Growing Up with a Guitar + How it Changed Me
Read about the first time I picked up a guitar (literally) and how music became so significant to me because of it...
When I was around the age of 11, I picked up my dad’s guitar and decided,
"I want to play this thing".
It was so heavy I struggled picking it up, lost my balance, and almost fell flat on my back with the guitar on top, like a dead man- death by cinder block. I panicked at the thought of dropping & breaking it resulting in my dad ending my life.
I had been eyeing it for quite some time. It was an electric guitar, baby blue teal, with a silver glittery shine. It was the prettiest shade of blue I'd ever seen. How the hell do I play this thing?¿ There were so many different parts and when I strummed it, it didn't even sound that good (I would soon learn that it had to be plugged in). I had no idea what I was doing, but still I thought it was so beautiful. I sat there in the corner of our cold, unfinished basement that was known as our "music room", and very patiently started to learn some basic chords via Taylor Swift YouTube Videos, because who else would I be learning?
Even the very weak almost muted screeches that came out of it, I thought were starting to sound great!
It took a lot of time and practice, but I kept going back to it. After school, in bed before going to sleep, or on a lazy Sunday, I’d pick up that heavy guitar and play. I would play until my fingers were stained black, bright pink, and imprinted from the strings. It burned my crackled finger tips, but I tried to focus on the sound, more than the pain. At that age, I had never had a hobby that brought me so much joy as well as pain. Except maybe my brother whacking me on the head with Barbie Dolls or somethin of that nature🤷♂️
I of course reached a point where my fingers were so used to playing the steel strings, they became numb to the pain.
When I finally told my dad about sneaking around and playing his guitar, he was pleasantly surprised and I was pleasantly surprised that he was pleasantly surprised! It was all very surprising. Then on my 15th birthday, he surprised me again with a beautiful acoustic guitar that I could call my own! An acoustic guitar was much more necessary to the style I was interested in playing. I couldn’t believe the awesome, full, & rich sound it made. Especially compared to the electric guitar that I was playing as it wasn’t even plugged in! It was an epiphany that I could create an even more beautiful sound than I ever imagined. I could hear my favorite songs in real time, and dissect them to the very beginnings of their creation.
The first song I fully learned was "Fifteen" by Taylor Swift. It was the perfect song because well, I was 15. I was like most teenage girls: dramatic, starry eyed, and clueless about life, love, & just about everything in-between.
My teenage years only lasted so long and I soon discovered more artists than Taylor Swift (sorry Tay).
When I stumbled upon an old box of Vinyl Records in my basement, it opened my eyes to an entire different generation of music that I didn't even know existed. Like it was stored for me, waiting to be rediscovered. Like a hidden treasure chest and I had found the "X".
I was first drawn to records because of the album art that was so physical, prominent, powerful and colorful. It had a different message than most art I'd seen because it had a connection to music. I loved that. Browsing through the dusty box, I found myself interested in Rock, Alternative, Folk, R&B, and even Jazz. I then transferred that interest to my guitar where it could take flight. Once I learned a number of basic chords the opportunities were endless as to what to learn next.
That's the thing with guitar, like most everything else in life, starting is for sure the hardest part.
Once you learn basic chords, you can learn hundreds of different songs. Then you can start learning some finger picking and different styles. I would actually recommended anyone interested in picking up the guitar to NOT take a guitar lesson until you're actually pretty skilled and want to get fancy.
LET ME EXPLAIN MY THEORY: If you start lessons there's a fat chance you will start learning the strings, scales, maybe some classical stuff, and reading music, which to me- is the boring stuff.
This is what I believe: If you aren't learning songs you love and only focusing on the fundamentals, you won't enjoy it enough to stick with it and you havvvee to stick with it to get any good.
The best thing about playing an instrument to me, is falling in love with a song & going on the journey to learn it.
