the guitar and playing music on the guitar. The latter state connects with the music and their spirit. I can be each of these types but when I play to impress it is never as good as when I truly connect with myself and the music. Thanks Greg.

NeverToLateGuitar
NeverToLateGuitar

Ha... it is pretty frustrating when you have friends that are just naturally good at the guitar. I'm just starting out and I try and try but just can't keep up. Oh well, it's still fun. I'm hoping for the day I'll be able to play half as good as some of my friends. I need some friends like you who love the guitar, might not be virtuosos, but still want to get together and play. [rq=227641,6,blog][/rq]First Guitar Lesson

7 string electric guitars
7 string electric guitars

Hi! I am new reader. I suggest practice and practice, you should ask other people who knows how to play guitar very well. Ask some tips or look for online source.