Thursday, December 31, 2009

Harmonic Happiness

I have always enjoyed music from as far back as I can remember. I enjoy many different styles of music: rock, southern gospel, country (especially the older stuff), classical, blues. With very few exceptions, the one thing that ties my love of the genres together is the role of the guitar. The guitar is not just a beautiful, expressive, and versatile instrument. For me, the guitar is the primary element that makes a musician look cool and makes a song sound cool. It doesn't matter whether it's Marty Robbins falling in love with a Mexican girl, Stevie Ray Vaughan walking a tightrope, or the Everly Brothers trying to wake a girl at 4 AM (some 25 or 6 minutes after Chicago was searching for something to say), there would be a serious void without those strummed strings in the mix.

I have had a guitar around the house since I was about 13. My Dad would hang with his friends and sing old country and western songs. My Dad has even written a few songs over the years. It amazed me to watch my Dad strum those chords and sing songs like "Long Black Veil" or "Because He Lives". I, on the other hand, would sit in my room and struggle with that open C chord. One day, I finally got that chord to ring clear with no thudded notes. I then learned G, F (that was a toughie), D, E, A, and even a couple of minor chords. Some time after, I was not only playing along with my Dad, I was learning songs by Paul Simon, Bob Seger, and the Everly Brothers. I would even, on occasion, plug in, crank my amplifier, and bang out some power chords. In my mind, I was the next Paul Stanley. In reality, it only resulted in the windows vibrating and the neighbor's dog contemplating suicide.

I am now into my forties. My 70 watt amp is gone as well as the Les Paul I got at 17 (it was stolen 2 years later). I still have a very beat up late 1930's Gibson L-00 acoustic that my father gave me. Unfortunately, due to a nasty case of tendinitis (especially in my left hand) and the guitar's very wide neck, it is very difficult to play for more than 10 minutes at a time before the pain gets too bad to play. As a result, I am very out of practice and my older son is a better player than I was at his age. Nonetheless, I still pick up that old guitar and I start playing the chords to "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground". I never get tired of that song or playing those chords. Still, it does get heartbreaking sometimes that I can't play it for hours as I did when I was younger. I am sure, at some point, I will invest in another guitar that is a bit friendlier to my wrists. In the meantime, I just grin and bear it as I struggle with that nasty B7 chord.

This past Christmas, I got some really nice gifts. I got some rubber ducks to add to my collection. I got some DVDs of "30 Rock" (I love that show). In addition to these, I got a really cool gift from my older daughter. She got me a set of harmonicas in 7 keys. She told me that this would allow me to play something that would not be so hard on my wrists. As a result, I have been scouring the Internet for online lessons and tabs. So far, I have been practicing songs like "Love Me Do" and "Amazing Grace". Maybe over time, I can learn the harmonica part for "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground". At this point, however, I could have sworn I saw one of my cats updating his will.


  1. Happy New Year, Shane.

    May it be filled with good friends, good music and good words!

  2. Thank you, Kevin. May your new year be as much a blessing to you as your writing and mentoring has been to me.


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