The Sensuous Strings (Part One)

Meeting a New Love

There’s nothing more sensually satisfying to play than acoustic instruments.  You may enjoy ones that make lots of noise, like drums and other percussion.  You might want the ones that allow for long, stroking movements, the family of bowed strings.  You may prefer oral play, and there are horns and wind instruments for that.  I like one I can hold close, caress the neck of and make expressive noises with, if my fingers move cleverly.  I love the guitar.

My love affair with guitar began as an unanticipated benefit.  I had taken extra classes in order to graduate from high school as a junior.  That same year, the state legislature passed a law requiring more credits of physical education in order to graduate.  So I attended my senior year and only took two classes, gym and yearbook.  I spent the rest of the time when not actually in class hanging out in the yearbook office, where I practiced on the $50 classical-type nylon-stringed guitar I had been given the year before, for up to six hours a day.  I had little else to do. My friends were either already gone to college, or still there but in class.  I had learned about eight chords and rudimentary picking and strumming the year before.  During my senior year of high school I learned over 50 chords, alternate tunings, “Travis-picking” and other finger styles, and how to use bottleneck slides.  I also practiced (in some cases tried to figure out) at least 200 songs.  I was still a beginner, but I had become a serious guitar amateur.

You can buy wonderful items to assist you in learning to play these days.  You can purchase a hand-held digital device that allows you to record a few minutes of music. Then you can slow down the playback without altering the pitch, so you can learn those lightning licks note-for-note.  Your brain can do this too.  That’s the process you go through when learning a new song as a group.  First you learn the notes in small sections, at a slower tempo.  When you’ve understood it, you speed up.  I had some technology to help me even in those dinosaur days.  I would put the needle down on the same part of a record over and over, and I could switch a 45rpm to play it at 33 1/3.  I also owned a monophonic reel-to-reel tape recorder that used ¼” tape, which had three speeds.  The problem with slowing down the playback speed of analog recordings is that it lowers the pitch of the notes.  Once I learned the notes, chords and rhythms I had to use my brain to transpose back to the original key.

There were so many different playing styles used by guitarists, and so many different professionals to watch, listen and learn from!  I had begun my senior year of high school with nothing to do.  Captivated by this new love affair with the guitar, I now had no free time.  I had developed the calluses required to be able to play other kinds of guitars, the ones the famous players in popular music used, ones with steel strings.  I had made friends with other amateur players.  I was ready to start playing in public.


COMING UP:  Part 2 – Bars, Bands and Mayhem

(I would enjoy reading stories about your love affairs with music.)


Filed under Music

6 responses to “The Sensuous Strings (Part One)

  1. Phil Monk

    Mine started in high school as well. I didn’t have much luck with the girls so I too had a lot of free time on my hands. Unlike some of the guys I knew back then, I did not take up guitar to “get girls”. As I mentioned in a previous reply, my Dad had a collection of 78’s, so there was always music in our house. Also, since I grew up on a farm, there were countless hours of listening to music on the tractor radio (if I was lucky enough to get a tractor equipped with one).

    I don’t think I’ve ever seriously thought about when or why I fell in love with making music. It just seemed like a natural progression to go from listening to playing. I know listening to music spoke to my soul and spirit, so I suppose the desire to be able to touch other people in those inner-places created part of my desire to become a musician. I mean, I wasn’t having much luck connecting with people on the physical level so why not try another way?

    There was also the camaraderie I witnessed when I’d go to see a band. Since I had no satisfying relationships with girls, learning to play and joining a band held out the possibility of a substitute for one of the things I felt I was missing in life. I see bands are coming in your next installment so I’m anxious to read about your experiences.

  2. Those are interesting motivations, Phil. Since I always had either a girlfriend or a wife through those times, the “getting girls” thing never came up. I agree it’s a very common reason why young men try to learn guitar, especially electric lead players. Some of my band mates were ALL about that.

  3. My personal, hands on experience with music takes the form of violin for four years 4th-7th grade and piano for, let’s see what was it three years? Within the 5th-7th years. I was very good, loved the instruments. Played first seat violinist in the orchestra from the moment I was able to be a part of it, my teacher had certain requirements to get in. So in 4th grade I entered and knocked the girl that had been there out. She was a bit older than me by 2 years or more I think, so she was pretty ticked. The shame of it was I didn’t understand the importance of that seat till I was well into my adult years. My teacher wasn’t much of one to build you up. She expected a lot and the compliments were scanty at best.

    I loved playing. Didn’t particularly care for practicing. My mother drove me up a wall about practicing. Which bothered me a lot and discouraged me a lot. It wasn’t until we moved out of that school into the next town that I found out that according to my teacher I didn’t need to practice I was so good. She pleaded with my mother to bring me over for lessons and to participate in the orchestra. She said it was totally exceptable since the school I was entering didn’t have a strings program and some other details I don’t begin to recall.

    When I heard that I backed off from wanting to quite. But my mother wouldn’t hear of it. In her opinion I was quitting because I had argued with her too much about not practicing and wanting to quite when we moved because I didn’t want to practice… But the gavel fell, and truth to be known my mother had no intention of driving me the 7 minute drive to the high school a couple times a week. My mother was pretty hands off.

    The piano stopped for another reason. Not worth the space of this comment area. In summary…family issues…a mother not wanting to drive me…oh and on it goes.

    I miss playing. Would love to take them up again. But not now. Now I don’t have time. Or the focus. But one day possibly.
    I hope this all makes sense, I don’t have time to proof it. My eye lids are sagging and bed is calling. I’m going to do something off the wall and get to bed before 2-3 am.
    Theresa Jane

  4. kris513

    I love playing my guitar too. Fell in love in 2004, trained classically for 5 years and have been playing ever since 🙂

  5. Wow, do I ever have extra respect for you now! We couldn’t afford lessons, but I know that would have saved me thousands of hours of figuring it out for myself. You’re gonna love Part Three.

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