Zen and the Art of Playing Guitar

My fingers are numb. But it’s a good numb. Tonight, for the first time in over a year, I looked over at my lonely, dusty little red Fender guitar and I think it actually spoke to me. “Susan, pick me up…dust me off…play me badly…I don’t care!” And I did it. I dug out the old song book, flipped open to “Wheat Kings” (3 chords, how hard could it be?) and stretched my fingers into the squeakiest, crankiest G Chord you’ve ever heard. But you know what? For the first time since I ever tried to awkwardly pluck a guitar in the 6th grade…I didn’t care how bad I sounded. I just played. And it was fun.

Now, much to my relief, and I’m sure, the relief of my pets, I’m a pretty decent singer. So if I sing loud enough, it kind of drowns out the squeaky, off tune, cat-dying drone of my playing. About 1 verse in, the pain started. First, the hand cramped up. Then, the fingers, callous-free for over a year now, started to scream as if being sliced by a dull knife. But I just kept playing.

I somehow muddled through the song and for the first time in weeks, my mind felt clearer. I eagerly flipped to the next page – “Far Too Canadian” by, I think, Spirit of the West. But I can’t remember how to play Fm7, so I just play the chords I know. Now, normally, I’d have just stopped and moved on to something else, or struggled to find Fm7 somewhere, or just given up. But I didn’t. I was having too much fun. And my guitar (and the dogs in the room) don’t seem to care that I don’t know the chord. Or that the guitar playing literally sounded like a bag of cats. I just kept playing.

Something transformed in me tonight when it comes to playing music. Singing, for the most part, I find relatively easy. I can do 4 part harmony, blues, jazz, folk…it all kind of comes in stride. But playing guitar…that is something I have always wished I could do well. I’ve taken lessons, farted around, tried to figure it out on my own..but I always get discouraged. Tonight, I realized one thing…just play.

Maybe it’s that I have so many friends that are brilliant at it. Greg Wyard, Pete Webb, Tony D…as if I could ever be THAT good! Of course, I am fully aware that these guys combine their God-given talent with one thing that I have NOT done…PRACTICE. I’m not saying I couldn’t get good if I worked at it as hard as they have – then again I’m not looking to get that good at it, really. I just want to play.

There is one thing I do share with my musician pals. That is passion – passion for creating music…no matter what – just playing. I’ve suddenly realized it’s about the process, not the end result. About doing it because it’s fun, relaxing, stimulating, rewarding.

I may never play guitar in public. I may never even play it around a campfire. My only audience may be my dogs. But I will…just play. And sing. Because it’s piles of fun for me. Because I can. And darn it, if I figure out how to play Fm7…you bet I will blog about it.

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