Over the last year I’ve spent some of my free time trying to teach myself how to play guitar. I’ve always loved music, and I find that my time spent with a guitar is relaxing and centering for me – even if the music I make sounds terrible. Last month I had the opportunity to purchase an old Silvertone guitar made in the 1950s.
It needed some work, but it had lots of character, so off I went to bring it back to playability. Luckily for me, most of the fixes were simple and affordable but in the end I needed the help of a guitar tech named Henry to help get the bridge in place. Henry was nice enough to let me hang out in his shop and watch him work on my guitar. He got the bridge fitted onto the guitar beautifully, but told me that the neck of the guitar – due to its age – was curved just a little, which is going to result in high action on the guitar. Action refers to the height of the strings over the fretboard (neck) of the guitar. Lower is usually better and easier on the fingers or else you get some of this:
Inside, I was like “NOOOOO, NOT HIGH ACTION!!!” This news was a quite a bit of a bummer because I had high expectations for this amazingly cool guitar that I had some hand in resurrecting back to its former glory.
All was not lost, though: Henry said that by using a slide on one of my fingers, I could still play the guitar and discover some really cool sounds, especially old-school Delta blues.
This caught my attention, not just because there was still hope for my guitar, but because of how it related to my situation as a father to a child with a congenital heart defect. When we’re welcoming a child into the world, we have all sorts of expectations: school, sports, roughhousing with dad and the brothers. But then it all changed. Or did it?
Just because my guitar couldn’t be played like a brand new one didn’t mean I couldn’t play it at all. I just needed to change how I looked at it. Just because my son may never be a marathon runner doesn’t mean he can’t play and have fun. Sure, football won’t be in his future, but he is smart, funny, loves to sing, and gives some of the best hugs. It’s not all easy, though: I still have to learn how to play this guitar, much like we have to learn how to be parents to a superhero. I had to buy a slide, I had to look for music to learn to play, and I have to practice. Sometimes it sounds pretty good, and sometimes it sounds like the angriest cat in the world. With time it will get better and maybe a little easier. I remember when I brought my son home from the hospital: I had to learn how to give medications, administer tube feeds, and properly take pulse ox readings. This was all new to me and it took some getting used to. Now it’s just part of our routine.
Parents: all we need is some perspective. Yes, we wanted the guitar with perfect action, but we got the guitar with the curved neck. You can still play it…and perspective is the slide you’ll need to do it. A curved neck doesn’t make it any less of a guitar. An illness doesn’t make your child anything short of awesome. There are lots of smiles and joy ahead. I’m currently having a blast learning how to play this guitar a new way. In that same manner you need to keep your eyes open to realize your child has the potential to still be amazingly incredible!
As a side note, if you live in the Charlotte area and are looking for a great guy to do a guitar setup or repair, give Henry a visit: Guitar Worx. He’s a really awesome guy and does great work!