Strum and Dang It!


Ruth Gordon declares in Harold & Maude “everybody should be able to make some music, that’s the cosmic dance.” My dancing shoes have failed miserably since the fourth grade, when I took up the violin and began my lifelong agony of trying to play a simple tune. I’ve also tried piano with poor results and now I’m trying to learn to strum a guitar. I don’t know if I’m following the mantra, “if at first you don’t succeed” or if I’m just a glutton for punishment but I’m still trying to get on the universal dance floor. My wife is also learning the guitar and in the course of a couple of hours during the first time she has ever picked up the instrument, she learned to play chords G, C and D and she could switch from G to C. In the same amount of time I have learned to strangle to life out of the G and C chords and managed to loose a guitar pick inside the belly of the acoustic beast. My wife played the flute in her high school band so her arching technique is already well developed so she can grip the strings on the correct frets without sounding flat or off key. My musical training has only heightened my aggravation and I’m considering doing an impressive Pete Townshend impression by smashing the guitar into a million pieces, at least I’ll have one rock and roll moment. My kids love the sound of the guitar (when it’s played right) and they enjoy plucking the strings. They are my inspiration to keep plugging along and to remember that learning an instrument should be fun. I’ve also kept in mind the wisdom of Tom Waits who said (more or less) people can love music but it might not love them back and I’ve always felt like I’m in the unrequited group. I was just tickled I was able to properly tune the thing using a free app that pinpoints where each string needs to be set. I take my hat off to people who can tune by ear or with a pitch pipe. I tried using the pipe and I ended up with a guitar that sounded like a kazoo. So despite the fact that I have a tin ear, poor dexterity and little patience I still plan to continue learning the guitar, even if I look like an arthritic donkey while trying to play it. As Maude (Ruth Gordon) stated, “everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves, you can’t let the world judge you too much.” Harold learned to strum a banjo by the end of the movie, if this guitar thing doesn’t work out maybe I can start pickin’ and a grinnin’ on the ole’ banjo. If all else fails, there’s always kazoo lessons , I suppose.


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