I never spent too much time on the intricate details until they came naturally and made more sense to me. Oh that's the chord I was playing!? I had no idea... Part of me thinks I was just scarred from childhood when I started piano lessons & played hot cross buns for 4 months straight until I finally gave it up! YouTube videos and Apps such as Tabs or Chordify, were any and all the resources I needed to learn the guitar.
It's a slow process, but if you love the music you're making, it won't be a painful one. It becomes a sort of therapy. So first, find the music you love before learning to play them on an instrument.
SO YEAH SORRY BACK TO THE STORY---------------->
Learning guitar of course led to more of an interest in music and art in general. That’s when I realized that music does more than just make me have an unhealthy, idolized obsession with people like Taylor Swift. It connected me with the significant people and events in my life.
At many times, it had brought me chills and tears, but other times it had brought me great compassion and perception. It had grieved with me through sad days, and celebrated with me through positive ones.
More importantly it brought me memories. The first death I experienced was my Noo-Noo aka my nana. I remember sitting in a corner listening to "White Horse" by Taylor Swift because I remembered playing it for her. Did it have anything to do with dealing with death? Not at all. But I listened to it because it brought me back to the days I spent with her. Now when I hear it, it holds a true bittersweet memory.
It takes me back to the day of her death when my mom's friend picked me up from school. It was dark and raining and when my mom picked me up from her friend's house, she was hysterically crying. That's when I found out. In the car that day, staring out at the rain.
Then I would spend the rest of that night curled up next to my heater listening to "White Horse", ugly crying, going through old letters and pictures, and eating Sour Patches because Sour Patches are delicious. The song made me happy at the time because in my mind, I was back at my nana's house in England. Frolicking in a field being chased by her horse, running around the pond with fish nets, playing kickball on the side of the house, climbing the trees, feeding the birds in the early morning, and my nana making me Bacon Sandwiches feeding into my unhealthy obsession with Bacon. I have this very vivid memory of playing outside with my brother and looking through the window and seeing my nana's big smile and wave to us. I just remember thinking: remember this moment ok- and I have ever since. Which is really amazing because I have a shit memory and couldn't tell you what I ate for breakfast. But anyway, at that time, I couldn’t say I had many friends that had been there for me like music and my dad who also loved music.
Speaking of memories, I remember going to my very first concert (Jesse McCartney lol). The feeling of seeing and hearing one of my favorite artists live, reassuring me that they were in fact real & living was unlike any other life experience I’d had.
[not mentioning all us girls having to drag our moms along because we were too young to go alone, being dehydrated in a crowd of crazed teenagers, running to the bathroom to throw up and having to leave early because yes that did happen].
So I’m not sure if everyone in the world feels this way about music and it’s importance or if it's just me. But one thing I know for sure, is that I feel everyone deserves to experience this emotion and connection in one way or another.
I really encourage everyone that loves music, to learn an instrument.
It’s nice to think about the fact that you don’t have to be a certain age to start learning an instrument. There is no timeline and you can play all your life so it’s worth investing in. Even if your favorite genre is something like Rap or Hip-Hop & you think there aren't instruments related to that, there are. I've played everything from Rock and Country, to Rap and Hip-Hop, because as long as it has a beat it can be played on an instrument. Like I said before, playing an instrument can many times feel like a form of therapy. If you're not the type of person to want to vent all your feelings to a stranger during a timed therapy session, I don't blame you & this could be a cool alternative.
Similar to therapy (but better) playing an instrument takes your mind away from any current issues or stress & instead channels your focus on one task: learning a song. It also calls upon feelings and emotions through sounds and lyrics.
I plan to always have the guitar as an important part of my life for these many reasons. And if it's not with this blog, it's with my career that I hope to inspire you to be more aware of the connections, memories, & even therapy sessions that can be made from music & art! I'm excited to turn my passion that I felt that day as a young girl picking up my dad's guitar, into a fulfilling career that revolves around music. That is thanks to everyone such as you for reading this and for supporting my work! :-)
Now I'd love to know: What was your Childhood Dream?
C O M M E N T or DM me and let me know, share a funny story, or a time you felt inspired :)
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