The Joy of Music

Edited By David Hodge

Being the incredibly sentimental person I am, I thought it might be nice to share our readers’ stories about the joy that playing guitar and making music have brought them this past year.

This week, we’re going to start posting these stories. As you’ll see, they run the gamut from being personal to cosmic.

And I don’t mind starting things off.Even though this happened late last year, it pretty much set the tone for 2002. Late last fall, I was madly dashing around at work – “madly” in both senses of the word: close to insane (at least for me) and very angry; I was supposed to already have left to meet some friends and go to a concert.

But work was there to do; deadlines, which had been there for months, were finally realities and minutes away. So I plodded away and waited for the people who were finally doing their jobs, so that I could finish mine and be on my way.

I was just in one of those moods where nothing mattered and all I wanted to do was to be gone. Truthfully, I was beginning to wonder if going to a concert was such a good idea since I was in such an angry state.

While waiting for my coworkers, I went to check my email. And, as has been the case since I started writing for Guitar Noise, I found I had mail to read. But instead of someone asking me how to tune a half step lower or what I thought about a particular make of guitar or even a declaration of “hey, great lesson,” I received a short note from a man in Massachusetts. He was offering his thanks.

He had written his first song – a love song for his wife.

And, he had sung it for her.

I know I can get tedious by writing how I feel about what music can do to people and for people. But when I read his note, everything that I’d been mad about became incredibly petty.

It’s hard for me to explain to people why I put so much time and effort into Guitar Noise. Perhaps it’s because I’m not the best person to explain it. So let me just let some of you do the talking now.

From Jennifer

I am writing in response to your request for stories about the joy of playing guitar. I recently picked up the guitar again after years of not playing. I only knew how to play open chords and a few cool songs that I learned and memorized like Dust in the Wind.

I started taking lessons again three months ago and you can’t imagine how my playing has evolved and soared. I owe it all to my teacher. I am very fortunate to have the honor and privilege of working with a well known, amazing musician and a really nice person, Al Pitrelli. The experience has been positive and wonderful. And in just a short time, I am able to play things that I never thought I would be able to play so soon. I am also able to think logically about music and make discoveries on my own while practicing. Al provides an environment that is highly motivating, encouraging, pressure-free and fun.Al rules! Practice is a fulfilling challenge instead of an unwelcome chore.

After having taught me barre chords, scales and some neat tricks, suddenly I’m rocking, playing the blues, soloing and many other amazing things. My face lights up like 20 Christmas trees during that powerful and uplifting moment when I “get” something and am able to play it after struggling with it. The day that I learned bending you would have thought I won the lottery because I was that excited. It’s positively exhilarating! Because of these lessons, my passion for playing the guitar has been renewed.

I am also a member of a place in NYC called “The Studio,” which is a great place to be to learn and grow. It’s a supportive, creative and nurturing environment, where they hold jams on the weekends. I now have the confidence to walk into these jam rooms with some really rad guitar dudes and hold my own thanks to all that Al has taught me. The Studio also helped me find my rock voice, a voice which I never heard come out of me before. I was always timid about singing but now I’m singing my heart out, playing the guitar and having the time of my life! I’d say there is a lot of joy going on there.

By the way, I LOVE your website and newsletters. I find the information you provide very valuable.

From Null

I am continuing to enjoy your excellent site. I’ve been a guitarist for twenty years now. It would be impossible for me to overstate the impact music has had on my life. It has enriched my life enormously. I’ve played in a few bands, made albums and traveled. I haven’t achieved major success, but have had real fun.

I’m currently working as a community music tutor, facilitating music workshops for people with learning disabilities. The buzz it gives me seeing them really enjoying music is magic. I believe that music is for everyone. What other art form touches the soul in such a powerful and immediate way?

From Ray

The “Joy of Guitar” to me, as a middle-aged, working class-guy, is probably not your teenager’s rock ‘n’ roll star dream. To me it is being able to play those wonderful classic songs that I can so fondly remember my uncles playing around the campfires or at the local dances when I was a child. I discovered joy when a note or chord I played first sounded like it was supposed to! When I’m playing my guitar I’m like a little kid again, enjoying the learning and the creation of something I’m doing. A big thanks to all you guys and gals at Guitar Noise for helping me. I’m loving every bit of it.

