I started learning to play the guitar in June 1993, I was ridiculed about my decision for quite some time. All my mates were into rave music, and my girlfriend and my parents didn’t really get it either... Sometimes it pays not to listen. The sarcasm, put downs and sniggers were being drowned out by The Beatles, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Cream and Eddie Cochran. I learnt bar chords in a week, playing ‘Come On Everybody’ on a Spanish guitar strung with heavy gauge strings and an action so high, I could put my hand into the sound hole, to retrieve a plectrum with ease. My biggest ambition in life up to that point had been wanting to be Spiderman. I’d still like to, as my spidey senses are first class. But being a guitar player was, so I thought, more realistic.
The biggest myth about the guitar and perhaps why a lot of people choose to learn, is that it's the top line instrument in any beat combo and as a result, a lot of really famous musicians are guitarists. Which gives the impression that it must be easy. The fact is, that despite its incredible range of sonic possibilities, its power and aesthetic allure, the guitar is a ridiculous instrument to learn. I am yet to encounter any other human activity which requires such odd motor skills. The fretting hand and by extension the arm, are operating upside down causing the neural messages between brain and arm to howl like Jimi’s Marshall stack. It’s uncomfortable in ways a pianist could never fathom. It’s painful; no wonder it's painful for anyone in earshot. All this before the right hand/arm starts windmilling…
All this being said, perhaps that’s why my obsession is so strong. What you put into the guitar, you always get back. Granted, I’ve realised that this is true of other instruments and yet it's still all about the guitar for me, to the point that it feels like an extension of who I am. Playing guitar is incredibly intimate, because it has to be held so close to the body, it's all about touch and feel. Certain chords have become so integral, E Augmented is definitely the chord that sounds most like me. More recently, I have become so enamoured by Open C Tuning because of the depth and resonance it creates. It puts me in a state of being that for me, Vipassana, Kundalini and Transcendental meditation have been unable to match.
Playing the guitar is such a valuable metaphor for living, in terms of how to focus effort in order to attain a sense of achievement, communication and collaboration. It is also massively humbling: you are always at the beginning. I can recall the first time I came across a video of Paco De Lucia playing Entre Dos Aguas and it made me want to literally burn my guitar and exclaim “What’s the point?”. I’ve experienced dozens of these instances, as I’m sure many other players have. But then, something kicks in and I carry on. And if I stick with it, I reckon one day I could be, at a push, a decent guitarist.