Tuesday, December 27, 2011

# 160 - Making Beautiful Music Together

For years, I've wanted an acoustic guitar. Just a regular, old-fashioned guitar that I could learn to play.
As a young child through adulthood, I played the piano and was classically trained. Music Theory and technique while playing had been drilled into me with a bullish attitude. For years I took lessons. Even as an adult with my own children, I continued to take lessons and learned to play Operas.

But, deep down, I just wanted to play some good old country songs. I wanted to play some George Jones and Patsy Cline! I want to sit on the front porch of my future country home and do some guitar pickin.

To top it off...much of my life parallels lyrics of country songs, so I might as well play a few of those songs on the guitar and sing to them at the top of my lungs.

Practicing with Isaac in the Carpentry shop so that we could perform in front
of everyone at Cohen Houston at Rice University for our Christmas party.

I could play the guitar and sing about my husband and I have made it through too many chaotic phases of being married; our selfish years are just about used up, and now we're onto the fun stuff...grown children and retirement. Where are those songs?

No sense ignoring the truth, the far side of youth has passed us by, and nowadays, we're too worn out to get into too much trouble. But, we've made it past 25 years of marriage, and sadly, so many couples never make it to this phase...most marriages crumble under the stress we've endured.

These days, after a lot of hard work, I've learned that any relationship can be found, at one time or another, traveling down the ugly block, but everything will be okay IF you have a willingness to be loving to each other and if you have hard times, that's when you should purposefully focus on the beauty you've created and shared. For us, there's been hardships, but the beauty has far outweighed everything else.

You can't get to the day of celebrating 25 years of marriage and beyond without some pretty stupid moments taking place. For those who have an "uneventful" 25 years of marriage, then we all know you were hiding out in a cave! We can't escape life. But, the reality is...expecting a smooth 25 years is like believing in a Fairy itself is not always smooth. You can do your very best and have a tornado hit your house. Life happens. Life is not always fair; hence, country songs.

Just remember, a marriage made in Heaven is not necessarily Heavenly...a lasting, strong marriage takes hard work, compassion and excessive kindness. I've had moments when I've failed in all three areas...because I was taking a trip around the ugly block. I don't like it there; it's always nice to get back home.

And man, that sounds like the beginnings of a country song. If only I could play more than THREE notes on the guitar!

When expressing your emotions on a piano, you sit at the monster instrument and play. Indeed, it is a beautiful instrument with a lovely, timeless sound, However, one drawback to a piano in contrast to a guitar is that you can't take the piano with you so easily. My piano weighs about 500 pounds, it's not exactly a mobile instrument for practical purposes. It takes several men to move it. Still, I move that antique, upright grand piano from home to home throughout the years. It is my instrument to take care of throughout my life.
Over the years, my siblings got to pick their own instruments of brother played the trombone and my sister played the clarinet...both of those instruments cost much more than my old piano, but my chosen instrument, the old piano, that is the instrument that I still play very frequently, with joy.

But, once I married my husband at 18 years of age, something unplanned came between me and my piano...I followed my husband to Germany for a few years. The Air Force called my husband to duty in Europe and so we began our life together as man and wife, without my piano. And geesh...I had major separation anxiety from my piano.

On this day of our elopement, he knew that he acquired a wife and
an upright grand piano for all stateside residences.
In Germany I'd often lie in bed and play "air" piano because I was starved to play a few chords and to release my emotion through music. I felt stifled and choked without my piano. Many musicians understand...when you feel a different range of emotions, you can go to your musical instrument or use your voice to release the pent up feelings. Music gives us a beautiful form to express our inner-most feelings. If your instrument is taken from you, it's as if a part of your heart shuts down.

Once my husband and I were back in America, we moved the piano to our house. It had been falling into disrepair and my husband lovingly repaired it. Then, we called out an old-timer piano tuner and had the strings worked on and a couple of keys professionally repaired. It was worth every dime.

So, a few days ago, on this latest Christmas Eve, my husband and I were having a nice outing and he pulled into the Guitar Center. This is not unusual because we seem to end up in the Guitar Center every year for some Christmas shopping. We strolled back to the acoustic guitar section and I thought that we were going to simply take a look at some guitars for me to consider for some future date. And after I found one of the nicer beginner guitars and began discussing some guitar basics with the kiddo working there, my husband says, "Ring it up."

