My long road to guitar mediocrity.
I was born to be a star.
As a child of the early 80's neon-American, synth-pop bonanza, I felt it was my destiny to rock out on a powder coated, candy apple red saxophone.
I was going to roll up the sleeves of my linen sport coat, pop my collar and kick around town in my Ferrari du jour. Yes sir. That’s how I was going to make my mark on the world!
Then, I got my saxophone.
It was a “Bundy” if I recall. The standard brass, student's alto sax.
It wasn't powder-coated red, but it still looked cool. I joined the elementary band at our school, and regardless of my efforts, I failed to make ANY form of “music” at all.
Kids who had the misfortune of sitting in front of me in band class actually asked if I was TRYING to play poorly. Clearly, my natural talent did not lie within the saxophone.
Ok. So maybe I'm not a saxophonist.
I didn't play saxophone for long. We returned it, and as a newly disillusioned 11-year-old, I figured I'd have to make my mark on the world in another way. Sports? Art? Politics? Military?
Everything changed, except my über cool sport coat and popped-collar dream. That was still going to happen.
Then, I was given a guitar.
My mother loved yard sale shopping. Every Saturday morning, she'd make the rounds and come back with endless treasures & assorted curiosities. One week, she scored a “mostly playable” old acoustic guitar for just a few bucks.
My dad & I took it to the local guitar shop, replaced the broken saddle, picked up a fresh set of strings, and we had a guitar that was playable. At first, it was uncomfortable as Hell on my little fingers, but soon after, it felt right. It felt natural.
For the next year or so, I'd pick at it now and then, but I hadn't struck that “connection” yet because I wasn't very familiar with guitar music.
Everything in my cassette collection was synthesizers, saxophones & electronic drums. My inspiration to play/learn the guitar was fading.
Then, my friend introduced me to the music of Led Zeppelin.
Everything changed. Even my visions of linen sport coat majesty were canned in favor of my new quest for six-stringed swagger.
Jimmy Page was the first guitarist to really impress me with what could be done with a guitar. From a gentle, gravelly strum to screeching psychedelic wails, his six strings were capable of telling any tale, evoking any emotion, painting any canvas. THAT'S what I want to do! Wow!
After a month of studying the “Led Zeppelin Complete” Guitar Tablature book, and wrestling to keep my poor old guitar in tune, my buddy and I were able to play “Tangerine.”
It was rough. Really rough, but it almost sounded like music. …and I was making it! With MY own fingers! On MY own guitar!
It was then that I fell in love with guitars.
I officially became a guitar player.
Over thirty years have passed since I let go of my saxophone dreams. I've bought and sold a couple dozen guitars since then (for various reasons,) but I've ALWAYS had a guitar around. I've never played professionally, and unfortunately, I've never worked it into my schedule to be part of a “regular band,” but I've made a point, every day, to spend some time picking the strings and feeling the wood vibrate as song is breathed to life.
There is an undeniable “swagger” you take on when hanging a guitar over your shoulder. You feel the weight of the wood, you listen to the creak in the strap as it carries the load. Your amp gently hums, awaiting the “pop! crack!” of the 1/4” jacks sparking your instrument to life. Even if you’re just strumming alone in your room, that guitar makes you a Rock Star!
Can I play guitar like Jimmy Page? No.
After years of trying? Still, no. As long as I'm physically able, and have a mostly playable guitar, I'm going to keep trying. I'm going to keep learning. I've found my connection in guitar music. I've found a language that I'm able to understand.
Guitars have brought me a tremendous amount of peace in my life. It's helped me work through the hard times and celebrate the good ones. Each Sunday morning, as I enjoy my coffee, my heart swells with pride as my children pluck their bass and ukulele. They're exploring music and finding their own connections. They're developing their own lifelong voices for self expression, mourning, celebration, and everything in between.
I FOUND MY CONNECTION. FIND YOURS!
Music exists in all flavors. Find a tune you can really “feel” then hammer away at it and forge your own fingerprint in the song. Play what you love.
Even if it's not a guitar, find your voice. Music is a language that is universally understood, and we all develop our own dialect. Play your song. Speak to the world.
traveling photographer, father, and guitar enthusiast.