Yesterday, I bought my very first guitar. After a few months of learning and playing my friends’ guitars, I decided that it was time I got one of my own. Ultimately, when I packed up my newly bought guitar (A Metallic Red and White Yamaha Pacifica 012 Electric) and got into a cab back to college, I started to think. Think about how certain stories and memories have grown around my first flirtations with playing the guitar. It is quite remarkable how such significant moments in your life can be intertwined with this instrument that you play. Well, guitars are pretty personal things after all.
How It All Began
It was a pleasant day in February 2015. The girl who I was seeing then, had joined this guitar class pretty close to college, with a few of her friends. I think I did a random YouTube search one evening, about the very basics of guitar playing. I borrowed a friend’s guitar, a 11 year old Lewis acoustic guitar, which was the first guitar I ever played. I tried out a few things, and liked the feel of it. As a kid, I used to play the keyboard a lot, and I felt that I had a little bit of a knack for instrumental music, and I was able to rapidly pick up the basic stuff which my then-girlfriend would learn and later tell me. One day while walking with her, when she was supposed to go to class, I impulsively decided to go to class with her and actually signed up for it. Such little things, it is funny how often they end up being the big things.
It still feels like yesterday. Those very first classes, those very first nursery rhymes which I played. “Mary had a Little Lamb” was probably the first rhyme I learned to play. With more classes, came more songs, as I slowly began to explore the left extreme of the fretboard and all the sounds which it could produce. Soon enough, I could play basic leads for any song which I wanted to after a short while. A little memory which I have is spontaneously playing most of “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. After a while, I learned the very basic chords and introductory rhythm guitar, and tried to play “Give Me Some Sunshine” on its own. I was always enthusiastic to learn ahead and I used to try barre chord versions of the song even before I could play the D open chord properly. Even though it didn’t sound great then, I enjoyed what I was doing, and it was good fun.
A Temporary Lull
Just like life in itself, my guitar journey so far hasn’t been completely been on a path which was covered in rose petals (a lot of it has been that way though, or at least felt like it). One particular low that I remember is a point when a lot of negativity had crept into life in general. It was around end semester exam time, things weren’t great with my then-girlfriend (some of our personality and ego clashes managed to find their way to the fretboard too, like she would want to be better than me, in a competitive and unfriendly way, at playing and so on) and there was a complete lack of time to do anything creative (Yes, Sem 2-2 of Comp Sci at IIIT-H can get pretty tough to handle). Ultimately exams ended, I survived the semester but the good part of my relationship did not, and in that moment what I really needed was a much needed break at home, which also ended up being a temporary break from the guitar.
The semester ended. I went home for a couple of weeks and came back to college in order to begin my summer research work. The summer also brought into my life two new friends, with whom the first proper conversations I had were completely due to the fact that I was learning/playing the guitar. The first one was a guy who I will refer to as Scouse (Liverpool fan), whose guitar I have played the most till date. It was a Santana acoustic guitar which he got around 2010. In the summer, when my roommate left for home, his bed was where the guitar lay if I was not playing it. Even when I play a newer, more expensive acoustic guitar, I still do not get the same comfort or sound that I got from Scouse’s guitar, on which I learned most of what I know about playing the guitar today. I also had a buddy to talk about the guitar with now, and we shared what kind of music we were playing, and he taught me little techniques which were very useful later. I shared some of the music/techniques which I was trying out and which he did not know yet. I used his guitar extensively ever since summer until I got my new one, during which I managed to break its strings a couple of times (twice in a day, to be precise). I really have to give it to him to never complain about this guy just coming and taking away his guitar for hours at end.
The second friend who I made over the summer asked to be called Batgirl in this blog post. It so happened that she had signed up for the same guitar class which I used to go to, and I had only started talking to her then. After the temporary lull, I picked up the guitar again and started going to class again, with her. She was a really fast learner and did in 4 classes what I could in 6, and played the flute too. Having someone else learning with you and getting me back on track was a very important thing at that time. Rejuvenation, in a guitar perspective, was complete. And the friendship did not stay limited to just playing the guitar or going to class. She happened to be a really nice person who I get along really well with. But it is interesting how such a friendship can emerge out of something as seemingly insignificant as having a first conversation in person due to going to a guitar class. Like I said, the little things become the big things.
