Saturday, May 16, 2009

Revisiting The Pass

I’ve been waxing nostalgic in my head lately about playing music. I think it comes from my recent re-acquaintance with the music I listened to when I was a teenager. For example, last night on the way home from work I listened to “The Pass” by Rush. I always loved this song, and sang along flawlessly as I drove south on I-95 to words I memorized nearly 20 years ago. When I was a teenager I wanted to be able to play that song in the worst way, but was never really good at playing by ear. I listened to it over and over and dissected the song. I spent hours in my high school boyfriend’s bedroom trying to play the bass guitar part on his guitar. I was not a bass guitar player. Not even close. But I was hell-bent on figuring it out the way that Rush plays it. Eventually he got bored, left me in there and went downstairs to watch TV.

A few times this week I picked up my acoustic guitar, and have been tinkering around with it. I no longer have calluses on the fingertips of my left hand, so each stint with the guitar has been short lived. But I’ll strum out a few songs I’ve written, or a few songs I’ve learned, and scoured the Internet for tablature for songs I want to learn. Last week, for example, I learned to play Matt Nathanson’s “Suspended” and now I just need to tighten it up a bit and memorize it. At that point I will consider it learned.

Over the years I lost that must-play-it-the-way-they-play-it determination. I can play some passable selections by Ani DiFranco, REM, Indigo Girls, Suzanne Vega and Dar Williams. I can sing along to what I am playing, and I can make it sound like the original song. But I know that I am not playing them the way they were composed. And that’s OK. It’s my interpretation of the song, not a regurgitation.

ThursdayI got home from work and picked up the guitar. I have no idea what it’s tuned to. It’s tuned to itself, but not to the correct tuning. My guitar tuner’s battery is dead. I keep forgetting to buy a new one. Thursday I eyed the smoke detector in the hallway and toyed with the idea of removing its 9 volt battery and plugging it into my electronic guitar tuner. I debated the importance of a tuned guitar versus a burning house, knowing that I would never be bothered to go back up there to replace the battery in the smoke detector if I ever took it out.

I thought better of removing the battery and strummed an E minor chord. Then I played a G. I did the progression again, staccato and in time. Then I hopped around to find the root of the next part of that bass guitar riff that had plagued me in my high school boyfriend’s bedroom so many years ago. I played the entire riff over and over again, training my hands to work together.

Then I began to sing, “Proud swagger out of the school yard/Waiting for the world’s applause.”

I placed a capo on the second fret, and played it again a bit higher; to suit my singing voice. I fumbled through the whole song, and had just barely come up with a working version. I strummed, I sang, I held out notes and hopped around on the fret board trying to come up with a chord to match it.

And with that I have a working version of “The Pass.” It’s probably no where even remotely correct. But it’s good enough for me.

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Blogger *~*Cece*~* said...

I truly envy your free time.

May 18, 2009 at 11:12 PM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

Eh, it's not that I have a lot of spare time. I tinker 30 minutes here, 30 minutes there. That's what happens when you have a lot of hobbies. You nibble on each one just enough to get a taste and then you move on to the next one.

May 19, 2009 at 7:19 AM  

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