But she is exposing my secrets.
She is exposing that I've been cheating for years.
Now you've got to understand. Everybody knows me as a voice. Anyone who says I can play the guitar is saying it to make me feel good. You know it, I know it. My journey thus far has been to learn how to provide passable accompaniment to the voice. I've hit obstacles, and rather than working through them, I've used tools. There is nothing wrong with having tools in your toolbox. I have a bunch. Open tunings, capos, three-finger versions of moveable jazz chords (usually done with four fingers). I've used the editing process to weed out sour notes from recordings. I've hired others to do what I can't do. Thank goodness for these cheats. They have given me the confidence to get as far as I have, for which I am very thankful. However, since Maybell won't tolerate the tricks, I feel like I have to finally go for the thing that I've been avoiding all along: skill.
I dream of leads, fretting wide spans, and the beautiful tone which comes from strength of hand and intimate knowledge of one's instrument.
I dream of being a guitar gypsy with a golden voice, not a vocalist who backs herself with boom chucks.
I sat with Maybell, trying to trick her, and realized the game was up.
I am going to have to learn how to play the damn guitar.
This will not be a weekend workshop endeavor. This will need time and focus, and I have to get others involved.
I picked up the phone and called the local folk shop. It's a little music store in Idyllwild, run by Frank Orlando. He lives in the desert but comes up the hill for the weekends, teaching a couple of days each week. It wasn't like my other guitar lessons I have done, where I've tried to make myself look big and knowledgeable. I brought my humility with me and said "I am ready to learn how to do this."
He said "show me a scale" and I butchered it.
He said "play me some chords" and I played my go-to 3 finger jazz chord thing.
He said play me a song and I played "Wildwood Flower," the one bluegrass song I can play all the way through.
He asked me what I want to do. I told him about my dreams (see above). Then he gave me three things to do:
1. a left hand drill
2. a right hand drill
3. a chord progression to work on.
I may have scoffed at these exercises in the past, as being very simple. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've seen these exercises in a book before and did just that. You know, you go through it once and then you go "I can do that" and go to the next one but you really haven't spent enough time on it to build what needs to be built. I've been playing the left hand exercise all week: frets 1-2-3-4 on each string, anchoring the thumb, fretting the string in the right place, holding each finger down as I go to the next. Slow and steady. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4...up, and then down. 4-3-2-1, 4-3-2-1, 4-3-2-1...
I quacked a lot at first. That's my own made-up term. That's the funny sound the string makes when you don't really fret it properly, and you end up muting it instead of playing a pretty note. It sounds like a quack. I'm quacking less. I'm building speed. It is feeling more natural. I still suck, but I'm not going to suck forever.
I'll share what I'm up to, and I invite you to get out of your own way and join me. Maybe we can all improve.