Rebirth of Passion
(I kind of liked the sound of the title.)
It's been almost a year now since I started trying to play classical guitar. On a whim I dusted off the mass produced Taiwanese guitar I bought in my teens that had stood unloved in the wardrobe for decades. Back then I strummed chords and sang with abandon, modelling myself on Cat Stevens, the Bee Gees, Don McLean and other long forgotten icons. Unfortunately loads of enthusiasm could not quite make up for reluctance to work hard, and my musical dalliance fizzled. My guitar was picked up less and less often, until it was stored away during the first of many house and life moves.
My old el cheapo Yamaha G55a (entry level) instrument caught my gaze now and then when I was poking around. It brought back a memory or two. I couldn't ever throw it away. Nor the sheet music that accumulated in those passionate times. I knew strumming a guitar and singing along with a wistful expression was behind me, and mercifully so, but there was something in guitar music that always held magic.
I heard the beauty of plucked strings, intervals and chords, now and then. It was calling me, but I never made the time. Competing priorities. One day, but never now. To be honest, I would have been embarassed to be seen (not to mention heard) plucking away, brow creased, tongue poking out with concentration. There is a necessary humility in beginning (again) to learn to play a musical instrument and I struggled with that; being a mature and responsible adult who liked to hide behind his straightness and respectability. No way was I going to put myself in a position where people would patronise me, or smile behind their hands at my folly.
So, for some reason, maybe it's that I am now retired, one day last February I took my old guitar out of its case and set about restringing it. Walking into a music shop was not something I had done for years and the task of asking for the correct strings confirmed I was going to need to learn some humility, and learn it I did.
Having taken the first steps, the next few weren't nearly as hard. The internet is a wonderful resource. Kindle has many classical guitar tutorial books in e-format. I downloaded one, and behind closed doors and closed windows, I begun to learn some theory of music and the playing of classical guitar properly for the first time, by myself, without a human tutor.
Impossibly hard it seemed at first. I plugged away. There was a correct way to sit, to hold the guitar, to use my hands. No shortcuts or adaptations acceptable. Naturally I struggled with these limitations. I am me, after all; the king of corner cutters! I didn't want to waste time playing scales. Just let me at the music!
For the first couple of months I wanted everything to happen more quickly. Discouragingly, I found pieces were not getting easier to play. The old habits of wanting results without hard work were very hard to lose. Eventually I purchased a hard copy of a spiral bound “Complete Guitar Method” by Matteo Carcassi (a pioneer of the classical guitar), and decided to follow it as best I could.
The book is well organised, or maybe it matched my preferred learning style. It was set out in a way I could understand. Scales, intervals, chords and arpeggios for each key were practised thoroughly before it moved to some related short pieces. This clicked with me. I got it! I began to play stuff that sounded good and that I could manage, but only after quite a lot of repetition.
Mind you, I suspect that the music I heard in my heard was not quite the standard of the music I played. No matter. I was in love. If you have slid up and down arpeggios, and marvelled at the richness of intervals and chords, you will know what I mean. Sublime beauty on tap. 'Heaven on a stick' is a phrase that comes to mind.
Understanding some of the structure of beautiful music and playing it, admittedly the simpler stuff so far, is one of the most awe inspiring things I have experienced in my life.
I know all this might sound nerdy. Classical music and stuff like that. Frankly I don't give a damn my dear. I reckon my ability to appreciate all music styles has improved after studying classical music. It's the glue that holds it all together, don't you know?
I look forward to practice. I devour it. I am transported by the melodies and harmonies, and frustrated when I can't quite get them right. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to contort your left hand across a fretboard with speed? Maybe you do.
They say a talented person needs around 10000 hours of practice to master the classical guitar and perform at concert level. A quick calculation tells me I have now logged almost 250 hours. Just a tad more to go then. I won't be performing before family and friends any time soon.
I am so happy with my new found passion. It's a lonely thing to learn by yourself though. I would love to find somebody else to play alongside. The world does not seem to be overrun with classical guitar enthusiasts however; at least not near where I live.
YouTube will just have to fill the gap.
A guitar teacher would be nice too. As much as I would like to have a teacher, I can't justify the expense. Some great players have taught themselves. It seems I will need to rely on my own determination and perserverence. Anyway, as long as no one else hears me, what does it matter?
The old fellow is enjoying himself. So what if he follows one of his passions in his own time and in his own way?
Oh, and while I think of it . . . my old Yamaha, mass produced in Taiwan decades ago, has mellowed and developed a fine quality sound with age. Perhaps its owner might be so lucky.