From Sheryl

Here are some of my thoughts concerning the joy of music. I could hardly stop myself once I started to write:

“The Joy of Music”

Music is powerful. I love music. It picks me up when I’m down, it calms me down when I’m stressed, it encourages me and inspires me in my thinking, in my walk with the Lord. It is able to change my mindset. It reminds me of God’s Word, Power, and Promises. Praise God for music! It totally enhances my life.

I am easily influenced by music, always have been. I catch tunes others are whistling. Melodies get stuck in my head regularly (including the music from the ice-cream truck). A billboard ad is enough to trigger a familiar commercial tune from days gone by (i.e. Rice-A-Roni). I carry songs I hear in the morning all day long; subconsciously I pick up tunes throughout the course of the day.

I think it’s important to purposely fill our hearts, minds, and spirits with music that edifies. I think the music in Church is as important as the Sermon. I believe we can choose what our minds dwell on. If my thinking is negative, I can feed those thoughts or redirect them by planting a specific song in my head. My whole mood changes when I listen to or play a favorite piece.

During a holiday season made stressful with work, plans, racing, and responsibilities, a friend sent me a tape that featured the song Shout To The Lord by Darlene Zschech. The whole piece is wonderful, but the melody of the chorus is especially gripping and is as powerful as the words:

Shout to the Lord, all the earth, let us sing,
Power and majesty, praise to the King;
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your Name.
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands,
Forever I’ll love you, forever I’ll stand;
Nothing compares to the promise I have in you!

This became my “Christmas Carol” of choice that December, and has been a favorite ever since.

My current favorite is a song Richie Furay of Poco sings on his In My Father’s House CD. I am not a morning person, and never have been, but Wake Up My Soul, co-written with Scott Sellen, is a tune I have been singing every day on the way to work. This tune has spiritual significance. By the time I get to work, I feel alive. It starts out like this:

Wake up my soul, wake up early in the day,
Wake up my hands and the instrument I plan,
Wake up my voice, let the world hear me say,
You are worshiped and exalted here today…

Music has an influence on my entire being. It can make me feel happy, sad, agitated, peaceful, loving, motivated, energetic and more. Music plays on my heartstrings and can somehow give expression to and even transform my thoughts. What we listen to can have a positive or negative effect on our lives. I like to choose what I listen to so my mind is set on things above.

In my opinion, music is almost as important as the air we breathe. Without music my life would be in black and white!

Thanks for listening David! I hope you carry a great melody in your heart all day long!

“Playing the guitar is my touch with sanity in an otherwise insane world.” – an anonymous email received over the weekend

From Terry

The greatest joy I ever had with my guitar would have to be when I played my mom and dad’s song at the party celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

The song is called “I Can’t Get Started” by Bunny Berrigan. Let me start by putting this into perspective for younger readers. Young couples used to pick a favorite song that would be “their” song. From what I gather, kids don’t do that these days. Bunny Berrigan was a jazz trumpeter in the 1940s and the horn break in this song is his crowning moment.

We decided to have an anniversary party for my parents. Since my dad would not likely recognize any of the songs I’d play, I decided to play their song for them. Besides, this would be a captive audience and what guitar-playing ham can pass that moment up?

So how could I translate a 1940s song for horn to a guitar song? I have a fake book that fortunately contained their song in its pages. But those chords! I’m no jazz player that’s for certain. I knew I was in for trouble and I needed help fast!

I called upon the skills of a member of my wife’s family for assistance. My wife’s uncle was a standup bass player, guitar player, instructor, music store owner and TV repairman during his lifelong journey. I took a copy of the song to him along with the fake book and he helped me trim down some of the chords; he showed me how to adapt the jazz voicings to more friendly positions that I could handle.

So I practiced and practiced the new chords. But how would I get around that great horn break? I decided to use my own “horn” and sing the trumpet part. I borrowed from the jazz scat singers and created my own vocalization of the part.

The celebration was a surprise affair and my folks didn’t have a clue. When they arrived, tears and cheers were everywhere. We’d hired a DJ and prearranged for me to take a few minutes at a strategic moment to play for them.

When the moment came, I stepped to the mic and asked my parents to take the dance floor. I said, “Dad, you always ask that I play something you know. Here’s one you should know very well,” and broke into their song. Watching them on the dance floor, dancing to my playing, was a wonderful sight.

