Saturday, 9 June 2012
Two things I’ve always wanted to do in life are cartooning and playing the guitar. And I failed in both.
No matter how much I try my cartoons just do not translate from what I can see clearly in my head to what is drawn on the paper. Somehow, between whatever straw and cobwebs are collected in my brain and the electro-muscular mechanism in my hand there’s a blockage somewhere that turns my every attempt at drawing into something a small child or Picasso would draw.
As for playing the guitar; that’s no better either.
Some years ago my wife and I took guitar playing lessons at our local college. We were both very enthusiastic and to be fair she progressed much better than I.
From the start, I could see disaster looming from the very first note ever played. There were about a dozen or so “beginners” in our class and the instructor started us on a simple exercise. Hold your fingers tight on these strings and press them against the “frets” and with the other hand run your fingers up and down on the string. Here … near the hole in the guitar.
Everyone managed this well; except me.
My fingers pressed on the frets so hard they almost started bleeding. But my other hand going up and down, up and down, was somehow a few millimeters away from the strings so no sound was coming out. I kept going up and down faster and faster, but speed is not the essence here when you’re too far away from the strings.
The instructor asked me to relax and try again. Slower but nearer … slower but nearer.
I did just that, and this time my fingers got entangled and caught in the guitar strings. TWANG … went the guitar and then everything stopped. My fingers got stuck there as everyone laughed and my wife got embarrassed.
Learning to tune the guitar was no better either.
I just could not differentiate between one note and another. They all sounded the same. You might as well been beating a big drum or have an elephant trumpeting under water it would have sounded the same as my guitar.
The instructor played two notes over and again to get me to appreciate the difference in timbre but they both sounded the same as when I accidentally sit on my cat sleeping in the armchair.
My wife must have thought she married a deaf husband. Although I must admit, like most husbands, I do have selective hearing when it suits.
The next exercise involved using a device called a plectrum or a pick. It’s a small triangular bit of plastic used to pluck the strings of the guitar.
It’s easy to use, according to my instructor. Hold the plectrum with your fingers and pluck the strings one at a time. He showed me how to use it and then asked me to try.
I wish I didn’t … and so did he.
I plucked the string so hard that the small piece of plastic flew out of my hand and hit the instructor in the eye.
What he said next could not be put into music no matter what instrument you use. It was a string of unrepeatable words, none rhyming nor musically melodic, and hardly likely to be ever used in any lyrics I can think of.
He left the room for First Aid treatment and we all decided after a few minutes to give up waiting in the classroom and we went home.
Neither my wife nor I returned to guitar lessons.
I’ve met the instructor in the street a few times since. He smiles and says nothing and walks away in a hurry.