I’m taking guitar classes. Again. This is my third teacher.
When I was fourteen, a male friend, Johnny, tried to teach me to play a song for a talent competition. (This male friend was two years older and he was to die at age twenty in a motor accident. This sort of interrupted my entry into the music industry. This would also happen again further up the road influencing me to think that the music industry was perhaps not what I had signed up for in the pre-birth theory.) There were only four chords to the song that Johnny selected for me for the talent event—C, AM, F, G—and I couldn’t manage it. So I just focused on vocals and at sixteen, I delivered the vocals of a more complicated song with the accompaniment of a whole band. Johnny had a band too but ‘The City Burners’ was not the band contracted to accompany singers in that competition. I was placed runner-up in the statewide singing competition.
Following that competition, there were ample opportunities for me to learn the guitar before I turned thirty. My boyfriends when I was sixteen and nineteen could play the guitar well. I didn’t take to the guitar then as I found the metal strings hurt my fingers too much. Around that time, I purchased a second-hand 12-strings classical guitar hoping that the nylon strings would not hurt my fingers and that I would be able to master the instrument. I found the 12-strings harder to play than the 6-strings so I gave it away to someone who would put the guitar to good use. I did not touch a guitar again until I was 30-ish.
A housemate who was an accomplished guitarist died in a freak motor accident (TG was thirty-one) and I was left to dispose of his belongings as his older sibling had cancer and didn’t want to bother with them. I gave everything away but kept his seasoned Kapok guitar, songbooks, record player, vinyl records and cassette tapes. Over the next few years, I would listen to TG’s massive collection of music taste—Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Beatles, Elton John, AC/DC, and the other popular rock/blues musicians of the 70’s and 80’s. I would teach myself to play TG’s Kapok using the songbooks which had the chords and lyrics to the covers. It was a great way to learn the guitar I thought although it was Eric Clapton and Beatles songs that I was mostly learning. Mama mia! I discovered to my amazement and pleasure that I could actually play and sing some of the covers as long as I had those songbooks to look at. This became a habit and until today, I struggle to play a song by memory; even one of my own.
Around that time, I had my ‘outer space experience’ which I share in my published books and began to write my own songs. A friend who knew the guitar belonged to TG joked that he must be channeling the songs through me. I laughed at the idea at the time but later seriously considered the possibility. I finally dismissed the idea when I found I couldn’t master the guitar despite wanting to very much. If TG was channeling the songs through me, wouldn’t I be a better guitarist since he was an expert? As well, the songs I was writing was not TG’s kind of material. He was Blues/Rock/Reggae. I was developing Folk/Country/Ballads stuff. Still, there is such a thing as energy imprints and energy signatures that dead people leave behind with their beloved properties. Who knows how much of my songwriting was influenced by my dead friend? I then decided to give all of TG’s stuff away including the Kapok and bought myself a new Kapok to see if it would affect my songwriting. I continued to write my songs.
The few years after my ‘outer space experience’ were the most creative years of my life. During that time, I began my three books—Changing Orbits, The Dance of the Chi and Different Realities. I invented a board game and began several card games before getting distracted by life. I also wrote about a hundred songs and poems. I stopped the creative projects when I got involved with dog rescue for the next twenty years. Only now am I revisiting those projects to complete them literally, before I go. Before I Go was the original title for my memoirs, Changing Orbits.
Proper guitar classes began during this intensely creative period. I didn’t know it at the time but I was in a 20-year relationship with my hybrid version of an NPD—NSP. (Narcissistic Personality Disorder—Narcissist/Sociopath/Psychopath.) In my case, he had a Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde personality so it wasn’t all bad and negative. I was able to take some positives from the relationship. Still, it was crazy making and the madness spilled into all areas of my life. Put it this way, my judgment, discernment, plans, decisions, wishes, heart’s desires and personal boundaries would be interfered with. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I see now this relationship was/is karmic and fated. The one thing that got me through those times was the thought “it could be worse.” No matter what I was going through, it could always be worse. I still use this line today. No matter what I experience, it could always be worse. When I wrote the first edition of Changing Orbits, I thought my story was one-of-a-kind. Since then, I discovered the terms Empath/NPD/NSP and realized these conditions are widespread. Only the details are unique.
In spite of all the crazy-making drama, I managed to learn how to basically pluck, strum, and play the scales—Do re mi fa so la di to—in order to aid in tuning the guitar. That was when we had to tune the guitar by ear. Nowadays, I use a digital tuner like most if not all musicians. My then teacher identified my style as similar to the following artists (even though I had not heard most of their material at the time—I was listening to TG’s collection):
- - Suzanne Vega
- - Joni Mitchell
- - Joan Baez
- - Joan Armatrading
- - Tracy Chapman
- - Jim Croce
- - James Taylor
- - Neil Young
- - Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
- - John Denver
- - Dave Loggins
- - Bob Dylan
- - Lee Ritenour
I wasn’t familiar with them except for those in italics. Recently, I used YouTube to catch up with the music of the rest on the list above. Mind you, my teacher didn’t say I could one day play like them, just that my songwriting style was similar.