About halfway through my Dad said, “OK, that’s enough,” because he doesn’t like to be the center of attention. I continued strumming and said, “It took me four weeks of solid practice to learn this song. I’m playing it all the way though and you’re dancing all the way through!”

When it was over I went and gave them a hug. They were as overjoyed as I was at what I’d done.

From Ed

Two years ago this week, I walked into a music store and walked out with an acoustic guitar. I had no intention of buying it – it was purely impulse.

At age 45, I had no aspirations of becoming a musician. The time for serious study had passed me by. However, there was a serious void in my life. Three months earlier my wife of 17 years had died of cancer. Even with my two boys, my house and my life were both pretty empty.

The guitar was simply something to fill my time during those dark, cold days of winter 2000. As my fingers callused, my emotions started to heal, slowly. The guitar gave me something to do, a new hobby, a new start.

This summer I purchased a Fender electric and my skills improved. Oh, I am not very good, but I am learning a new talent. I recently began to take music theory classes so all of this will make a little sense.

During the summer I don’t play. There are other things to do and outdoor activities keep me busy. But now it is cold and dark again, and I play. I don’t play for the same reasons now that I did two years ago; it is no longer a matter of survival. It is now for growth and pleasure.

Your website has helped tremendously, more than you will ever know.

From Sonata

I came from a musical family. My mother had one of the most powerful voices I have ever heard, and made her living from her musical talents for most of my childhood. I had a deep love of music, and a very high reverence for my mother.

Though I felt I could sing anything, I was so paled by my mother’s incredible voice that I never dared to sing publicly. The shower was music enough for my talents for many years.

My sister picked up lead guitar and piano, and my brother played lead and bass. My stepsister played acoustically and sang, and I was the only person in the family who did not have some sort of visible musical talent. I painted in oil on canvas to pass time, and wrote novels.

By the time I was sixteen years old, my mother had married a guitar player from one of her bands, and I begged him to teach me to play Stairway to Heaven. I learned about five chords, knocked out about five tunes that I liked with those chords, and didn’t pick up guitar again for ten years. My parents were disgruntled by my lack of enthusiasm when my talents were so obvious. All the same, I wanted to be a writer, and focused all of my efforts in that direction.

After a very rocky marriage and two very beautiful little boys, I came down with a serious illness. I came out of that illness with a new passion and a strong understanding for music. I bought a guitar, and found myself playing things I had never dreamed possible. Suddenly, writing made sense to me.

Music was a form of expression that fit closely to my very soul. If I picked that guitar up at any point in my day, whatever appointments I may have had were never met. I couldn’t put it down. It was as if I was possessed of such a passion for the art of musical creation that nothing else in the whole world existed. I am only now coming to a time where I can play for a little while and then put it down. I still love it deeply, but I am learning discipline.

I feel as if music has saved my life. I don’t struggle with decisions as I used to, and know exactly what I desire. I am doing what I love for a living, and making more than most people do working for someone else. I feel very blessed, and hope that I will always be able to encourage and aid others who are seeking to make a life in music.

There is no better time than today, this very minute, to make your life a lasting monument to your soul. If music is the best way to do that, then pursue it and conquer it. I can imagine no greater thing than leaving this legacy behind for my children. My love for music has saved my life, and made it worth living again. I hope it does the same for others.

From George

My story begins several years ago when I was wandering around in a mall in San Antonio, Texas, and came upon a small music store at one end. It had been several years since I had touched a guitar but I saw a Yamaha FS-350S on display. The salesman encouraged me to take it in the back room and play it a bit to see how I liked it. Being a little weak and vulnerable I sat down and tuned it and was amazed at the sound that came out of that little guitar (the Yamaha FS-350S is a ¾ size guitar). To make a long story short I fell in love again. I bought the guitar, took it home, and shoved it under the bed, where it stayed for a long time.

Our church got a new minister of music who played guitar. I got to talk to him about guitars and told him I had played a little bit. He suggested that I meet him and a gentleman I will call “Doc” at the nearby nursing home the next Sunday morning. I was nervous as “a cat on a hot tin roof” because I really was not that good and had not touched the guitar for several years. But I got my courage up, strung the guitar with a fresh new set of strings, tuned it up and sat down with it on Saturday for an hour or so.

