I am a professional singer. I am not a professional guitarist. Believe me. I know. I have performed and recorded with some of the best in the business.
I am also a realist. And, unfortunately, a perfectionist. Perfectionists aren’t perfect. They just desperately want to be.
So you can understand why I don’t want to play guitar.
I used it as a songwriting tool when I was young, naïve, and untrained. I actually wrote some pretty good songs on it. But that was a spiritual yielding and had nothing whatsoever to do with skill. That was a God thing.
And then suddenly, for ten years, I put my guitar down. I’d been going through a lot- a divorce and struggling to make it on my own- a spiritual displeasure with the music I’d been doing (both secular and gospel)- and an incredibly long journey back to self.
Finally a few years ago I wandered into the basement, found my guitar and an old CD player, and started playing along with some of the old favorites I’d grown up with. And a strange thing began to happen. I was hearing better than I ever had before. I was picking things up pretty fast. I was dismantling every song and putting them back together again thoroughly and completely. This was odd. To become a better musician one must practice. I hadn’t been practicing. I had, however, been growing spiritually in leaps and bounds. I’d thrown off some heavy burdens, emerged from an oppressive relationship, found time and space for proper healing (thank you Tim), and began to understand what “freedom in Christ” really meant.
On other levels, too, I can recall a huge surge in thirst for knowledge. I wanted to know everything. I was at the library every week checking out books. Organic gardening and landscaping books. Books detailing the design and structuring of irrigation systems. Woodworking design and refinishing, environmental issues, astronomy, solar energy, farming and homesteading, holistic health, and the list goes on.
Then, too, I took a certified IQ test. I was surprised with the results. Granted, I’d had a little wine beforehand and no doubt my brain was a little more…ummm….free…lucid. It was as though I’d been struck by a lightning bolt!
But I digress. My whole point is that music is a spiritual thing. Deficiencies in spiritual health block our ability to receive this highly attuned medium. Wow! That is my conviction and I hold fast to it.
And so I played. And I played, and I played. Sometimes learning up to five songs a day.
I started thinking about playing out again. All of these songs that brought me such genuine joy. These oldies. These love songs. These Dylan tunes. I knew, of course, that when it came time to perform live, I would just sing. I’d find a “real” guitar player. Someone like the people I was used to playing with in the past.
But do you know it’s been over a year and I haven’t been able to find that guitarist. I have found a lovely female pianist/keyboardist. I have found a talented female bass player. But try as I may, I just can’t seem to find the right guitarist. This, too, is odd. Maybe it’s the location. Back in Canada there was always an abundance of good players up for playing with a decent singer. Maybe it’s the fact that we are just a little too far from Austin where all the musicians are.
Or ….maybe….I am the guitarist I have been looking for. The thought has crossed my mind a few times in the last year. A few times I resolved to try it. But frustration, lack of belief, and that wretched perfectionism, would always send me back on the hunt for someone who did what I struggled to do, effortlessly. Then I could finally stick to what I do effortlessly- sing.
But you see, that One Thing that God is calling me to -and I do hesitate to put this down in writing because it sounds like too much of a commitment!- that One Thing he is calling me to is the one thing I must do. Why? I do not know. Why wouldn’t he just hand me a ready-made band on a platter instead? Good grief. Heaven knows I’m not a guitar player.
And then, not one, but three professional musicians told me they did not understand why I wouldn’t just play guitar for myself. “You’re good enough. Your meter- your dynamics are perfect.” They are. I know that (I told you I was a realist!), but that is a result of my vocal instincts- my musical intuition. But because I know my actual guitar playing skills don’t touch the pros, I have avoided this one thing like the plague.
But I will tell you that I have decided to play my own guitar for our trio. I’m putting in the effort and just moving ahead with it, come what may. I am finding in some sense a possessiveness regarding how I want each song played and a slight gratefulness that I know how to convey that probably better anyone else, albeit with less skill, if that makes any sense.
I like to end all of my blogs with a pleasant resolve. Go ahead and look, they all end that way. I’ll even wait months before writing something that is pressing on my heart, if I have not yet found a resolution, a key to a mystery, or a lesson to be learned that I may impart to my readers. But there is no resolve (no musical pun intended!) to this blog. This time I am not trying to impart some great gem of wisdom into your life. This time I am asking you to impart your great gems of wisdom into mine.
Is there One Thing in your life that you have stubbornly refused to embrace? How is that working out for you? If you did embrace it, what have the results been? Are there any more insights you could share concerning some of my thoughts here?
With much love and thanks!