I was taught basic music notations—semibreve, minims, crochets, quavers, semi-quavers, demi-semi quavers—time values and transpositions with notes. I was also taught what a keynote was and how that was different from a key signature. My notebook from that period tells me I also learned about the Simple Duple, Simple Triple and Simple Quadruple. Not that all this learning serves me today. Today, I cannot remember what I had learned more than twenty years ago. I read that stress destroys brain cells and impairs the memory. Not to mention (but I will, anyway), I am getting old. See this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlVEwIHGlOc&feature=youtu.be
My current teacher is a self-taught performing artist. The others were formal music teachers. As such, her style of teaching is different from the others. I’ve only taken two classes and this is what was covered:
- The guitar should be the proper size to fit the body and the guitar has to accommodate the body, not the other way around. (So I was ready and happy to sell my oversized Yamaha in favor of using my second self-purchased Kapok acoustic that is the right fit for me.)
- Unless the chair is low, my right knee needs to be pivoted with a footstool or brick to get the guitar to sit comfortably on the thigh.
- The head moves left to right by pivoting the chin, not the neck.
- The correct wrist position when holding the chords and when strumming. (I had developed a number of bad habits both as a singer and a guitarist.)
- Whenever possible, the thumb should bend to mute the E string.
- She taught me how to play the G chord in a new way which leaves me a bit flustered and clumsy but I’m getting the hang of it.
- This teacher is of the digital age so, with my smartphone, I was shown how to use the free downloaded metronome instead of my old table metronome.
- I’m also encouraged to upgrade my digital guitar tuner. I have two but she says they are not good enough to tune the guitar to a professional level.
- I’m told that if I continue with the weekly guitar classes I should be able to put my songs on YouTube in about three months’ time.
This is an extremely busy phase for me. I don’t know if I can manage the next three months of guitar classes as I have Different Realities to publish, Taiji practice, and my last two rescues to care for. My current teacher sees a pattern and is thinking that I will quit these classes too. Freelance and performing artists teachers are hard to come by and suitable ones are a rarity where I am. I would like to stay the course if I can. However, there is this nagging thought: If this was meant to be, wouldn’t I have mastered the guitar by now?
(Copy and paste will load the link if clicking does not.) http://www.openculture.com/2017/04/the-tone-circle-john-coltrane-drew-to-illustrate-the-theory-behind-his-most-famous-compositions-1967.html )
This link clues me to the answer. I was not good at Maths in school. "Musician and blogger Roel Hollander notes, “Thelonious Monk once said ‘All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.’ Musicians like John Coltrane though have been very much aware of the mathematics of music and consciously applied it to his works.”
My current teacher doesn’t think this has anything to do with my lack of musicality. She says she’s “horrible” with maths too and that it all boils down to the determination, right practice and the interest to explore in music. She agrees the diagram in the link looks similar to the "circle of fifth" and that music is quite like maths in many ways especially when it comes to the counts. She says we’re not playing jazz or fusion music so it’s basically elementary maths.
Sooner or later, we all have to face our mortality, don’t we? Reflecting on my own, I asked myself what I wanted my life to be defined by. The process of becoming Mena Koo, author of The Dance of the Chi, Different Realities and Changing Orbits was/is therapeutic and meaningful for me as I feel these books cover how I put my s*it together and survived all the challenges of being a victim. I did not want my life to be defined by victimhood so I used the knowledge of metaphysics and the power of intention to rewrite my narrative from victim to survivor. I believe my books can make a difference to some who are attracted to read them. However, I’m not sure that Mena Koo, poet/songwriter is that helpful in the scheme of my lessons learned and my legacy. Not to sound pompous with the use of the word “legacy” here, I think we all should think about our legacies—what energy imprints are we leaving behind?
If I were to die tomorrow, I would be proudest of those times when I was able to give and not expect anything in return. The joy and fulfillment were in knowing I was making a difference in the lives of those I rescued. In asking myself how I would want my life to be defined I would have to say I want to be remembered for being a kind, thoughtful, compassionate, insightful, sensitive, human. Someone who did her best to play well, the cards that were dealt. Someone who “walked through the fires” as best as anyone could. They say the victims of NPDs/NSPs pick up narcissistic traits in their battle to cope with all the narcissism around them. Hence the world is so messy as wounded people go on to wound others down the line. Those of us who are conscious of this must put a stop to the sickness and begin the healing process.