Sunday morning I loaded the guitar in my truck and traveled to the nursing home. There are no words to describe the feeling of looking into the faces of the residents when they saw us walk in with the guitars. We opened the cases, set them aside and begin to play and sing old time gospel songs. We played for about an hour. Doc invited me to join him the following Sunday morning for another session.

That began six years of my having the privilege of enjoying Doc’s company. We spent time making music to spread the gospel to many people who were unable to attend a church or any other activity because of their health. Many of the people confined to nursing homes do not ever have visitors of any kind. For just an hour or so Doc and I were able to take them on a journey that let them forget their depressing surroundings.

To see their eyes light up when we did a familiar song that jogged their memory was an indescribable “joy.” One song that would bring many a chuckle from the residents was “The Preacher and the Bear.” Another song that brought forth memories was “Jesus Loves Me,” and a few that Doc had written himself whose titles I don’t remember.

Doc and I shared a relationship I will cherish forever. He is a clinical psychologist and motivational speaker but also a real down-to-earth person.

Time came for me to move to another city, so we went our separate ways. I started my own circuit of nursing home entertaining for a while until my work schedule prevented my continuing.

When speaking of the “Joy of Guitar” and “Joy of Music” as the years go by I find that the “six string tranquilizer” carries me through tough times. Sharing music with people who are less fortunate brings with it rewards that I cannot put a price on. I consider myself fortunate to have found Guitar Noise, where I enjoy and learn from the talent of others. I hope that you and Paul continue to provide the quality education material we have seen in the past. My only regret is that I did not get more motivated thirty or forty years ago.

From Jim

I have been visiting Guitar Noise since this past summer and have always found the site to be informative and inspirational. I especially enjoy your beginner lessons, as I am somewhat of a beginner myself.

About two years ago my daughter acquired a neat little Yamaha acoustic in exchange for some housework she did for the father of a friend. The instrument was basically collecting dust in her bedroom, so I picked it up and started strumming out some chords I had learned as a teenager. I played around with the guitar as a kid, but never took it very seriously. Now, as a forty-something grown-up with the responsibilities of a job, mortgage, kids, dog, house projects, etc., I found myself trying to really learn to play.

I began lessons, then stopped when I returned to graduate school (which was one more BIG responsibility). I received an excellent Martin from my wife for graduation – bless her heart – and am now taking lessons again.

Despite the fact that school is no longer a part of my routine, I still have trouble finding, making or otherwise creating time to practice. Frankly, I am becoming somewhat frustrated. I know almost all of the open chords, and can move barre chords pretty freely around the neck. And thanks to your lessons, I have learned some bass fills and (gasp!) a little theory. But, my playing is still not coming together. I struggle with keeping time, hearing songs in my head as I play them and learning to play a song well from start to finish.

Last night, I think things began to change. I invited myself over to my good friend and neighbor Billy’s house for some pick time. Billy has been playing since he was eight and shares his experience with me freely. He’s now playing out with his friend Becky on a regular basis. Becky is a beginning guitarist, but sings like an angel. As it turns out, Becky was practicing with Billy when I arrived and they invited me to play along with a few of the simpler songs they we were working on. What an experience! Becky was singing and strumming, Billy was playing lead and whispering the chord changes to me.

I found myself playing (on some of the songs at least) and actually adding depth to the music, with two rather accomplished musicians. Not only that, but I, the rank beginner, showed Becky, the musician, a couple of tunes. Billy and I did a pretty cool rendition of Ohio (CSN&Y) before we quit for the night. I learned two or three new songs and now can’t wait to sit down and work on them.

For me, the sharing made all the difference. Becky’s voice helped to keep me in time and Billy’s excellent lead playing covered up for me when I missed a change, or a whole chorus in some instances. I can’t wait to sit in with them again.

The experience showed me the beauty of sharing one’s talents and even one’s naivetes. There are great players, but they don’t know everything. There are learners, who may not know much, but are willing to try. When these two come together, energy and inspiration are created.

From Phil

I’ve only recently discovered the Guitar Noise site. No pop-ups, printer-friendly material, and good advice. Great. I thought I’d make a contribution, for what it’s worth, from sunny England.

