A huge part of my life whilst growing up was music. Or more specifically playing the guitar.
I started to play guitar at the age of 6 and I think it is fair to say was pretty obsessed with it from the beginning. I would play it before school, after school and whilst I was at school!
By the time I was a teenager I started to teach others. Not because I was a great teacher but because I was so passionate about the instrument and the music.
During my later teens and my early adult life, most of my world revolved around music, playing, gigging, talking about music etc. I loved it. Really loved it. Playing the guitar took me to a place of deep joy. A place of subconscious artistry and craftsmanship. I could express inner joy and sadness though my instrument. I could outwardly express what I thought or felt. Style,taste,the lightness of touch, the sweetness of tones and sounds, delicacy or aggression, anger or love, sorrow or just contentment could all be expressed through my six string antics. I could effortlessly move between styles, Blues, funk, jazz, classical, rock, country, gospel, dance R&B, soul, as the mood took me.
As I grew older, time became more precious and playing became a great way to see friends and share some great times together. To share a stage or a creative session, writing songs, arranging music, grooving!
Then one day I just stopped. Events over-took me. I became distracted with other things, work, health, houses, careers, “stuff”. My energy was focused elsewhere and my guitars gathered dust in the corner. I would occasionally dust one off and spent a few minutes playing but my fingers would hurt and then not go where I wanted them to go. Playing became frustrating, so I played less. And the times I did pick up a guitar, it became harder and harder to play.
Deep down inside I knew I could always get back to playing again but the longer I left it, the harder it became and I started to doubt I ever would be able to play to any half decent level again. It started to seem like maybe I had lost it. It made me sad to think about it. The sheer pleasure I used to get from sitting down on my own and just playing whatever I felt, letting out whatever was inside and needed to be expressed was slipping away from me.
For years I had treasured this outlet and now all I had was a bunch of stubborn fingers, dead wood and wire!
I had to do something. I had to reconnect that place deep inside that was so connected to the guitar fingerboard that it could sing without think about it.
I put myself to work to get the fingers working again.I started off slowly and gently, just playing when the mood took me. I played what I wanted to play, when I wanted to play it. I let myself be with the thing I loved and let the music and healing process take over. Slowly and sometimes painfully the fingers started to come back to life. The ear started to tune in again. Muscle memory returned and I could play some good basic things again. My friends helped out, encouraging me and inviting me to play in bands with them.
The fingers improved, the pain gradually subsided and the music started to flow. But best of all I started to open that channel of self expression again. The one where I could feel an emotion and that emotion could sing through my instrument. The feeling of ease and flow of self expression in a moment, was there again. I could cry, sing dance, or just be, all through music.
The playing may not be as fluid as when I was younger – maybe it will improve to that standard again, or maybe not. But that is not what is important now. What is important is the love of the music and finding something that I lost. Finding that voice again.
Sometimes you don’t know what you have until you lose it. I was lucky enough to be able to find it again.