As of today, I have plans to jam with both Scouse and Batgirl. That should be fun! 😀
Throughout summer, apart from the one day in the week when I actually did some kind of academic work, I was free all day. Apart from playing League of Legends and watching the occasional movie, all I did was play the guitar like mad. When I reached a stage where I could just look at the chords of any song and then play it and sing along, it got downright addictive. It was pretty normal for me to play all night, 8 hours at a stretch, until my fingers just couldn’t take it anymore. I could now relate to a verse in “Summer of 69”, which says that the singer “played till his fingers bled”. My internet search auto-complete suggestions were now littered with guitar chords and tabs. I discovered that I could sing a bit too, something which I was always afraid of all my life before I entered the world of rhythm guitar.
Another friend of mine (let us call her IO), demanded that I record myself singing while playing the guitar. I remember the very first recording that I did was a basic rhythm version of “Let Her Go” by Passenger. As I did more recordings, I slightly improved both my playing and singing skills, and kept on trying more songs, sometimes on demand (only by girls though, I wonder why :P). DJ, IO’s usual partner-in-everything, asked me to play a couple of songs for her too. The size of my Guitar Recordings folder slowly started to increase, even though I was making them using my phone’s sound recorder and they were not the best quality audio. I sang “Maa” from Taare Zameen Par for Mom and “Papa Kehte Hain Bada Naam Karega” for Dad on Father’s Day. Among other songs, a few that I recorded in the very early days were “Tanha Dil”, “I Won’t Give Up” and “Tumse Hi”.
Even when the new semester began, and I shifted into my room-to-be for two years (a single room now), I got hold of Scouse’s guitar and started playing. On occasional days when I had no class, I managed to play for 11-12 hours at a stretch. I could now do things which I could not do smoothly earlier, like quickly transition between barre chords across the fretboard and play different styles. I tried really difficult stuff like Amin Toofani’s “Gratitude”, and learnt new things while trying to play it. And I enjoyed every bit of the learning curve. Now that I could play a variety of music with a reasonable degree of comfort, I decided that it was time to invest in a good new guitar of my own. And that brings us to yesterday.
Buying My Own Guitar
The experience of actually buying my guitar was an interesting one too. I had only practiced on acoustic guitars all this while, even though I had played electric guitars at my class (which I did not particularly like, even though I did not exactly hate them). Initially I thought I would by a semi-acoustic or an electro-acoustic guitar. I went to a shop in Madhapur and tried out all the kinds of guitars which they had. It did not take me long to make up my mind about buying an electric guitar. They felt, good. And add to that the possibility of playing and exploring various kinds of music. That had me sold. After hours of googling around and trying to see what I should actually buy, I decided that I wanted an electric guitar and the Pacifica seemed to fit my needs the best (Close comparisons could be drawn to the Fender Stratocaster and an entry level Ibanez model). The next day, I got funds transferred to my bank account and headed out to a place in Begumpet called Musee Musicals. I asked Batgirl if she would come along, but she said that it would take ages to get there in rush hour traffic, and asked me to send pictures before buying instead. And oh boy, she was right about the traffic. I started out from college at around 6 PM, and midway through got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, and reached the Google Maps marker only at 7:30 PM. As luck would have it, the marker was incorrect and the actual store was somewhere else. I called up the store and after half an hour of miscommunicated directions and more traffic, I managed to find the right place. I walked into the store, and there it was, in all its metallic red and white glory. I touched it, it felt good. It felt right. It sounded good. And it looked cool. Scratch that, super cool, like it made me want to play it. And soon enough, it was on its way to its new home, along with the complete package of an amplifier, a strap, a capo, cables, its bag and other guitar related paraphernalia. I had my very own wannabe rockstar starter kit.
Testing It Out
I came back to college. The moment I entered my wing, my friends saw me carrying this giant electric guitar package, a guitar bag hung over my shoulder and an amplifier in my hand. I saw their eyes light up when they realized that I had gone ahead and actually bought the guitar which I had been going on and on about for the last few days. I unpacked and set everything up, as my friends waited with expectation. The first strum sounded good. And then, I put the amplifier into overdrive mode. The instant I strummed the next note, everyone lost their minds. “Ohhhhhhhhhhh!”, they went, it sounded like a proper rock tone. And then I plucked the next note and bended it. “OHHHHHHHHHHHH!”, was the reaction. I don’t think I had had such a giant smile on my face for ages. Scouse came and checked it out, and was awestruck too. He played an electric version of “BC Sutta” which made us all laugh, followed by the intro lick of “Nothing Else Matters” which sounded so damn authentic. Later, I showed it to Batgirl too and she thought that the guitar was pretty damn cool. She made me play the intro lick of “The Diary of Jane”, and the bend at the end of the lick made her go “Whoaaaaa! :D” too. It had only been three hours, but I had started to love my new guitar already. This guitar journey has just begun.