I started to play guitar as a teenager in the mid-1970s. How that happened is a story in itself! Well, I formed a band with a couple of school friends, and opted to play bass guitar. But I strummed away at my six-string in the evenings.

The years came and went, and so did school, university, career, marriage, son, and a new career. (The last three stayed, I’m pleased to say). Son took up both trumpet and French horn and found a fondness for little jazz pieces on the trumpet. Wife discovered that hiring instruments is not too expensive, and had a bash at clarinet and then saxophone. These were life-long ambitions for her. Before long I was being pressured to dig out my long-neglected guitar and play along.

I started to brush up on my rock ‘n’ roll, and blues. I then started studying jazz about eighteen months ago. I went a bit Imelda Marcos and acquired some new guitars (just a few, nothing ostentatious). Now I’m back into the swing of it and have found a new way to relax and develop playing skills that I never had as a teenager. Things get better.

One day, young Jamie (a friend of my son) comes over to play and asks about the guitars. He was learning guitar at school but getting a bit fed up after a year of constant theory and “Jimmy Crack Corn.” He wanted an electric guitar, but his dad said no, they were nasty, noisy things. I spoke to his mother and advised her to buy him a Squier Mini and a Digitech RP100 pedal with headphones — it makes anyone sound good (even me). He has taken to it like lemon oil to a fretboard. I’ve given him a few lessons and tips, and he is calmly inventing amazing, original little riffs of his own, purely by experiment. In a few years time, he’ll be someone to listen out for.

Meanwhile, I was boring a colleague and close friend of mine with my guitar stories one day when he says, “I wish I had learned electric guitar when I was younger. I always wanted to.” Why not start now?” I asked him. He has his wife, kids and house, and has just turned 40 and is therefore ready to begin his second (improved) childhood. Well, he had just moved to a new house so cash flow is an issue; he can’t afford an expensive instrument or lots of books. No problem.

Between us, we buy three Kramer Focus guitars over the Internet, and he has started with a pre-amp built by me, a loan of my old guitar books, and the Guitar Noise site. I’m rebuilding another Kramer for fun. And we meet up every few weekends to exchange playing and woodworking ideas over a beer, and we are both more relaxed than we have been for several years. In another couple of months and he’ll be up to speed for jamming, maybe with another guitarist, trumpet, sax, and me on bass. And we have a woman colleague at work who plays her son’s drum kit. We’ll all make music, which is the coolest thing.

From Nick

Last year I was preparing for a busy musical season. I was singing the baritone solo “Fantasia on Christmas Carols” by Ralph Vaughan Williams with chorus and orchestra. (If you’d like to hear a bit let me know.) I was also preparing for a number of other small engagements, an acting bit, getting the house ready for family, buying a thousand gifts, etc. Just to make the season a bit brighter, I had the head cold from hell. I was not in a very jovial mood.

In the midst of this I happened to pick up a Christmas angel from the tree at church. The angel has a child’s name on it and some of the things they needed/wanted for Christmas. I went out and got the stuff on his list: Harry Potter Book, skates, socks and winter hat. But I was so busy I missed the drop-off date at my church.

This was just one more thing gone wrong. I called the Salvation Army, which organized the drop-off, explained how terrible I felt that I missed it and asked if I could drop it off at their office. “Well, no” was the answer. “But you can drop it off at the warehouse.”

So I drove to their warehouse. It wasn’t actually theirs. Somebody donated the space to them for the Christmas Angels program. I pulled up, grabbed the bag of goodies and headed into the main garage door. Then I just stopped dead in my tracks.

The warehouse was about the size of two football fields laid side by side. Somebody had taken roll after roll of masking tape and laid out checkerboard squares from one end to the other.

Each of the squares had a child’s name in it. Every single one of them was full of gifts. Hundreds and hundreds of squares filled with gifts.

I don’t cry easily, but I did. Big heaving sobs, standing there in that warehouse. I had forgotten what it was all about.

My kid got some books, socks, hat and skates, but he gave me something far more valuable.

From Josh

Hey, people! I figured I’d write you guys since you asked me to. I just want to say that when I was about 12 I took some guitar lessons and didn’t do very well, because I wasn’t really into it. It was like a fad to me. But recently my mom gave me this sweet Gibson acoustic with electric hook ups. It’s all cherry and sweet. Every now and then I would pick it up and just tinker with it. Every time I picked it up I liked playing it more. Now the problem is putting it down.

