Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Guitars

I made a fundamental mistake when I was “learning” how to play guitars: I learned with my ears and my hands, and I never used my brain to figure out what was actually happening. For me it was all ear-training and muscle memory.

Go ahead, ask me, what are the chords to “Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night.” How the fuck to I know? I think I play it in “D.” Whenever I wanted to play it, I’d take twenty or thirty seconds to figure it out all over again, or, remember it, if you will. Then I’d turn it over to my fingers, and it was music, and it came out fine. I could play fifty songs, no problem. I couldn’t tell you shit about them, especially the ones with 6th’s and 9th’s and major 7th’s and like that, but I could play them.

So after I stupidly cut the business end of my left middle finger off, cleaning out an ice chest in preparation for a party, my life is all about the love, bringing happiness to other people, after I had so mutilated myself I couldn’t play shit. How could I play the songs? I never knew shit about the songs! My fingers could play the songs, and now the most important one was gone!

When I pick up a guitar now it’s almost like starting all over again. Worse than that, I must un-learn over forty years of muscle memory. There are worse fates in the scheme of things, but it’s certainly annoying.

1 comment:

Rory Cripps said...

Fred: don't feel too bad. I also made a fundamental mistake when I was learning to play guitar; however my "mistake" was the opposite of your "mistake--I immersed myself in formal musical training and practiced day and night. For many years, playing the guitar was indeed my life and as a result I was quite good (better now that I've matured). In retrospect,however, I may have been better off sticking to a few power chords and a few cliche "licks" (ZZ Top comes to mind) and "playing by ear" instead of concentrating on technique and whether or not what I was playing made theoretical sense. Many (if not most) highly successful rock guitarist's musical approach is very similar to your approach. A case in point is the skinny kid, from Flushing, that I used to hang out with: everytime I hear Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll" I'm reminded of the fact that a lack of theoretical musical knowledge has many advantages within the realm of Rock and Roll"--and it often pays big financial dividends. Another case in point is Danny Infantino--an impeccable guitarist, who is well-versed in musical theory--who never made the "big time".

Speaking of Rock and Roll: My sincere congratulations go out to you (and to Mr. Ed, also) for President-Elect Obama's sweeping victory. The pre-election polls, this time, were surprisingly accurate in reflecting the political mood of the nation. As a "proud republican" (small "r" republican exactly like America's founding fathers were) I was between a rock and a very hard place when it came to my decision as to which candidate I should vote for. I'm not uncomfortable with a Democrat president, but what I am uncomfortable with is virtual one-party rule whether it be Democrat or Republican "rule". Another thing that I'm uncomfortable with is the fact that many who voted for Obama voted for him simply on the basis of "change" (is "change" a new code word?)and they are at a loss to define "change". In my opinion, "change" for the sake of change can turn out to be a good thing or a bad thing, notwithstanding the peculiar (and perhaps even demented)nature of Mr. Bush and his cronies.