For many more years than I care to report, I’ve had in mind to learn to play the banjo. I have no interest in bluegrass or the clawhammer style; I wanted to learn Victorian parlor, or classical, banjo and to play and sing the good old songs of that era. (I am all too aware that this is itself a racially fraught topic; I will likely write about that aspect of this situation one day soon.)
The other night, having made up my mind to rededicate myself to this ambition, I was tuning my Deering Goodtime banjo. I as I tried to get the 4th string to sound something kinda sorta close to D, I could feel what was about to happen the moment before it actually happened: the string snapped — PING! — and flew across the room.
As I hung the poor, four-stringed instrument back on its hook on the wall, I noticed, as if for the first time, a perfectly good guitar that has hung right next to it for years. My parents bought it for me when I was a teenager, but they didn’t also offer lessons, and, in those pre-YouTube days, I wasn’t resourceful, or driven, enough to find a way to learn to play the thing. My ex-boyfriend played it pretty often, and my very talented son picks it up and delights me with a song or two whenever he comes over.
Why it never occurred to me to try to learn to play that guitar as an adult, I’ll never understand (though it might stem from the trauma of my childhood piano lessons, about which I’ll write another day, too). Once the idea struck me, though, it seemed obvious. Being a bookish sort, I ordered a few instruction manuals and songbooks via Amazon, and tonight I sat down with them and tuned my guitar. No strings were harmed in the process!
For some reason, tackling the guitar seems fun and relaxing, whereas the banjo was always a source of stress and a reminder of my long-standing lack of self-confidence — and my lousy fine-motor skills. By picking up the guitar — and, fair warning, my friends, I also intend to learn to sing! — I thumb my nose at my long history of believing myself to be not good enough, of believing so many experiences in life were meant for others and not for me, of not taking risks for fear of embarrassing myself or others.
Those days are gone.
I’m going to make some music. And if that means you have to put your fingers in your ears for a while as I learn, well, so be it.
You’ll live. As for me? I’ll feel alive in a whole new way.
And before you know it, I’ll be taking requests. I can’t wait to sing and play for, and with, you all!