I’m not really that good, but I’m getting there. I got my calluses back! I don’t really play songs that much. I just sit there and play. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I get to playing and it sounds good, so I keep going and pushing it and it seems like I’m not even thinking or playing; it’s like my soul is pouring right out through the notes. And that’s why I love playing guitar.

I’ve been trying some of your lessons and I think they are very helpful and informative, so keep up the good work and keep it free. There! I wrote you guys! Are you happy now?

From Jazzarati

I played my first real performance last night, only two songs, at the school’s end-of-year concert. There was probably about only fifty people there. A bassist, drummer and me on guitar were to play after a couple of other instruments’ solos. While I was sitting there with my guitar waiting for the others to play I could feel my arms and legs being so heavy and shaky.

Eventually the solos were over and it was our turn. So I stood up with my guitar (which I love) and we began. While playing the melody I forgot one of the lines, so I just improvised a new lead for a little. This made me laugh, truly laugh. Then I had a minute of soloing. By the time I was done soloing I had no arms and legs. I don’t mean they were heavy; I just didn’t consciously think about them. All I thought about was the music. During the improvised solo (which was supposed to be improvised) I just thought of the sound I wanted and played the notes. There was no picking the strings or fingering the notes; they just happened. All I did was conduct the music and enjoy. I was watching myself playing and I could hear my finger vibrato going crazy. It was cool.

During the next song, the drummer had to pause for a moment to pull his drum kit back towards him because it was moving away from him. During the whole song I was smiling and laughing while I was playing, I was having so much fun bouncing along with the song. It was probably the best music experience I’ve ever had. I’ve played guitar a lot better but never have I had so much fun. I was amazed that I didn’t need to think about playing the rhythm, chords and notes. I was just there enjoying the music.

Our school doesn’t have many guitar players. I’m the only one people really know about. It was amazing that, at the end of the performance, all these different people and parents were congratulating me on playing so well, even though I know I screwed up a fair bit, which I covered well. But what I noticed most was what all of them said, “It was really good. It looked like you were having so much fun.” Some added that it was much better than everyone else, who just played the notes off the staff. (I memorized my stuff). So even though there were probably better players there, on that night people liked my stuff the best because they got to have fun watching someone else truly enjoying themselves without a care in the world. I can’t wait to do it again.

Why is music important?

A school paper by Robert (age 11)

Why is music important to me? Music can change your mood. Music can show your pride in America. Music has many different styles. That’s why music is important to me.

Music can change your mood. It can make you feel good or sad or excited. It depends on the style and the mood. The blues can make you sad while jazz makes you happy. Music can make you feel a certain way.

Music can also show pride in America. Songs like “God Bless America” and “Proud To Be An American” show pride. There are many songs about America. These songs help in times like these. Pride in America is something music can show.

There are tons of styles of music. There’s jazz, pop, R&B, blues, rock, and classical. Out of all these there’s gotta be one you like. There’s also tech, heavy metal, rap, soft rock, hip hop, and punk. There are so many I can’t fit them all on this paper!

These are the reasons music is important to me. Music can make you feel happy, sad, or joyful. It can show pride in one’s country. With all the types of music, there’s gotta be one you like. I’ve only showed you some of the reasons music is important.

From Royce

I have been flirting with the guitar since I was about 11 or so. But, like many others I’m sure, I never got real serious about playing.

I am now 31, and in January of this year I was diagnosed with cancer. This is my second fight with it. I was first diagnosed in Feb, 1996. I had a golf ball sized tumor on the back of my brain. I spent most of the year recovering. When I was better I just went back to normal life.

I was one month away from my 6th anniversary of being cancer free when I was diagnosed again just this past January.

The first part of the year was not good for me at all. But around June I started to get my strength back. So I decided one day to pull my guitar out and just mess around. The problem was that the medication the doctors had me on made my hands shake. It was so bad I couldn’t hold a string down long enough to make the note ring. Needless to say I was disappointed. But at least I had tried.

But once I was off that medicine, I began to get my dexterity back. So I started to play again. Then I learned about a class at a local music store. I signed up for the class and found myself actually practicing. Not because Mommy said I had to, but because I was enjoying it. I am learning to read music for the first time ever. I am having so much fun.

