Advent Calender 12th: My guitar

12-days-of-christmasThe 2012 Advent Calender: For the 25 days of Christmas, I will be blogging each day about a miscellaneous thing I love. Not necessarily a big thing, not necessarily a small thing and not in any order.

There’s an episode in an early season of Buffy where Xander pictures himself as a rock star. Every time he feels just the slightest bit ‘cool’ during the episode, there is a brief one-second clip of him playing the last squealing note of a skin-blistering electric guitar solo.

So, that’s why I learned to play guitar. That and everyone knows guitar players are sexy.

I desperately wanted to learn to play electric guitar and become a rock god—this was shortly after I decided to forcefully alter my own music tastes by buying Metal Hammer and Kerrang. I started music lessons with my friends’ father, a genuinely lovely man who sadly died a year later. He forced me to learn classical and Spanish guitar, and this continued when I had to find a new guitar teacher a year later.

Then I bought an electric guitar—a £99 pound deal that was never, ever going to sound like anything other than a radio turned up too loud—and put my foot down. Now I tried to learn to play Muse. And some other rock stuff I’m sure, but I vividly remember attempting to learn to play In Your World by Muse as my first lesson.

Which was when I realized something problematic.

I bloody hated the electric guitar.

And since then I’ve played the acoustic guitar, semi-self-taught but always relying on the classical grounding I received from my first lessons. I’m reasonably competent, albeit with little to no actual musical knowledge to back it up. I wrote songs from the age of about fifteen, and recorded an entire album using a clip-on mic I borrowed from my church. I still possess these recordings, and they will never ever see the light of day. I performed one gig with my friend H as a singer, in which I completely forgot how to play one of the songs (but it was the cover, so that’s okay). There’s a line in a Noah and the Whale song that sums it up: the performance was nervous and awkward, but the passion was real and profound.

At college, picking up a guitar helped me express all sorts of complicated things, and I still have a few of those songs on my iTunes to remind me of my past. And then at university I met my friend Chris Black who is a ridiculously talented musician, and we formed a band, who on-and-off recorded a set of songs, and performed one gig at Sounds on the Downs, in which I forgot two of the lines I was singing (a recurring theme then, but at least an improvement.) During that time I met my partner John, who ironically turned out to be the only person in the world completely unimpressed that I could play guitar.

And to this day I love being able to pick up a guitar and produce a song. Two weeks ago visiting my friend Marika, in an empty room on a dark winter’s night, we spontaneously broke into singing Nick Cave’s Wild Rose. That kind of campfire magic only happens when you can play guitar.


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