Strung Up In Strings: My Guitar’s Day Out
I have always been entwined in the fabric of music. It has been such an immense part of my life that I won’t be totally wrong in saying I was raised by it. As a matter of fact, some of the earliest memories I have is that of my father strumming on his guitar, putting into rhyme everything I needed to learn. Everything I needed to learn when I was a kid, I learned this way. From the then confusing differences between ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘which’, and ‘where’, to the parts of speech… Every time a need arose to memorize something… anything…, my dad would take his guitar and put it in an easy melody for me. In fact, I still remember some of those rhymes.
But I must confess that I was never that crazy about learning the guitar. I love all instruments, but learning the guitar seemed to be physically painful. I know for a fact that the most ardent students of the guitar, including my dad, had cut their fingers once or twice during the peaks of their enthusiasm. And for some misguided notion, I feared I may turn out to be an ‘ardent’ student if I tried. I always had preferred the keyboard, which may not be the most popular choice, but I’ve never heard of someone who bled his fingers playing the piano.
But recently, my interest in the guitar grew. It was listening to my roomie, Nash play the instrument, which sparked the arrogance within me. A thought, that perhaps, I may just be able to perform simple songs without bleeding my fingers dry. But just in case I’m wrong, I’ve also started making a list of all my friends who have my blood type, B +ve. Hey, it never hurts to be prepared. (BTW, if your blood type is B +ve, you’re in the list.)
I confess that even now, the only chord I can actually play is the C Major chord. The C Major chord, in case you’re wondering, is the easiest chord in the guitar language. I’d just put my three fingers holding the C chord with apparent ease, smile, and strum. Then I’d strum it again. And again. And again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. If you think YOU got frustrated reading the last sentence, just think of the people who had to listen to me actually play the chord. People all around were tossing coins trying to decide between suicide and murder.
Believe it or not, the very first pre-requisite for learning the guitar… is a guitar. And buying a new guitar to cater to my latest interest seemed absurd. Of course the absurdness of the idea would only strike those people unfortunate enough to know me well. My flings with new hobbies and the rapidity of my waning interests within the same is infamous within its own right. Testimonials to my “one night stands”, including a neglected accordion, broken charcoal pencils, an untouched tabla, a rarely touched soldering iron set, hardened tubes of oil paint, unread photography journals, a lost harmonica, and broken down TV-video games add to the lack of credibility in any interest I pursue. The suggested course of action was to repair my dad’s old guitar.
At 30+ years, my dad’s guitar was significantly older than me. And the thought of having it repaired boggled my mind. Repairing a bent fret-board, clogged frets, cracking wood, and of course, broken strings, seemed too heavy a task, and I was at a loss how to go about it. Then my dad took me to a small scale guitar manufacturing shop. I never knew such things existed in Cochin. Frankly, I had never thought about people making guitars until then. Unlike most of you, I never went to my dad asking him the pivotal question, ‘Where do guitars come from?”. He never had the birds and the strings talk with me. Apparently, I had always accepted that storks delivered them.
The shop was a dusty little place with sawdust flying all around. But I was in guitar paradise. Surrounded by violins, drum kits, triple drums, acoustic, electric, and classic guitars in various stages of “work in progress”, it was all I could do to keep my hands off them. As a matter of fact, the manager paused his examination of my guitar several times to yell, “Hey, don’t touch that!!”, “The paint’s still wet”, and “Can you please get your son to stop, sir?”. But other than a scowlful embarrassed look from my dad, there were no serious repercussions.
Seeing all those instruments inspired me to take the challenge head on. I was 100% certain that I could… probably learn the guitar. No matter how many critics tut-tutted; no matter how little I felt seeing actual musicians play the guitar, and no matter how many neighbours pleaded with me to stop the ‘klink’ and ‘plunk’ noises I made while practicing, I decided that though practice may not actually make perfect, it may help reduce imperfection. And I’m egotistically confident that one day, I’ll be so good that the neighbour’s cat will stop running away every time I touch the guitar.
My dedication to the task can be outlined by the fact that I got myself some 20 short video clips of guitar lessons, AND several self help books and guides that teach how to play the guitar. Most of these books, including some given as gifts, claim to help the reader ‘play like the legends’. So I must say I’m feeling mighty confident. Playing like a legend, huh? Seems all right to me. As a matter of fact, one of the gifted books seems to be custom made. It’s called “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing the Guitar”.
Now that I think about it, that name seems to hold a certain amount of ambiguity in it. Does it mean that it is the idiot’s guide to playing the guitar, and that it is complete? OR does it mean that it is a guide for playing the guitar, and it’s meant for the ‘complete idiot’? If it is the latter, I must say that I am insulted to no small extend. I am NOT, nor have I ever been, a ‘complete idiot’. What Rubbish! Everyone knows I’m just an ordinary idiot. Ask anyone.
But of course, this guitar is merely a stepping stone to what I really want to play. Once I get enough money, I’m gonna buy myself an electric guitar. The major difference between a guitar and an electric guitar, besides the electricity, is the potential menace to society. While right now, I am only able to annoy the closer neighbours with my ‘klinks’ and ‘plunks’, the sheer volume of my dream electric g. can bring mayhem to an entire city block. Instead of scaring the cat, I can actually save the city by steering away Godzilla. Instead of tossing coins and drawing straws to determine who gets to kill me, the people can actually afford to pool in for a professional sniper.
But I’m not scared. No, really. I’m shivering, yes, but that’s just the cold. I’m gonna get my electric guitar, hook it up to a custom made kick-ass amplifier, pump up the volume to “suicide” level, and with a cheesy smile (characteristic, perhaps of an idiot, but NOT a complete one)…… proceed to play the C Major chord.