Monday, March 14, 2011

We're All Doomed (a guitar story)

I've always been drawn to the classical guitar, so one day I went out and bought one. Not a great one: a low-end Yairi, definitely a factory guitar, but with a pretty good sound – nice warm tone, and so on.

I began taking lessons, too. The hardest part was getting used to holding it in the proper position. (Note my hunched form in the accompanying photo!)

I'd already been playing for a lot of years, but since making the switch I've never looked back. I began reading all about classical guitars in addition to playing one. I wish I'd taken better notes, because I remember coming across a very astute observation but have no idea where I read it. (Usually I'm a stickler for citations.)

That observation, in sum, is that all guitarists are doomed to die believing we could be at least a little bit better on our chosen instrument.

It sure is true for me. Even now, after years of playing, I tend to over-reach – to start work on a piece that is too complicated for my abilities. I should be able to play this, I think. I should still be getting better.

It's good to challenge yourself. It's a good way to learn, to stretch. On the other hand (my fretboard hand?), Chet Atkins said you should know your limitations, and accept them.

In the years since switching to classical I have upgraded from the Yairi to a much nicer guitar, a handmade instrument from an Oklahoma luthier named Arnold Hennig. I got rid of my old steel string and twelve string, and with great reluctance, my electric guitar (see Crash Dummy's Guitar, in the January 2011 section of this blog.)

But make no mistake. I'm an amateur, and cling to that status whether I like it or not. I have nothing but great admiration for real musicians, and I've known a few over the years.

Regardless of my skill level, though, I am doomed to die believing I could and should be a better guitar player.

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