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Every time I strap on a guitar, a joyous juxtaposition of feeling washes over me. Sweet harmony glides on a smooth, still surface of my mind, while nervous anticipation rumbles underneath in a tumultuous undercurrent. Behind the neck of this instrument I feel a perfect duality of absolute calm, coupled with an electric energy. When I plug into my amp, all worries quiet but the mind stays awake, in complete synergy with the hands, working together in a unit to create a third appendage, one more powerful than any physiological one. A working unit of sound and power capable of moving people, capable of tapping into the power of human emotion.
If a guitar is nothing but wood and wiring to a player than he will do nothing more than just play notes, but if he sees the guitar for what it is, a new dimension will open up to him. It is behind this instrument that I feel most creative and at peace with everything.
My true love for guitar began when I first watched my uncle plug his Gibson Les Paul into a massive Marshall amp and rip into an E chord, sending a powerful reverberation into my young ears. After incessant begging, rivaled only by Ralphie in the film A Christmas Story, I received an acoustic guitar as a Christmas gift. What followed were years of annoying my family members as I monotonously repeated scales and chord charts as I taught myself how to play this instrument. As the great Jimi Hendrix once said, there were many moments where I hated the guitar and wanted to give it up for good, but I stuck with it and am currently reaping the rewards.
Learning music on the guitar is one of the longest and most rewarding endeavors I have embarked upon. My first love was rock and roll. Eighties rock and hair metal bands dominated my iPod’s most played list for many years. I learned to play the rock ballad classics of the Scorpions, AC/DC, Black Sabbath and ZZ Top. Then eventually I asked myself, what did these artists listen to? And there started my long trip up the musical food chain to the apex of all modern music on a guitar: jazz and blues. Pioneering guitarists in the early 20th century began to incorporate feeling into their music. It is from these innovators on the guitar that I began to understand how to incorporate feeling into music. How to use your fingers as a dynamic source and outlet for emotion. I studied the art of guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Howlin’ Wolf, Mississippi Fred McDowell and countless others who pour their souls through the six strings. From this discovery on I began to see the guitar as an outlet for emotion and feeling and it went on to become an introspective and meditative practice.
After your mind becomes trained and conditioned to know the neck of the guitar and the construction of a song, the cognitive side of the mind quiets and lets the creative force take over. Anger is released by hammering out a thunderous power chord, excitement is reflected by the repetitiveness and volume of a punk rock song, while sadness sings its sweet voice on the melodic E-major blues scale. My mind wanders in a spiral of freedom around a column of concentration as I sing out notes with my mind and hands, both unrestricted and unbound but focused at the same time. This is the duality that discordantly collides within me to produce sweet harmonies on a grand instrument of power, one I am proud to say I have taught myself and use as an outlet for emotion and stress. An escape that demands full mental concentration yet provides boundless liberation.