"A Love, For Life" (Essay)

Some new perspective from a musician on being a musician, and perhaps the parent of a musician.

I've been playing guitar for nearly 40 years now. As my 8-year old embarks on her own explorations of music, I have come to realize that most every adult she knows just picks up an instrument and makes music come out of it like magic. She never witnessed all those hours when each and every one of us sucked, struggling to make even the most basic sounds and finger coordination happen.

So lately I've been trying to lead by example a bit more. Being more dedicated to practicing, but also demonstrating HOW to practice. I don't remember ever having a time when I hated playing my guitar, but I only really learned in the last few years what constitutes effective practice. I've probably forgotten more things and lost more skills than I have now, but I simply LOVE learning new things and working on techniques and sounds.

And so now we have a dedicated practice space in our living room - music stand, lights, metronome, and of course, instruments a-plenty. Over my years of playing, teaching and thirsting for knowledge, I have accumulated at least a "Guitarist Bachelor's Degree" worth of materials from most every musical angle - acoustic, electric, classical, and every style that could be played on each. So now I am making a point not only to practice, but to do so "publicly" - in the short, focused, 10-15 minute bursts that lead to mastery of simple elements.

I've learned a lot since I was a teenager playing for hours in my bedroom. I never knew how to practice - I just played what I knew and what I imagined, over and over again. My fingers and wrists work differently than they did back then. My ears work better :) My head is filled with sounds and melodies and rhythms from around the world. And my soul craves the time each day when I sit with my beloved instruments and work on some new thing. Any one of my guitars. I love playing any of them.

I was lucky to be a working musician at 15. I spent that spring working for minimum wage weeding strawberry fields and saving my money to buy a Fender Stratocaster. My dad loaned me the last few bucks to buy a mint 76' Strat off a guy who worked at a music store. That guitar and I have been together ever since. I played it this afternoon. I played it on all of my CDs. I play it with my band now. I played it with two dear high school friends in a power trio that paid a big chunk of college and grad school. I've written a ton of music on it. It is battle scarred and barely recognizable. I've replaced the neck, the bridge and a pickup; torn it apart and reassembled it a few times.

A musical instrument is a love affair that's hard to describe. For me it's truly a lifelong relationship that I am lucky to have and still be able to use as my livelihood. While I want my kid to have that relationship if she wants it, I know all too well that her path may lead someplace entirely different. It's a huge part of my life and thus her childhood. I can only hope that the things I do make the relationship inviting to her.

She did insist on figuring out "Whiskey Before Breakfast", a favorite fiddle tune in our house. And a big jump from "Twinkle Twinkle". One little victory at a time :)

It would seem that Santa left a Fiddling Elf under this year's tree.

It would seem that Santa left a Fiddling Elf under this year's tree.

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