Thanks (Giving and Getting)

“Please allow me to introduce myself…”

Believe it or not, those are the very words I used to open my first e-letter to Paul Hackett. I had been a visitor to Guitar Noise on several occasions and, I’m certain like most of you, found it to be an incredible place to explore. One day, upon logging on, I noticed the word “jobs” listed on the bottom of the home page. Intrigued, I clicked on the icon and found myself reading a “help wanted” ad. Paul wanted to add a “columnist,” a title that seemed specific and yet vague enough to intrigue me. I spent my lunch hour dashing him off a note. Surely he’d already had a zillion responses from much better qualified people… I can’t tell you how excited and anxious I became waiting for his reply, even though I had already (no pun intended) written off any chances of actually getting this spot.

But all of you already know that this was not the case.

Just a week or so ago, Paul was kind enough to point out to me that this upcoming Sunday, November 12, 2000, will mark my first year as writer of these Guitar Columns for Guitar Noise. This is absolutely amazing to me (and undoubtedly to Paul, as well!).

My original plan was to write one or two columns a month. I figured that should be reasonable. After all, I did hold down a regular job (9 to 5 on a good day! My usual hours are 6:30 or 7 to 5 or 6! Often including 4 to 7 hours on Saturdays as the situation demanded…) and I was also teaching in my “spare time.” But I also thought that I had better start off strong to let people know that I was going to be something they (and Paul) could count on. So I started out writing weekly columns, figuring I could ease into bi-weekly columns once everyone knew I was indeed going to stick around.

November 12, 2000 my first piece Breaking Out Of The Box went online. “Everything begins somewhere,” I wrote. I hadn’t a clue as to what was, indeed, beginning. I was writing my articles during my lunches at work, mostly because I was comfortable with the word processing software and because I could only email my stuff to Paul from my office anyway – not having Internet access at home.

And then the emails started. My very first one came from a young man in London and that was a thrill to realize that there were people from all over the world reading my articles. Okay, for all I knew there were all my friends (who don’t bother to write me since they can just tell me things in person…) and Paul (who had to read the articles since he was editing them) and this one guy from London. I made it a point right then and there to answer all my emails myself, and, whenever possible, within twenty-four hours of receiving them. Obviously longer if I got any emails over the weekend because I might not be at work to access them.

“Write about anything you want,” Paul told me. “No schedules, no assignments, no deadlines.” And I wrote about anything. I took to reading the forum two or three times a day to see if there were subjects that people wanted discussed. Theory. I could do that. Open and alternate tunings. Sure, I could do that, too. While I was writing my first column I thought that it might be a good idea to come up with a short list of topics that would be worth examining and my “short” list numbered thirty or so items! It’s interesting (for me, anyway) to see that I still haven’t gotten around to some of them.

Despite the “no deadline” clause I continued to write a weekly column, mostly because I had become (am) hooked on writing and, more importantly, responding to the various and sundry comments, suggestions and questions that continually arose. There have been times when I’ve actually written in an email a better explanation on an aspect of theory than I did in the original column! On those occasions, I have tried to go back over some of the material with this new approach. And will continue to do so, I might add.

And now I sit at my computer on a Sunday night thinking, “Has it only been a year? Where has the time gone?” And that gets me to thinking about everything else that has gone on as a direct result of my writing. I know that sometimes I can get on these “tangents” which, for better or worse, can get much more philosophical than instructional. But if you’ve been reading me for any length of time then you know that this is part of the package.

Something I find myself repeating over and over and over again on these pages is my belief in the power of music. And in the greater power of sharing the joy and beauty and pure life that music gives all of us. I’ve often been asked, in person and via email, why I spend my time writing for Guitar Noise or teaching in my spare time. But usually I’m only asked once. Those people I answer in person seem to be able to see their answers in my eyes. And even though I don’t feel that I always have the right words at my disposal to adequately express what I feel, I still seem to be able to get myself understood, even if it takes three or four tries!

I have spent the weekend rereading the email correspondences that I’ve received since day one. It is quite amazing. And I feel it necessary to take a moment out from the “normal” type of column that I might be writing (“101 Uses for a Dominant 7th Chord (But Only on Tuesdays!)”) to tell each and everyone of you something:

Thank you.

I’m certain I’ve said this before, too, but it also bears repeating: music (or anything) cannot exist in a vacuum. As much as any guitarist, artist, songwriter, or keeper of the Guitar Columns page might be tempted to think otherwise, it is our “audience” that will ultimately define both ourselves and our work.

I want to thank you for the time that each of you takes to come and visit the site and to look through everything that Guitar Noise has to offer you. I don’t think I’ve seen every nook and cranny of the place myself. Paul always seems to be coming up with more and more new and interesting things, doesn’t he?

I want to thank you for your patience, too. Learning the guitar, or music theory, or songwriting does require perseverance. I hope that all of you know, or at least feel, that you can write me anytime for a better explanation of anything, something that will (hopefully) be tailored to your own situation. I may not have all of the answers (who does?) but I do promise you I’ll do my best to find workable solutions for you. Together we have a lot of experience and ideas. A trip to the Guitar Forums on any given day is often very enlightening.

I want to thank you for letting me share my life and thoughts with you. I don’t expect us to always see everything eye to eye but I do expect us to be able to communicate our ideas to each other. Without a conversation there can be no learning, and I will be the first to say that I have learned an awful lot of things this past year. And that I am much better for it, as a guitarist, as a writer, as a human being.

And, above all, I want to thank you for sharing your lives with me. It really means a lot and that fact that I haven’t enough words to express this pretty much proves it to me. I’ve always found that the more important something is, the less likely I’m going to be able to describe it in any appropriate way.

Remember that this website is here for you. It’s for your benefit that it was created and is maintained today. Ideas and contributions come in from people just like yourselves all over the globe. Please let them know you appreciate their efforts. One of the truly beautiful things about most musicians (and most people, when it comes down to it) is that they usually have open minds and hearts. After all, how else can the music get out for all to hear?

As always, please feel free to write. You can either drop a note off at the Guitar Forum page or email me directly at [email protected]

I think you’ll all agree that this has been an exciting year here at Guitar Noise, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s going to get even better!

Until next week…