Music has a way of altering one’s mood, temperament and overall situation. After all, how many times have you had a bad day where a catchy song started playing on the radio and you either started grooving to it, singing to it or both? Before you knew it, your mood had drastically improved and the issue that frustrated you no longer seemed quite as bad. This actually happens far more than we know, which is why relaxation music can be beneficial in helping you unwind during a massage or in an elevator. And I’ve often written about the benefits of white noise and its varieties, signalling that sound in general has the ability to alter a person’s mood and overall health.
So just imagine the kind of effect you can have if you actually play the music yourself? If listening to a certain song can alter your mood, imagine the kind of effect you can have if you create and play the music yourself, using an instrument of your choice. Honestly, I think we’ve all suffered through the cheap-ass music lessons we all received in elementary school. Although the basic lessons were sound and would ACTUALLY lead to an honest to goodness knowledge of music, none of us cared and none of us wanted to play “Mary had a little lamb” on a fucking recorder! That’s a flute, for those of you who may not know. Are music lessons in school even still a thing?
Personally, I’ve always been partial to the violin. Classical music has always held an important place in my heart and I absolutely LOVE the sound of a symphony orchestra. The violin always seemed like a reasonable option to me, since it’s portable enough to bring anywhere but beautiful enough to be appreciated by all. Given that I grew up in a small town in northern new Brunswick, the availability of solid music lessons were scarce. Getting my parents’ help in that endeavour was unlikely since they were little busy keeping my brother and I alive through our various illnesses.
I mean, I had to keep my karate lessons a secret for a number of years, for fuck sakes. Granted, violin lessons may have elicited less of a reaction out of them. But the bottom line is that I was limited to only listening to music. That is, until autumn of 1995… I had a shitty, red 1987 Toyota Tercel hatchback, which I purchased myself. I was driving down the side of the mountain where my high school was located when I came upon someone walking down the hill. It turned out to be Guillaume, Sensei’s son. I came to a stop and picked him up and he asked if I’d be willing to drive him to Bathurst to pick up guitar strings.
I was curious and hadn’t yet ventured to far out of my home town in my car so I was more than willing to drive him. When we reached the music shop in Bathurst, it felt like I fell into a musical slice of heaven. I could smell the fresh wood of the instruments, the tinny brass from the wind instruments and the overall muted quality of the walls inside the shop. There were dozens of guitars, acoustic and electric alike. I was in awe. Guillaume saw the look on my face and asked if I knew how to play. My response would end up shaping the proceeding years of my life…
We made our way back to his house, where we sat in a tiny entrance alcove that the family didn’t use. In it, he had his electric guitar, his amplifier, his acoustic guitar and music books, as well as a small stool that he sat on. He dragged in a second stool for me and he explained that he would teach me the basics of guitar playing if I agreed to listen to him and follow his direction with the same level of discipline as I did his father when learning karate. Funny guy, that Guillaume. he did teach me all my basic chords, which in turn allowed me to play some very basic tunes and songs. I had started my musical journey.
Over the decades, I’ve owned over a dozen guitars of varying models and types, including an Epiphone Les Paul Special Edition, Epiphone PR-350 and even an Epiphone SG Standard. yes, I have a bit of a crush on Epiphones. What can I say? I have a type. The PR-350 was by far my favourite acoustic, sound-wise, and got the most mileage before I sold it due to bad life decisions. But the acoustic pictured above is near and dear to my heart. Back in early 2013, I travelled from Kindersley, Saskatchewan to Edmonton, Alberta to visit my Aunt Iris. I hadn’t seen her in almost twenty years.
I was in Edmonton overnight and while I was visiting with my aunt, she showed me her guitar. I tuned it up and played a few bars, which apparently made an impression on her. I returned to my hotel room that night and picked her up for lunch the following day. After lunch, we returned to her apartment and discussed the elephant in the room; she had cancer and it was terminal. She convinced me to take the guitar and make use of it, whether that meant to play it or sell it. I agreed to take it on one condition: she had to sign her name on the back so that it could never be sold and would forever stay in our family. She agreed…
I don’t play guitar nearly as much as I would like, nowadays. Of course, trying to play something that’s as delicate and tuned as an acoustic guitar around young children is problematic at best. I remember nights of jamming out tune after tune with some of my friends… Good times. The memories are still there, though. pretty sure I still have a video of me playing with my friend Aaron, towards the beginning of the early 2000’s. I wish I had some way of uploading that footage, it would be amazing to share.
Music has the power to heal. It has the power to add a little something to one’s overall life. playing music can provide that, tenfold. Do I still dream of playing the violin? You fuckin’ right, I do. is it too late? Maybe. The ability to learn an intricate new skill at my age is unlikely but not impossible. Either way, I’ll always have those chilly nights by a fire on the beach, a sudden jam session in a bowling alley between games and the pleasure of learning a new song that I didn’t assume that I would. I’ve always focused on martial arts, because I always believed music couldn’t save my life. or could it? Food for thought… ☯️