I’ve been playing guitar since I was ten years old or so, but only really playing since 1989. I was performing (as an actor) at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, it was the end of the day. I was tired – the proper expression is “draggin’ ass” – and trudging the mile or so back to my car to go home, and I heard guitar music. Not someone strumming on a P.O.S. gut strung pawn shop special, but real guitar music. The kind of music that, at that time, I didn’t know a guitar could make, full of grace notes, trills, triplets, and suspended chords.
I stopped, utterly transfixed. I turned to find the sound, and it was coming from a guitar being held by a man sitting on the windowsill of a booth. His name was, indeed still is, Frank Blair. We chatted for a minute – read: I quizzed him – about guitar playing. He told me how to tune my guitar (DADGAD) and showed me the Dmaj chord progression, told me to practice that and get back to him. Cynically, and I think he’d approve, I wonder that maybe he figured I’d try it once or twice and give it up.
True or not, I was hooked.
Over the next several years, by example and mostly gentle tutelage, he taught me how to really play guitar. He’s since moved many hours away and we keep in contact only via email and blog entries. We don’t practice together, and I miss it. I think he does too.
In any event, I’ve never stopped practicing, or watching the hands of other guitarists I admire, listening for the odd pull-off or harmonic.
I’ve owned a variety of instruments over the years. For a while, the nicest guitar I’d ever owned was a forty year old Martin with cracks in the back that a friend loaned me. I’ve had a no-brand 6 string that I inherited from a sibling; some Korean no-brand 12 string that cost me all of $120 and seemed like a fortune; an Ovation (thank God I jettisoned that thing); a 1998 Samick.
Today, I still have the Samick – basically a Gibson knock-off that’s better in the studio than live, and a 2002 Taylor 510LE, an absolutely phenomenal guitar that feels and plays like it was built in the factory for me. Its acquisition is a story all by itself, and I’ll save that for another time.