Guitar 8/24/21

News with Richard Bleil

Yesterday (as of the writing of this post) I picked up my guitar.  I couldn’t wait for it to ship from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Omaha, Nebraska, so I jumped in my truck and went to get it.  It’s okay, it was a nice drive.  So today, I am officially a tattooed guitar-owning bastard. 

And it feels good.

To be fair, I’m much more of an enthusiast than a musician, but I played a bit with it.  I picked up a book of Beatle tunes because those were the songs that I played the most back when I had my Ovation acoustic.  And, yes, I’m just as bad today as I was when I gave up when I stopped playing, oh, maybe a decade ago (probably longer).  But I’m no worse, either.  I can’t decide if that’s good news that I haven’t lost any of my skills, or bad that I didn’t have any skills to lose.

My new guitar is (yes, I’ll drop names here) a Fender Les Paul, picked out for me especially by my friend Michael.  Now, Michael himself is something of a celebrity.  He is a guitar tech and well renowned in the area where he works, sought out by real musicians (and some of my favorite bands) whenever they’re in town to help set up their guitars.  He was kind enough to spend his time not only helping me to find the guitar that would best suit my needs (and pocketbook), but he also took the time to set it up for me.  I was raised in a family where the “language of love” was gift giving.  He doesn’t know it yet, but he’ll be getting a gift card from me to say thank you, but not just for him.  He has a new family, so it’ll be a larger than expected gift card for his family.

There are a couple of things that are different this time, and I hope it makes a difference.  For one, it’s a helluva guitar.  But I’m guessing a true musician with skill can make any guitar sound good.  The other thing is that I have signed up for a month’s worth of lessons.  Not enough to make me a professional, but maybe enough to get me started.  I would like to be at least skilled enough to be able to pick it up and be minimally talented.  If I get started, maybe they can get me started on some good habits and I can pick up more as I go.

I’m thinking about naming my guitar Igraine because you can clearly see the wood grain in her cherry red finish.  Igraine, if you recall your legends, was mother to King Arthur, fathered by Uther Pendragon though Merlin the Magician’s magic to deceive her as her husband the Duke of Canterbury was being killed in battle.  Of course, Uther was subsequently killed as well, but not before he could plunge his sword Excalibur, the sword of kings, into the stone so his assassins would be robbed of their treasure.  So, you know, there’s a bit of a story with that name.

My friend insists that you improve with practice.  I’m not so sure.  Yes, to be good you have to practice; I get that, but, if you don’t know what you’re doing and have bad habits through ignorance, then practicing basically ingrains those bad habits into your style.  That can’t be good.  I do know enough about guitars to know that fingering (where you place your fingers when holding down strings) matters.  There are certain chord transitions that are common (because they are pleasing to our ears), and if your fingering is bad, it makes these transitions more difficult.  If I’m remembering correctly, it’s the F-chord fingering that always felt unnatural to me, but this is because the “proper” fingering helps to transition to the next typical chord. 

So, not this Sunday but next (actually maybe it will be this coming Sunday by the time this posts), I will be taking lessons.  It’s a month’s worth of lessons, which sounds impressive but if you think about it, it’s only four lessons.  Maybe that will help me get some good habits which will act as a launching pad for my career as the greatest guitarist of all time.

It’s important not to set your goals too high, you know.

It’s not only about the guitar.  I love the guitar for its potential and portability, but I also have two keyboards and my antique piano (scheduled to be tuned for the first time in just four days).  My friend in Scotland is helping me learn about these instruments to help me learn music theory so I can write my own music (and play as well).  Plus, I have harmonicas, a Bodhran drum, Chinese flute and other instruments as well.  It’s quite the variety for a man who is in no way, shape or form a musician or artist, but I’m definitely an enthusiast.  Maybe that’s enough?

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