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Quot I Got My First Real Six String Quot

Lately I've been looking back at significant parts of my past. I think one of the most fun, satisfying, and memorable phases of my life was when I was actually a practicing "musician" and songwriter.

I'm not daft enough to call myself a real musician because, well, I'm really not. I used to play guitar with a modicum of proficiency, but I'm not really a musician. Musicians are what you call people with real talent; I'm more of a ham-and-egger who just has far more enthusiasm and love for a craft than actual talent and innate ability.

I used to play rhythm guitar and had a band. Well, perhaps I shouldn't say that I had a real band. It's not like my guys and I ever played any gigs or anything. But for a period of maybe three years or so, my pals John and Phil and I used to play together. We called ourselves "The Leader Beans."

I was the least-accomplished guitar player amongst us, for sure, but John and Phil were really really good. Both were (and probably still are) very talented musicians.

John played guitar; in fact, he taught me how to play the basics. With much patience and care he showed me the basic concepts of playing rhythm guitar. He stressed the importance of being able to play on time and staying on time (i.e., not speeding up or slowing down unless it was by design, and staying on beat), as well as techniques on chord changes and strum patterns.

More than just being my guitar teacher, John and I were also songwriting collaborators. He would play the tunes, and I would write the words. We thought of ourselves as Lennon and McCartney; I would call him "Paul," and he would call me "John" (if only to humor my own delusions). After a few years of working together, he gave me the greatest gift of all: I became confident enough to try and write complete songs, music and words, all on my own. He also got brave himself and wrote songs solo, and I must say his work stands up quite well on its own. As a nod to Lennon and McCartney, all of our old material is jointly credited to "Dionisio and Dalmacio," just like "Lennon and McCartney" did so many years ago. Until the Beatles broke up, John and Paul jointly credited their compositions. Not only that, but John was also a very good singer. He had a really great ear for melody (just like Paul McCartney), and could reproduce the melodies his ears heard with both the guitar and his voice.

Phil became a friend of ours towards the end of the 1990s. Talk about a really talented musician. He was a violin player, but learned how to play guitar from John as well. The amazing thing is, he far surpassed his teacher very soon after learning. Other than the guitar and the violin, Phil could also play the harmonica, bass guitar, dabbled in mandolin, and was (and still is) a pretty good singer himself. The thing that amazes me most about Phil is that he learned to play one of the most difficult guitar styles around, gypsy jazz.

Gypsy jazz is one of those things that I know I can never learn on my own; I simply do not have the talent nor the patience to learn such an advanced form of the craft of guitar playing. A good gypsy jazz guitarist often sounds like he's playing three or four different people's parts all on top of each other; there is a speed and precision required to playing any kind of gypsy jazz.

Lately I've been listening to music even more than I'm wont to. I mean, I always listen to music as I'm going to bed, and I listen to tunes whilst I'm in the car. But lately I've been thinking about music while I'm at work, or when I'm working out, or even while I'm just doing nothing in particular. I've always loved music, and lately I'm rediscovering my love and desire to once again make music. It's akin to not having eaten a great meal for a long time: You remember how good and how satisfying that meal was the last time you indulged, and you get hungrier the more you think about it. Your desire for a return visit grows the more it's on your mind.

I wish my apartment complex's walls weren't so thin; otherwise I'd take one of my guitars back here from my parents' house (where my guitars all are) and indulge in the unadulterated joy of playing and singing and learning songs. Maybe a song or two will find its way to me again, the way a few of them used to a few years back.

Love makes anything possible.

(Posted here first, by the way.)


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