I Learned to play the guitar

My father played guitar as far back as I can remember. It was always a comforting sound to hear him strumming quietly in a corner of our house. He was never showy. He made up one tune which was more upbeat than his usual classical fare and when he would play that my sister and I would run like maniacs around the coffee table. That was about as fancy as it got.

He was saving up to buy a bowling ball, but instead he took me to the West Village to a music store and bought me a three-quarter size Goya guitar. I didn’t know the first thing about playing, but was fascinated by folk music, which was bursting onto the scene with Joan Baez, Buffy St. Marie, Peter Paul & Mary and, of course, Bob Dylan.

Peter, Paul & Mary – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

There was a show on the NYC channel 13, public TV that featured a woman who actually resembled Joan Baez. She taught the basics of playing guitar, a few chords, and in time I was able to squeak out The House of the Rising Sun, my very first song. It even had an “F” chord in it, still something I hate to play because you have to twist your fingers into a painful position.

The guitar was a classical acoustic, meaning the strings were nylon and the neck was thicker than a non-classical guitar. It made it easier for finger picking, but harder to stretch between chords. I bought a Bob Dylan guitar book, which had everything he had written up to that point.

As time went on, I got better, developed callouses on my small fingers. I have never taken a lesson, and to this day only a few people have heard me play, but, like my father, I have done it for my own peace of mind.

I now own three guitars, my father’s cherished Epiphone, a Guild Acoustic, and a Fender Telecaster. My beloved Goya was stolen long ago and I didn’t replace it or play for ten years.

I suppose that is were it began, and I am still comforted by the sound of Asturias by Segovia and All Along the Watchtower by Hendrix.

Cindy Matthews makes tiny clothes and wacky dolls. When she isn’t jamming out to Bruce Springsteen on her headphones, she volunteers at a food pantry in Melbourne, Florida. She is a big fan of her daughter’s radio show, Bachelard’s Panty Drawer, on Freeform Portland.