Some day I want a “Les Paul Custom.” It’s kind of hard to get one without being able to work. But I’m saving my pennies.

Thanks for a great web site. I have yet to take advantage of all its features. Have a wonderful Christmas everyone, and God bless.

From Mike

I bought my first guitar when I was at university. I had made friends with a really good guitar player, and I could sing and knew plenty of lyrics, so we turned into the unplugged beer-bash sensation of that period. We later formed a band with three other guys and played several gigs, often for hundreds of people. The girls loved us (at least that’s how I like to remember it). Looking back I feel great for making the dream of performing happen.

I never played guitar in the band; the other guys were just too good, or so I thought. I figured I should strive to become a rhythm guitar player, in order to accompany myself singing. (We still did lots of impromptu, unplugged mini-gigs.) My friend taught me a few chords and I hacked away, even wooing my future wife on my Fender acoustic. But all in all, I never got myself past the threshold of my own credibility, never got to the point where I could call myself a guitar player.

Then, in December 2001, some ten years after buying my first guitar, something changed. I was working, happily married, and had been completely out of the music scene for ages. The Internet had become a household thing. I had instant access to all kinds of knowledge about playing guitar, and started to use it. I finally decided that I was the only one who could make myself a guitar player, that I myself had to find out what had to be done and to put in the work. This past year has been wonderful, with all my spare time occupied with all things guitar. I improved a lot and felt good about that.

But it didn’t stop there. Looking back, I realize that to a certain extent I was making music serve some other purpose (like getting the girls to love us). Even later on, the goal of “becoming a guitar player” was more important to me than the music itself. It was about “credibility,” I guess. Now, I’m opening up more, and not caring as much about how good I eventually get. It’s not about “getting somewhere,” it’s about “enjoying the scenery on the road to somewhere.” I enjoy my own music now more than ever before, by applying myself and just letting it happen. I realize now how much my audience has enjoyed my music in the past. The songs I write are few and far between, but they are great!

Thanks for all the inspiration.

From Chad

I’m a new reader to the site, but in the last few weeks, the articles and tutorials have helped me greatly! Keep up the good work! When I read the “Joy of Music” articles, I knew I simply had to share a recent music experience I had.

I’ve been involved in music for about 10 years now, having picked up guitar and bass in the last 6. I’m 20 years old and play lead guitar for a youth worship band at my church. Being involved in the kids’ lives and playing in the band has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It’s a great feeling to help others have an incredible experience through music.

Our band recently decided that, on one of our weekend camps, we’d try something new. We always play contemporary rock-style Christian music, and the youth group really has a fun time. We decided that we’d stretch ourselves a little bit this weekend, and try to play a difficult song that featured a lengthy guitar solo. We’d never played a song that incorporated a solo into it. I spent hours memorizing and practicing the exact notes, wanting to cover the solo exactly as it was played by the original artist. I also spent a lot of time reading articles from Guitar Noise.

When the night finally came, I found myself on stage under hot floodlights. My hands were trembling in anticipation. I looked into the crowd of young people who had sacrificed their weekend in the hopes of finding something more valuable.

We opened our set with the new song, and it absolutely rocked. We caught the audience totally by surprise. The band was together. Somehow, my sweaty hands managed to bang out the 20 second solo, and the audience went crazy. It was literally a dream come true for me. The youth group screamed my name; they asked for encores afterwards. We’ll be playing the song for the third time tonight at our Church.

Being in the spotlight is always fun. However, the more rewarding experience is using music to elicit a response from the listener. Bringing about emotion and excitement, and making an environment where the audience can experience God. The tingle in my spine and the smile on my face are side effects of creating that atmosphere. The Bible says that God “manifests Himself in the praises of His people,” and I consider it a privilege to be involved in that.

Thanks for listening, and keep up the great articles!

From Denis

This isn’t a submission as much as a thank you. I am a computer professional in my upper 30’s now. Played guitar as a teen and took lessons for about 3 years. Set it down and haven’t been back since. That is until now. My two oldest children now play trombone in the middle school band and several trips to the music store for one thing or another sparked the interest again.