I looked up at him, shocked. I had no idea that we were going to be buying me a guitar on this day. Heck, I'd been waiting for years and years, I didn't think that the waiting was coming to an end so suddenly!

Here's my new Yamaha beauty!

My husband strolls out of the acoustic guitar area and he finds a guitar stand, a beginner's book and video, some picks and a strap. I felt overwhelmed.

At 43 years of age, I walked out of that store holding my husband's hand and had my own very first guitar.

Immediately, the music lessons that I'd learned in piano began swirling around in my head. I'd never dared to think about the guitar on a deep level because I didn't own a guitar to test out my theories. I just enjoyed watching people play. But, the moment we stepped out of that store, the questions began forming and an entire new world attached to this stringed instrument began to play with my mind.

After the deliriously fun shopping trip to find a guitar, Deputy Dave took me out to eat at an awesome seafood restaurant that we love and we spent some time that same day getting a bit of Christmas shopping done, then we headed home. Through it all, it was hard to focus on anything else but the guitar in the box, lying hidden in the backseat of our truck.

Blackened Catfish

Shrimp Cocktail Acapulco
The best Christmas gift came later that evening as we sat at home alone watching the beginner's video for guitar playing. I told my husband that I had to sit with my pen and notebook to study the lesson BEFORE I could attempt to play the guitar. So, he picked it up to play along with the video as I studied, as I'd always learned to do with music...first the lessons, then the playing. I still could not break my old music lesson patterns.

Theory first, then application. Man, I'm a stickler for old-fashioned classical learning habits.

However, it worked out beautifully. Deputy Dave shocked the crude out of me, and himself, by picking up all angles of music lessons so completely. Not everyone can do this. In ONE afternoon, he learned to tune the guitar to ITSELF (not with an electronic tuner), he learned to play several notes on the guitar, he learned to read the notes on sheet music and even more, he learned the count for a measure...AND learned whether the note is a quarter note, half note or whole note. He learned FAST. For any music buffs out understand what this means.

Yes, he even took initiative to write the note name above the note, on his own. What? Don't they FORCE us to do this when studying music? This is usually drudgery, but he did it with delight. This is advanced stuff that the newbie normally doesn't just pick up on day ONE unless they are naturally gifted in music.

A bit of jealousy set in, I must admit.

I looked at my husband in awe. He'd been in choir as a child, but that guy should've been put into some kind of music lessons...probably guitar lessons. He is a natural.

It will only get better, I can only imagine how it will sound when we are harmonizing our voices together and reminding ourselves of The Judds --- while playing the guitar. Okay, I got carried away...Deputy Dave DOES have a deeper voice than Wynonna Judd. That means, we'll sound EVEN BETTER than The Judds!

So, my BEST Christmas present has been surprisingly that we are learning to play the guitar together. His technique at playing the guitar is automatically better than mine, but my music background is advantageous to both of that makes us a great team. So far, we have THREE notes down!! Open "E", and E played on 1st fret to make "F" and E played on third fret to make "G." Wahoo!!

It's awesome!

I can already picture us in the country, on our land, playing the guitar for the birds and frogs and chickens to hear. Eventually, I am sure we'll get Deputy Dave a guitar so we can play side by side, but until then, it is beyond beautiful for us to be learning to play the same guitar together.

Here's our first captive audience. They don't mind the three note repetition practice sessions, especially when they are bribed with a few treats.

I always knew we made beautiful music together...only now...I actually get a chance to watch while another person practices and plays, so I am loving every minute of hearing Deputy Dave's home-grown music.

And the musician's curse has taken hold of him...for those of you who play music and write music and so on...Deputy Dave is now captive to all possibilities as the music infects his brain and spirit. As I said, he should've taken guitar lessons, starting at a young age, but here we are, and I can tell he'll go fast in his music training --- And knowing that my solitary instrument playing days are mostly over --- I'm going to have a music, guitar playing buddy, well this part has got to be the best part of my Christmas present!

1 comment:

On Crooked Creek said...

What a deeply touching story! I come from a family of musicians that "play by ear" formal teaching at all. My dad and brother play guitar. My uncles, all types of string instruments. I was taught in school and play clairnet and sing in choirs! I adore your first was our poodle (as a child)! Thank you for stopping by with your sweet comment and visit On Crooked Creek! I'll be back soon to see how you're progressing! You, two , make beautiful music together! It will be a Classic, for sure!