Me and My Guitar
One of the greatest gifts I ever learned was the Guitar. When you have the calling to be a 'Guitar Player' you yearn to learn that 1st, 2nd and 3rd chord, so you can play your first tune.
One of the greatest gifts I ever learned was the Guitar. Originally I became trained as a Classical Pianist, but moved on to being a Classical Flautist. By time I was a teen, I was ready to start learning the guitar. Being born and raised in Las Vegas, “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” I was exposed to many fine composers, orchestras, bands, and musicians. My world was music and entertainment. I was brought up in the 50s & 60s, and there were a limited amount of female guitar players that I was aware of; one being Charo, a Classical Guitarist who could play not only extreme classical guitar compositions, but blended pop music in with her repertoire. The other lady guitar player was Joni Mitchell, whom played an exquisite blend of Folk Rock with seemingly Jazz / Blues & made up chords, along with wayward rhythms.
I didn’t know much about the guitar when my father handed me my first 3/4 size Classical and a MelBay Book for beginners on, ”How to Play the Guitar.” My father didn’t know how to play the guitar, so it was left up to me to figure it out. The book helped me to learn there are actually 6 strings, the name of the strings, their musical notation, and how they looked on the staff, the C scale and a few chords basically so I could play a tune on the guitar and feel like I accomplished something. But I didn’t want to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” I wanted more out of my guitar and myself. I felt if others could play this stringed thingy, then so could I….but how? I did not know any guitar players yet, and I really did not like the children’s books. I wanted more in-depth instruction….alas, it never happened….so I found my self in my room picking away on the frets trying to find notes that harmonized with each other. If I hit more than 2 strings that sounded pretty good, I felt I just played a chord - but I didn’t know what it was, I only heard it. The first actual song I learned was “House of the Rising Sun.” It took me absolutely forever, but I finally figured out the chords and for me that first tune was like setting foot on some far out planet….just unbelievable that I even achieved it. I was very pleased. I moved to a steel 6 string and onto an Ibanez 12 String Guitar.
As I got older, my pleasure turned to some anxiety and sorrow within me; I realized I was way behind in my guitar techniques, knowledge of scales, chords and feeling like I could actually play competently along with other musicians. I did spend a large part of my time hanging with Guitarists including Classical, Rock, Blues, Folk etc., but I would listen to them and watch them, not play gigs with them. I at times felt ashamed to ask them, “How did you do that?” and so forth, because I felt I could never play like them. They were ‘Masters’ and I was just me, and surely as all heck, no way - no how as good as them….but after all, I was just a flute player, so it didn’t matter that I really wasn’t THAT good on guitar….But it DID matter to me deep down inside. I played by myself mostly and the Guitarists I lived with in Studio City, California. At that point in my life, times being what they were and all, I was not able to put the time in as needed to learn my guitar as I would have wanted, so I had to set aside some of my aspirations for the time being.
I did however work with many fine Studio Sound Engineers & Musicians whom were in the high end production of Albums for those of Elton John, Hall & Oates, Eric Clapton, Burton Cummings, Frank Zappa, Neil Diamond, Pointer Sisters, Linda Ronstadt, Mac Davis, Barry White, etc., training as a Production Engineer ‘Second’ as well as working with Compositions & Arrangements. It was during this time that I met very great Guitarists, Vocalists & Singers. I cut my first Song Demo on guitar at Studio America on my 12 String, “But Time Shall Pass.” That was a most wondrous moment in my life. The tape still resides to this day.
I had matured in my playing and felt confident as a singer songwriter on guitar for MY STYLE. I had realized that I was never going to be able to play like any one else, because I am not them, I am me, and they don’t even play like each other really anyway, they have their own unique styles. But hey, I did pretty good in my opinion and I can be a harsh critic on those who actually suck.
It was not until in my 30s, while living in Black Mountain, North Carolina that I worked and played guitar with a band on stage. It was a Celtic band, I played my flute mostly, but I did hold rhythm and add flare to some rather obscure Celtic tunes. I was and always will be a ‘Guitar Player.’ I am not only a guitar player, but I have learned lap dulcimer and love all stringed instruments. I collect traditional instruments from the various foreign lands I have visited and pick at them as well. I am a ‘Musician,’ I had the calling. (You know it when you want to pick up an instrument and play it.)……It was the desire within me to learn how to play and be at minimum, as great as I am to be, within my own personal style.
I am older now and reflecting back. I suppose I missed great opportunities to learn because I had my own issues to deal with, one being that I thought of myself as a flute player and not really a guitar player…..We can’t really turn back time, but we can do what’s good for the present day for ourselves.
I will be writing papers on female guitar players, male guitar players, what it was like to have a grandma that was Les Paul’s Organist while he and Mary Ford were trying to figure out how to multi track…..What it was like being a female musician of rock music back in the 70s, living in California….I have lots of stories of many fashions that I hope you will enjoy reading. At times, there may also be video for you to view. I just wanted to take this time to introduce myself to you. I thank Guitar Hertz for allowing me this privilege of writing about the guitar, music and life. Cheers. Colette Dowell