Next my mother-in-law was saying how she always wanted to play the guitar but never did. I simply commented that she should just go ahead and get one start lessons. Well she did. The very next day came she running over to our farmhouse with new guitar in hand and no clue how to tune it. I’m glad I remembered how to and soon was playing a few old songs I still remembered.

Well that was all it took for me. I talked it over with my wife and she agreed to let me get a new guitar for my Christmas present. Back to the music store and a few chats with the staff there. I found these guys very easy to talk with and put me at ease about getting back into it. Bottom line was money though so we went with a Squier Strat Pack (I always wanted an electric). The guys at the store were good enough to go through two guitars before they found one that they were happy with before I went home with it and was having fun playing it at the store.

Which brings me to my current problem: I am now two weeks away from my Christmas present reading all the articles I can digest. I have been very glad to have found your website and your lesson articles seem so well laid out that I feel very confident that I made a good decision to get back into playing. Reading through the Joy of Music articles and other stories seem to touch us all especially around this holiday time. Things have been pretty tough in our economy lately and it is hard to not worry but we seem to relax a little easier when we are playing or listening to music. Even a 13 year old practicing her trombone. So if anything can be said about the joy of music my little contribution was to listen to my daughter play happy birthday for me last week. She had to transpose the music to her bass clef but she did it and surprised me with a little song. Now we watch our 13 month old son bang away on his piano and hope for the best there. It is in our children that we see our future and mine looks very bright indeed.

Merry Christmas!

From Drew

I don’t think I can write the words that describe the joy of music. I’ve been playing bass for six months and I play bass for myself. No one else says “practice” or “you should play this instrument.” Too many people play instruments for the wrong reasons.

Anyway, I play bass in our youth band at my church. I started playing on Sundays and moved up to Wednesday nights, which was a lot more fun. There was a drummer and more songs to play. I love to just go there and play in the band. As I am still a beginner bassist, I have been reading up on music theory and scales and how it all comes together for practical playing. I find the more I learn about music and theory the more I enjoy playing. Sometimes when I play it seems boring and monotonous and I have to challenge myself to go beyond just the roots even if its simple stuff. The leader of the band told us all, “We need to continually challenge ourselves for this is how we learn and develop as better musicians.”

Today I played bass in our youth worship band and then we went our ways. After worship on Sundays we go to different Sunday school classes. After my class was over I went back to where we played to pack up my stuff and our lead guitarist/lead vocalist asked me if I wanted to jam out because he sure did. I said, “Sure let’s do it.” Ironically, the drummer walks in and naturally he want in to. So we come up with some sort of riff for me to work with which was a really cool blues riff and we started jamming. Wow was it fun, and I don’t think I could express the high, the rush we all felt. We all felt good.

Well, that’s about all I have to say. For those of you who are learning, stick with it and you won’t regret it. Music is one of greatest gifts God gave us. You can do, it will all be okay. Learn your scales and theory and keep at it. God is good and we can’t thank him enough for His gift of music.

From Jess

Hi, my name is Jess, and I LOVE your site. I picked up a guitar about two years ago, and although I got a lot of help from my dad and brother, I still had a lot to learn. I couldn’t afford lessons, so I almost passed out when I found Guitar Noise!

Anyway, it being the holidays, I thought you might enjoy a touching story. My dad is the pastor of our small, close-knit church. He’s played the guitar since he was a teenager (that’s a lot of years!). He had an acoustic Seagull for quite some time, and of course, as a guitarist, he became attached. Unfortunately a few months ago, someone stole it. He had an electric to “help him through the pain”, but still, his good old friend was gone. It was rather sad…

Well, this Sunday before Christmas, my dad’s brother, (also the church worship leader; we have a VERY musical family!) announced that the congregation had secretly been taking up a collection to help buy a new guitar. They came up with a very generous sum, and presented my dad with his beautiful new acoustic. After regaining his voice (he was quite choked up) my dad said that he’d actually been looking and drooling over that same guitar in the store. These generous, caring people brought back the love and spirit of giving at Christmas, and gave my dad back his music. I have no doubt that when he plays his new guitar, it will sound better because of the love behind it.

Thank you for reading, and for contributing to such an awesome site.

I’d like to take this time to thank everyone who has written to me this past year. Guitar Noise is a great place because of each of our readers. It is all of you who make this a special place to visit and to write for.

My best wishes for a wondrous New Year.