Wednesday, May 18, 2011

on the guitar

I grew up with musicians all around me.  On both sides of my large extended family, nearly every aunt, uncle, and cousin played an instrument or sang.  At home, my mom's beautiful voice, my Dad's guitar, my brother's combination of both.  When I was in elementary school I started playing the piano and violin, but I wanted what they had.  I wanted to sit in the livingroom after family parties and play songs late into the night like they could.  Minuet in G and Pacabel's Canon didn't really fit there, so when I was 13 my Dad taught me the basic four chords on his old camping guitar.  After that I taught myself a few more, but basically spent the next 18 years strumming poorly between those 6 or 7, just hoping that one day my innate natural ability would kick in and, like them, I would be talented.  But it didn't happen. 

For most normal people, deciding to take lessons would not be the shameful realization that it was for me.  Having to ask for help felt just a little like I had failed, but I realized that if this is going to come to me, it was going to require a little work.  So one night in March, after walking beneath the banner outside a second story window advertising Queens Guitar School, I decided it was time. 

I told Ross, my newly appointed guitar teacher, that I most wanted to play the blues, since it was my favorite music to sing.  He eyed me skeptically as if white girls from Long Island don't really know the blues.  In an effort to explain to him how serious I was (or how weird I was), I told him the story of my hamster, who I lovingly named Albert in honor of Albert King, the great blues man who died on the same day I got the hamster.  Surely naming a childhood pet after that man should garner some street cred.  He still looked doubtful, or maybe just bored of my babbling. 

But it's been a few weeks, and I'm getting it.  That thing that didn't come naturally, but turns out was just beneath the surface waiting for a little encouragement, is coming out.  And at night I take out the once dusty guitar (in the past I thought just having it in the house should mean that I would know how to play it well) and practice.  Practicing in order to get better at something, what a novel idea. 

And maybe this summer when I go with Dad to the hole in the wall bar* in Oneonta to sing the blues at open mic, I'll be able to play them too:

*as of now, singing in the shower or singing for the 8 people in the Oneonta bar is about all I can manage.  I'll work on that courage thing next.

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