Learning Dust

People in my home town who knew me as a guitarist would be surprised to know it was not my first instrument of choice as a youth. I always wanted to learn the piano.

My dad, a fine multi-instrumentalist, had a tenor guitar. Left, that’s not it. But it was a Martin four-string tenor guitar, a gift from his mother-in-law after his return from WW2. He was a good rhythm guitarist and sang to his own accompaniment. Occasionally my mother would sing too.

I had ample opportunity to pick it up and learn. But I rarely tinkered with it. When I went to a folk Mass at church, the six-string and 12-string guitars looked big and wrong to me.

One of the guys on my hall my college junior year had an extra guitar and he loaned it to me for several days. He shared with me he started on the guitar because he noticed girls liked musicians. I didn’t think I needed help in that department, but why cast aside an advantage?

I taught myself a song I knew well from one of my Kansas albums:

Unfortunately, my friend’s high school sweetheart broke up with him over spring break. I returned the loaner, and despite getting the music bug, it was more than a year before I purchased my first instrument–not a piano, but a guitar. With six strings.

I found the mimeographed tablature from the previous year and polished my technique. A friend loaned me her book on classical and folk guitar method. Some songs, but lots of exercises. I was playing about three to five hours a day that summer of 1980. I was encouraged to play with other church musicians, mostly for fun. I found playing with others the best way to improve. I feel badly for musicians who don’t get that opportunity, especially people playing the piano or the organ.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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