In some ways, I have a strong sense for music, and I am fairly clueless in other ways. For example, there is always music in my head, running in the background, often unnoticed. I have fairly broad musical tastes. On the other hand, I usually don’t pay much attention to lyrics, and my memory is not very good at memorizing them. There is a lot of music I’ve heard many times without ever knowing who performed it.
I’ve never really been a musician. My mother played the piano. When I was young, she gave me opportunities to learn, and I did learn a bit. However, I didn’t stick with it. My grandmother played the violin, and she taught me a little about it, but just enough to satisfy my curiosity. There was a guitar, belonging to my mother, stored in the top of my closet when I was little. I fiddled with it, but I never saw it played. Throughout my teenage years, I was very fond of Duran Duran, and it was the sounds of Nick Rhodes at the keyboard that interested me most. I told my parents that I wanted a synthesizer, but they rightly guessed I wouldn’t stick with it any more than the piano. Years later, I bought myself an electronic keyboard, and I didn’t do much with it. During my thirties, as I was immersed in electronic club music, I thought it would be fun to create music and remixes on the computer. However, afraid of wasting money and time on another hobby I wouldn’t follow through, and having no training for composition, I didn’t even start.
I sang in church choirs during my teenage years. This isn’t a statement of my skill. Church choirs will take anybody, and they won’t kick you out no matter how poorly you sing. My range was such that I couldn’t hit the high notes of a bass part, and I often found myself singing an octave low. My ability to read music was always marginal, and I was easily confused by people near me singing other notes. In any case, singing hymns requires none of the expressive qualities needed for pop music. In the past couple of decades, I haven’t spent much time in church, and my ability to sing has degraded in a number of ways.
In recent years, I have acquired a bunch of friends with a passion for singing and music. Many of them went to the same school and were music majors. Now they do karaoke, and I’m often invited to go with them. I am often encouraged to get up and sing, but so far I have only tried it once. Fortunately, there weren’t many of my friends there to hear it. Nevertheless, I’ve been practicing, and trying to figure out what songs I can sing that fit my voice and my personality. I’ve found myself trying to find my voice, which I have discovered is not at all the hymn-singing voice of my choir days. In this search, I have found that the songs to which I am most drawn are the ones with simple music, very often little more than an acoustic guitar.
One song in particular was “Fools in Love” by Inara George. It got me thinking that, if I really wanted to improve my singing by practicing, and if I really wanted to sing songs that fit my voice, the best way to do that would be to sing along with an acoustic guitar. It occurred to me that it wouldn’t really hurt me to spend a few bucks on a guitar, even if I ended up not doing anything with it.
On an impulse, I swung into the nearest music store and bought an acoustic guitar. I bought a chord book with it, and the storekeeper told me where to start learning. This was in July. After a month, I knew two things: I hadn’t lost interest, and I couldn’t learn what I needed from a chord book. I went back to the same store and signed up for lessons.
I have been taking lessons for two months now, and I am making good progress. This is due in part to the fact that I am practicing a lot. Frankly, I am surprised that I practice as much as I do. I am an A.D.D. person, which means, among other things, that I procrastinate when it comes to repetitive, boring tasks. However, it hasn’t gotten boring yet. In fact, my A.D.D. turns out to be working for me in this case. Every time I see the guitar (which is pretty and eye-catching), it brings the impulse to play it a little. Unlike many of my A.D.D. tendencies, I have not been suppressing this. In this way, I end up practicing multiple times most days.
The acoustic guitar has created interest in other guitars: the electric guitar and the bass guitar. It has also renewed my interest in the balalaika. Last week, I rewarded myself by buying an electric guitar. I have found that I enjoy playing it even more than the acoustic (and it is even more pretty and eye-catching).
Through this experience, I’ve been learning a lot more about reading music and about music theory. My mind is alive with possibilities. This may renew my interest in the keyboard and creating music with the computer. It is impossible to say how serious of a musician I am going to become, but there seems no question now that I am becoming one. I have started quite late in life, and it seems unlikely that I will ever be in a band, but … you never know.