Elizabeth Willis Barrett………September 25, 2013
I have wanted to learn to play the guitar for a long time. I can easily play my baritone ukulele that I received in trade for my grade school violin about 45 years ago. But four strings is easy. I wanted to progress to six strings and have been given every opportunity. For various reasons, however, the guitar hasn’t become a part of me like the ukulele.
There have been guitars around our house but it seems like something always happened to them. One was minding its own business leaning on a post in the family room. It was in everyone’s way, but no one thought to give it a more judicious place of repose. It got bumped and the neck fell off. Unrepairable. It was a sad demise. For Christmas we gave one of our sons a beautiful Seagull guitar that we made him swear he would never sell. One drug induced mania had that family favorite at a pawn shop in no time, bringing in enough money for probably two hits of heroin. Anger was only one of my emotions.
Then Brad bought me my own Seagull guitar. Brad always takes care of me. This guitar is a very nice one but even after taking a Parks and Rec guitar class taught by a pro, and an advanced Chandler Gilbert Community College guitar class taught by an even greater pro, I couldn’t pick up the guitar and whip out “You Are My Sunshine” without much tedious concentration.
After about five years of intermittent effort, I finally determined that the guitar was too big for me. (I’ve always been a little slow at recognizing cause and effect.) Also, I couldn’t practice very long because the steel strings were cutting rivers into my fingers and pain and I are not very good friends. I needed a smaller guitar with nylon strings. Aha! Just a minor revelation.
With some more hinting around birthdays and Christmases, I finally have in my possession a guitar that will help me cross at least one thing off my bucket list.
Another thing that has been a challenge for me in playing the guitar is the tuning of the silly thing. Why is it that I cannot remember the names of the strings: EADGBE? Easy, right? I tried to memorize some little mnemonic device such as “Even Animals Desire Greatness Before Eating” but I found that I couldn’t hold that sentence in my head any longer than I could hold the letters. Then when I’d go to tune the guitar at the piano even with the string names written down before me, I had trouble hearing when the string actually hit the right pitch. So I bought a tuner. Problem solved! Sort of.
At a friends’ retreat where I was going to wow everyone with my hard-earned guitar prowess, I found that the tuner only works when it is being used by a sensible, levelheaded and educated person. I also learned that you should never try to tune anything with nine other people waiting and watching you. I clipped the tuner to the guitar, hit the first string and the tuner said “E sharp.” I didn’t remember the names of the strings but I knew there wasn’t an E#. I tried another and another. None of the strings was cooperating. And since I couldn’t remember the names or the order, I didn’t know what I was trying for. The tuner was failing me. I asked for volunteers to tell me the names of the strings. They failed me, too. Every needed answer can be googled, however, so I whipped out my phone and learned for at least the fiftieth time: EADGBE.
It was then that I realized my enormous error. Just before I had clipped on the tuner, I had clipped on the capo to raise the key a half step. I was trying to tune an already tuned guitar with the capo on!
Educate About Darned Guitar Before Embarrassment!
Once again it was brought to my attention that I have a lot to learn. How much more is there?