Strike a Chord: Vocals, Guitar, and the Music of My Life

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This was inspired by a prompt from The Daily Post http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/strike-a-chord/

I sing and play guitar.

Or rather I’m a singer who plays guitar.

For those of you that aren’t aware there are two types of singer/guitar players out there. Singers who play guitar and guitar players who sing. I won’t go into too many details but it will suffice to say a singer who plays guitar is a stronger vocalist then guitarist and uses the guitar more as accompaniment. A guitar player who sings is a stronger guitar player and can perform all sorts of acrobatics along a fret board but while they might not be horrible at the microphone there is something to be desired.

Vocally, I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. It always came very easily to me and with the exception of a shy stage I had as a kid I’ve always enjoyed having any chance to perform. Make no mistake the body is your instrument if you are a vocalist. A fact which is made painfully aware when you are sick or for whatever other reason “voiceless.” Getting sick isn’t fun for most people but it is devastating for me because when I get sick I lose my voice and thus I lose my very self.

Guitar is a more complicated story. I like it now and I certainly never hated it. If anything I always had an affinity for the string section. When I was a little kid my favorite instrument was the harp. I wouldn’t sneer at a Violin or Viola though. However for some reason my longing to play the harp went unfulfilled at the time. Perhaps it was because harps were hard to find. Maybe I simply didn’t beg hard enough for a harp lesson. Or maybe it was because my parents weren’t so sure about investing lots of time, money, and space in the house for an instrument that might not get played. (To their credit they did support many of my other endeavors in the arts and it is true I did go through a lot of classes and hobbies as a kid).

It was my father who taught me the guitar though it was somewhat forced at the beginning. I was 11 or 12 at the time and I didn’t want to learn at first. This might have been a result of pre-teen rebellion (i.e. anything your parents do is, like, so lame). Vanity was involved too (I shuddered at the idea of getting calluses on my fingers that, horror of horrors, would make me even more of an untouchable hag to the male version of the species then I already was). Still, because my father was and is a man who was undeterred by arguments based primarily in emotion, I learned to play guitar. Over time I did grow to like it, even love it though it’s not the same love I have for voice.

The love I have for the guitar is more of a love borne out of accomplishment. It is something that I have in my bag of tricks so I can accompany myself (as I have often had to). I am grateful for that level of musical independence. If I hadn’t learned to play I would probably always have to be at someone or something else’s mercy (a band, another guitar player, a vocal track, etc.). With the guitar I don’t have to be a slave to anyone. If a band falls through or a person doesn’t show up whatever, I can play this gig on my own. The guitar has made me more of an artist too (as opposed to just performing). I don’t have to play the songs exactly the way they are on the record. I can improvise and arrange at will which is a freedom I value.

The love I have of singing though is natural. It’s something I was born with and something I know without even having to think about it. It’s something I really couldn’t imagine living without and if I ever did lose my voice…well I can’t lie suicide would come to mind. I suppose I could find a way to keep going. Julie Andrews is thriving in spite of the botched surgery on her vocal chords and Linda Ronstadt inspires me with how she seems to maintain her good nature in spite of Parkinson’s Disease which ended her singing career. Still, when I read their stories I can’t ignore that undercurrent of darkness. What if you lost your voice and thus all that you seemingly are?

My singing and guitar playing aren’t all that I am though some days I may feel like they are. I am a singer who plays guitar and I want music to be a part of my life. However I don’t want to come to that point where I would be undone if I lost my voice or if I got arthritis and couldn’t play the guitar. Perhaps all I can do, all anyone can do, is to appreciate the gifts we have and use them whenever we can. That way at least you never have to live with regret. Or perhaps I can learn to make music a part of my life without letting it be the only thing in my life.

That’s probably going to take more practice then the guitar.

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