This has been an interesting week. It was kicked off with an email saying I was a “great” guitar player. Hmmm… Apparently a visitor to my website had taken some time to listen to a few of my songs while browsing around. I was flattered at receiving such a nice complement, but mostly amused, because that’s not my own, personal perception.
Later on that same week I was given a little more perspective regarding this. The guitarist for the worship team at our church was going to be out of town, so I volunteered to fill in for him. I was given a set of songs to look over and informed that there would be a practice session on the upcoming Wednesday night.
After I got home I decided to run through the set of songs to make sure I was somewhat familiar with the material by Wednesday. Most of the songs were new to me and contained the words and chords, but not the notation. My memory could only recall how two of the songs went, so all I was really able to do with the rest of the set was to map out the chord sequences and make mental notes of where the key changes were.
When Wednesday night came around I packed up my gear and headed for the church. I got plugged into an amp and was positioned between the two keyboard players. As we began to go through the first song, all I could hear was the keyboard player to my left. Even though I had a monitor right in front of me, I couldn’t hear myself at all! We quickly ran through each song a couple of times as I “faked” my way through the material and tried to learn them on the fly. Then we called it a night. There would be one more rehersal on Sunday morning just an hour before the service. I hoped I could remember the tunes in my head.
Because I have nerve damage in my left elbow and have also had some trouble with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome , my left arm felt like it was going to fall off when I got back home. Any repetitive motion over a prolonged period of time has become rather difficult for me to do these days. Consequently, I have had to modify my guitar playing to some degree. The situation I now found myself in was turning out to be more stressful than I had originally expected. It was too late to back out and suddenly I found myself becoming a little discouraged.
While considering what I could do to minimize the acute pain I was feeling, I realized it would be easier to play some of the songs if I used a capo. So, I made the changes and re-typed the songs. What a difference that made! I began practicing the songs with a new enthusiasm and could tell that I was finally getting a feel for them. Now I was satisfied that I had prepared the best I could under the circumstances.
Sunday finally rolled around and the practice session was going smoothly. We came to the last song, one which I had made some changes to, and everything was proceeding just as I had planned. The capo made a big difference, and my arm was feeling fine. Then, half-way through the song, there was a key change that I had failed to notice when I had re-typed it! People were beginning to arrive, so I knew there wasn’t the time to fix it now. As my brain began to whirl, I quickly scribbled down the chords that I thought were needed for the key change. Since this song was going to be at the end of the service I figured I could work on it a little more in my seat after our first set.
It’s funny how these kind of things seem to happen when you’re not mentally prepared to deal with them? After we had finished our first set and the Pastor began his sermon, I decided that it would be better to play the closing song in the original key rather than use the capo. So I began reviewing the chord changes- most of which were bar chords – knowing that this meant I could expect to have some more pain when it was all over. All I could do now was pray for the strength that my hand would need in order to play the song well. I gave it to the Lord and decided not to worry about it any further.
As the Pastor drew near to the end of his sermon, I prepared to go back up front. Then an amazing thing happened. He unexpectedly dismissed the congregation! I looked over at the keyboard player and we both just shrugged our shoulders. Guess we weren’t going to be playing the closing song after all! I knew right there that Jesus had just given me the way out of this situation. He understood that it would compromise my arm, so he just didn’t let it happen!
Anyway, that was a long and round about way of saying that I understand the challenges you face in your desire to become a great guitar player. It’s very easy to get discouraged when you recognize your own shortcomings and are tempted to give up. But don’t do that! Instead, try to do the best that you can with the circumstances you have been given. Each tiny step forward will pay off in the end if you continue to persevere. And you may even discover some new things about yourself and your art along the way.
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