Saturday, December 10, 2016

Playing Games.

At the moment, I have what feels like a sprained knuckle. The big one on my left index finger, where it meets the metacarpal. When I play guitar, certain favorite chords and go-to lead patterns hurt to play, especially down around the first position. Sorry, this is guitar player geek talk. But basically, ouch.

This has happened before, and I was able then to put the guitar aside for a couple of weeks, rest the joint and let myself heal properly. Right now I can't exactly do that. So I have been consciously altering the way I position my hand and move my fingers while working the fretboard. This isn't easy, but one good thing I've noticed about the process is that the heightened awareness of technique is making me stop several ingrained ways of approaching chord changes and solos. I have to concentrate more, and not simply rely on muscle memory and familiar cliches.

What I'm discovering is a way of sounding more like I've wanted to sound all along. More like the type of players I admire most. I am becoming less busy. I am playing fewer notes, and am making the notes I play more accurate. Because I'm taking my time and choosing them more carefully.

Some of you know that I enjoy golf. Tonight I was pondering the time I spent this past year out on the links, and how it actually made me a tiny bit better at the game. My concentration improved. I relaxed. My drives became longer, straighter, and more consistent. I'm still just a duffer, but a better one. I've put my clubs away for the winter, but am guessing (hoping?) that when I dust them off come spring, what I have learned this season will have stayed with me.

In golf, the idea is to play as few strokes as you can to get from the tee to the green, and once there, into the cup. So now I'm gonna try to approach my guitar playing and soloing this way. Instead of bashing around, trying too hard and zigzagging all over the place, I'll attempt to make a clear and elegant way from the start of each song on through to the end, with plenty of fresh air between the notes.

And after my small injury heals, perhaps I'll keep this other game in mind, and not just because I want winter to end. Maybe it will have taught me enough about not falling back on lazy old habits that I'll find that my six-string playing has stepped up a level, too.