Friday, July 22, 2011


I’ve been in kind of a funk lately about my guitar playing. Things haven’t sounded just right, and, lately, one of my guitars has sounded downright awful. And, I’ve been struggling with playing some familiar chords and making songs sound decent. My teacher has been patient with me, pushing me forward, pointing out how I’ve progressed. Still, I felt I’d reached a plateau and I wasn’t going anywhere.

Guitar strings wear out and, as I live in a rain forest along the ocean, the metal gets corroded. Sure, I replace my strings once in a while. And, I use the fancy strings, with the special polymer coating, which makes them last longer and they don’t corrode as quickly in the damp salt air.

Guitar camp is only a week away, and my order for new strings came in the mail the other day. I’ve been planning to restring my guitars in order to get ready for seven days of playing frenzy. I should be on cloud nine, thinking about soon spending a week in music heaven. Still, I wasn’t in the mood -- my bad playing and the one guitar just sounding awful left me uninspired, and a little depressed about it all.

But, this afternoon, I decided it was time, and I geared up to restring one guitar. I took all my string changing tools and the boxes of new strings out on the deck. I thought I’d take advantage of a warm summer evening and all the flowers blooming on a day when the weather had apparently decided it was finally summer. The guitar had been sounding all right, but with the new, fresh strings, the change was amazing. Crisp, clear chords, and the “bad chords” I’d been struggling with now were easy and sounded good, the way I knew I could play them.

I was on a roll, and soon, the second guitar was getting its new strings. I’d even brought out the special guitar wood oil and a soft rag, and was cleaning up the fretboard and the saddle (the place in the middle of the guitar where the strings are connected, next to the sound hole). A bit of spring cleaning, I guess, and the rag was getting pretty gunky with about six months of dust and oil from my fingers and hands. No wonder the tone of my playing was off, with all that rust and grime.

The old strings were stiff in my hands, and I could see they’d gotten old and rusty from just living in the rain forest and putting up with the wettest spring we’ve had in living memory. Like everything else around here, the guitars needed some spring cleaning and a fresh new attitude.

I tuned up the strings and voila, a new guitar! It sounded crisp and sharp, and now I had two guitars that sounded decent. Playing the guitar was fun again, and I rolled through about a half dozen songs, playing up to speed.

I could see my neighbor working with his new mule. The farrier showed up, and soon, the new mule was getting some new shoes. Another neighbor was out with her dog, teaching the growing puppy a few lessons, her voice filled with encouragement. A little more restringing going on around the neighborhood.

It was a day for that, I guess. I’d finished up my work at the office and the usual hectic pace had slowed to a crawl. My co-worker suggested I take advantage of the onset of summer sunshine and leave work early. To her and my surprise, I did, stashing my work ethic in the file cabinet. In short order, I found myself taking a long walk on the beach, and having a long, leisurely lunch with myself at a great little restaurant, with fabulous, never ending coffee. I found time to work on an upcoming photography show, going through all my photos on my computer, and honoring my creative muse. When was the last time I’d done that?

Having treated myself with good things and a long walk in the sunshine on the beach, I had come home renewed. I was on a roll, and indulged myself with a nap. This taking care of the basics in life was getting to be fun.

I guess it was a day for restringing. Time to clear away the rusted junk and bring on the bright, shiny new tools to live life to the fullest. And, the mule is pretty happy, too. He’s racing around his pasture, kicking up his heels, happy with his new shoes.

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