On the Restorative Properties of Guitar Playing

The Ovation 6-string guitar on the left has been a fixture in my musical arsenal for over two decades. My wife bought me the beautiful instrument in my younger years, back when dreams of making a career at music had not yet been beaten out of me by the harsh realities of life.

OK, that last line was a bit hyperbolic. If anything, I simply gave up on the idea that a person could eke out a comfortable living playing music, especially in this age of music emphasizing digital sampling and synthesizers.

A recent post about guitars on a local message board reminded me that it had been months since I picked up a guitar, much less my old friend the Ovation. Over the course of the last few days I played a little bit, finding out quickly how much I miss those callouses at the tips of my fingers.

I strummed through some chord progressions and simple riffs, intrigued that so much of music becomes instinctual. I belted out a few of my old standbys, much to the dismay of my dogs, though their tails wagged when I changed the lyrics to reflect their names: "Eddie, Eddie....Eddie Eddie EDDIE!"

I never made much money as a musician, probably less than two thousand dollars even including the times I busked for change. The future probably holds little promise for me as a musician, either, but this is irrelevant: I never approached music as a money-making scheme.

It was just for the joy and pleasure of creating a sound no one had ever before produced.

Somewhere on a dusty shelf in my basement are a few tapes of original compositions I created in my four-track studio in the 1980s (I sold the four-track recorder and much of my gear a decade ago in a period of poverty). Yet I am in no rush to dig up and digitize the music on those tapes for the simple reason that they are artifacts, snapshots from my past that bear little relation to the person I am today.

As I strummed this evening I created a half-dozen snippets of songs that I may never duplicate, and that is just fine. One of the pleasures of making music is that no two takes are identical, and at any moment a person can be on the verge of creating musical transcendence, sounds that can heal and touch and feel.

And if I am the only one who ever hears them, that is fine, too.