At first this was going to be a post about what seemed like a multi-pronged attempt by a guy at a local music shop to thwart my attempts to play music again. In a nutshell, I told the music store guy that I wanted to learn to play mandolin (same tuning as violin, I figured it would make it easy for me to play). He sold me one. I later learned that there was something broken inside the instrument. He fixed it. After driving myself crazy trying to follow tutorials on YouTube and having everything sound wrong, I Google'd about the make of my instrument and realized that the guy sold us a mandola not a mandolin -- same instrument family, but the tuning is that of a viola not a violin so my spatial/notation map was totally off (I'm a little embarrassed I didn't realize the tuning difference right off but hey, I haven't played my violin in a really long time...also, before that day I never knew that there was such a thing as a mandola). Oh, and then in an attempt to keep Violet from knocking over Jon’s electric guitar, I cracked the mandola. O.M.G.
This sequence of mishaps made me realize that this post needs to be about EMBRACING IMPERFECTION. Something I’m not usually great at but have been working on.
I will admit that I was livid when I realized that the guy at the shop not only sold us a broken instrument, but one that wasn’t even what I asked for. Violin and viola are basically one string different (viola is a lower register) but I am painfully slow at reading bass clef. And it seems like all the pop music tab out there is for mandolin. So, Jon and I discussed. Going back and arguing with the music store guy clearly was not going to bring joy. I could either sell the instrument and buy something different. Or just sell it. Or learn to play it and rely on my ear instead of on notation -- admittedly, a little daunting after spending 20 years committed to sheet music.
So I decided to learn to play it –- to celebrate the beauty that is the sound of this instrument and free myself from notation and just figure out where the chords lie, which is something I never really thought much about when I played violin.
And then Neil invited me to participate in his Sixth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert and I figured this was it -- a sign from the universe to get off my rump and pony up. Instead of being the Christine Koh of 10 years ago and setting my musical aspirations around perfecting the Mendelssohn violin concerto, I asked Laurel what her favorite holiday song was. She said Silent Night. I looked up the chords (thank goodness, simple) and learned them. I experimented with picking and strumming. And at the risk of sounding trite, it was like musical rebirth. A new way of playing. Joy in playing. Joy in imperfection. I actually think the instrument might sound a little better with the Violet-induced crack in it. That's what I'm telling myself anyway.
And with that, I bring you my rendition of Silent Night. I have no idea if my way of picking around and strumming chords is “proper” –- I just made it up based on what sounded pretty to my ear. I hope you enjoy it. Laurel, this is dedicated to you, my sweet girl. And Neil, thanks for the inspiration to publish this. And self, go you, for embracing imperfection and tackling #36 on your life list.