Extracted from the CD insert of:
"Guitar Fingerstyle, A Narada Collection"
Kick back, put a guitar in your hands, and the world is transformed. Gone is the stressed out, mentally overloaded info-swamp of cellular phones, e-mail, calendars, television, voice mail, to-do lists, faxes and phone tag. In flows the warmth of wood, the feel of a fine instrument in your hands, the metal or nylon strings waiting to respond, the resonance against your chest and an invitation to solitude, companionship and beauty.
My father used to say that when he picked up his trumpet, "the cares of the world would just wash away". For him, music provided the balm to heal the bumps and scars of the day. For me, the guitar has opened doors to several different worlds -- places that can be accessed at home, on the road, in a hotel room, sitting outside on a porch in the sun, or even as a break during a day in the office. Listening to others play guitar provides many of the same vicarious pleasures.
One place the guitar takes me is to the "alone with myself" place. As information crowds our world with sounds and stimuli, this position of guitar solitude is ever more important. Maybe this special feeling comes from the concentration it takes to play, the channeling of energies into the sounds coming out of the instrument, or the marshaling of fingers and voice to produce a coherent whole. Distractions must be put aside, and the mind becomes focused and alert -- a state of meditation induced by the requirements of playing.
Another world enjoyed by acoustic guitarists is the "warmth of the wood" place. It is the love of a white spruce top with close, straight grains -- yellowing to a rich amber as it ages, the rosewood back which still carries the sound and feel of the Brazilian forest, or the African ebony fingerboard in stark contrast to the inlaid pearl. It is the hunt for the vintage instrument -- the old Martin or Gibson, or the thrill of discovering a new luthier who has coaxed new sounds and designs from the wood.
The "companion" place is where the guitar takes us to play with others. Sometimes it is just a guitar duo -- trading the roles of soloist and second part. At other times it is the gathering of guitars, voices, mandolins, autoharps, fiddles, flutes, dulcimers, banjos, recorders and string bases. The magic that happens when individuals come together in musical community is a joyful metaphor for life at its best -- sometimes leading, sometimes following -- weaving a tapestry of individual threads to produce a whole much greater than the sum of its parts.
At a recent gathering, one of the guitarists said that "we should put up a sign that says: Souls Refilled Here!" She told how her job often emptied her soul, and that the guitar was a vehicle for bringing balance back into her life. For those who have ever played guitar -- you know what she means. For those who need this restorative power in your life, it is never too late to pick up a guitar and learn to play.
Will Schmid was president (1994-1996) of the 65,000 member Music Educator's National Conference (MENC) and professor of music at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. He is author of over 50 guitar books, cassettes, CDs and videos for Hal Leonard Corporation.
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