Beyond the Surf: Curing the Weekday Blues
The sound of a 6-string can be like therapy.
I came down with a bitter case of the Monday blues. The day started off with a cold shower, and things didn't get any better until that night, almost Tuesday. I walked into my bedroom to lie down, when the Ray looked at me with dismay. It is a weird thing to have an instrument around that you barely know how to play. I can never be quite satisfied around the Ray because it is always mocking me. Anyway, I obliged to my own guilt and picked it up. Sitting on the side of my bed, with only lamplight dimly illuminating the room, I began to go through my usual bit of practice. My hands felt slow, uncoordinated, and a bit out of control.
I looked up to see the time, but the clock on my desk had been covered by papers at some point throughout the day. I knew it was past midnight, but I figured a few minutes of playing would do more good than harm. As I continued picking away and willing my fingers to the correct positions, my hands began to move faster. I worked through the fret board; then I went up and down a particular scale someone showed me, starting with the E string on the seventh fret, the 10th, then down the strings hitting the seventh and ninth until the bottom. After a while, it felt like my fingers could run marathons and come in first through 10th place every time. It was like lightening in my fingers, someone pressed fast-forward on my life but only my hands reacted. The rest of my body was shutting down in the late-night hours. My mind couldn't follow along as my eyes began to close involuntarily and sleep nearly consumed me.
In a somewhat delusional state, I sat and played with the Ray. It felt good to hear the quiet vibrations of the electric guitar without an amp. I played To Bid You Farewell, an Opeth song—the little bit that I know—for a good amount of time. It has hanging notes that fade away as the rest of the notes are played out, and they sound so beautiful. With a finger held on the A string, second fret and another on the D string, fourth fret, I picked in the order: E, A, D, A, G, D, A, D then repeated it countless times. The E and the G act as the hanging notes, and they are absolutely haunting. The tune is so dark, yet there's a hint of hope when you hit the G string, and it hangs in the air, waiting to become a full blown melody, but the sorrow hangs over it, like mist in a forest.
After a while of playing things I knew, I started experimenting. I heard sounds that night that I fell in love with—the simplest little tune of my own. I played on the G string, eighth, 10th and 11th frets, played in the order of eighth, 11, eight, 10. As simple as it sounds (and it is), it was an accomplishment to just find something that maybe other people have played a thousand times, a million even, but that was completely original to me. I played it over and over, sometimes moving that same motion around the fret board, or trying other strings around it in hopes of finding the next little bit to continue the tune.
They say that's how it is done; songwriting comes one note after another until you have song. Like a story built of a line of words, or a house of bricks. Sometime I'll have to throw in some of the chords that I know. Although, I don't really know how to go from one chord to the next in any musical rhythm. My hands still struggle to place themselves fast enough in those specific areas. I don't work with a metronome as much as I should. I simply don't have rhythm. I walk without it; the cadences of my voice are far from musical. I sound like the random tumbling of rocks down a mountain face, no beat at all.
I finally couldn't hold my eyes open anymore, and my hands slowed from their incredible fit of energy. I set the Ray down and uncovered the clock on my desk. 3:30 a.m.
I couldn't believe it. For a second I cursed myself, knowing that my 7 a.m. alarm was coming faster than I wanted it to, but I retracted my anger before it started. I laid down in my bed, flicked the lamp-light off, and hid under the covers. The sound of the Ray still echoed in my ears, and, forgetting the day that had come before, I was simply happy to have played some guitar.