The Ragamuffin Kid

occasional rumblings of the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out

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I am a traveller on my way Home, passing through this little land. It's a lovely place, though nothing compared to where I'm heading, I was told. I have journeyed through several valleys. Not the kindest place I must say. But hey, I've had some "mountain top" experiences too. They made me long for Home. I heard there are no valleys at Home. I have met some fellow travellers along the way. But mostly find myself among locals. If you're local, please bear with my quirkiness. I know my accent and ways are puzzling sometimes. If you're a fellow traveller, keep going. We should be reaching soon. Bon voyage!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

My Musical Journey

I hope that self-awareness piece wasn't too draggy for you. Now let's move on to something fun. Yes yes... we must.

I want to share with you my latest pride and joy ((drum roll)) - a brand new Daisy Rock Pixie acoustic guitar!. I also want to celebrate starting lessons again after almost a year's break! This time round I'm learning at a Christian music schoolcalled Believer Music I didn't know it existed before. I love everything about it - the school, the coaches, the lessons, the music. It says here on their website

"Believer Music wants to take you on a musical journey which is God-centered and worship-filled. Hearing from God about His will for your life requires first, an abandonment from materialistic ideals. Yes, you were born for a reason and we encourage you to know what that is by having a deeper relationship with the Life-Giver. Our ultimate goal is that you will find the courage to become all you can be according to what God has purposed. And Yes! it begins with worship."

The atmosphere is quite unlike Yamaha where I learned classical for over 2 years. Now I'm playing acoustic with lots of strumming with simple chord progression. Finger-picking will come later. I am SO looking forward! The lessons feel different as we learn that making music is not just about us and the music but about expressing our heart to God. At Yamaha, my coach was good in that he would make us learn the hard way. He can be very cold at times......just sitting there and watching us struggle through a piece. For someone who had no music background then, it was quite a struggle for me. I managed to pull through somehow and I today, attribute the discipline to consistent practice to my classical coach. At Believer's I have a very nice and gentle guy for my coach. Evidently, his approach is very different. I have never heard him say a discouraging word or use a discouraging body language. He is THE model Christian man. These days I'm almost never stressed about lessons! You think this would make us complacement? can happen if your motivation is not strong enough. Okay to be fair, if I'm totally new I to this I might not have given it as much practice because there's less fear that I'd get a sharp rebuke from my coach. But I had been under the torch in my previous class, so it's kind of built in me now that if I want to do this well, I know I have to put in the effort and not just "pray" that my fingers will suddenly work wonders on it's own. But I think the main motivation for me is that the lessons themselves are very rewarding. We can already play a whole song after the first lesson! It just makes you really happy and you want to keep going. Now try working through a solo classical piece. Can die ah! My coach (the classical one) used to say, "If you want to play well, play each line 20 times over before moving on to the next. Repeat this until you finish the entire song." Can you visualize my sweat flying? Compared to that my current class is a honerymoon. I'm sure as I progress to more advanced levels, I'd start to feel the heat. Another wonderful part of the lesson is that I can feel God's presence in those songs. There was this song, I Will Bow, that really sopke to me while I was playing it in the quietness of my bedroom. It feels great if you can play a song but it feels even better when you feel connected with God through the song.

So back to my guitar, I have been reading up on acoustic guitars lately. That's half the fun already. I didn't know there are SO many considerations to make prior to a purchase. While I know I should look for one with a solid top, I didn't know that a cedar top will give a rounder sound compared to say.... a spruce top. Then, there's this thing called the action which is the distance between the strings and the fretboard. Low action is good and easier to play but cannot be too low or it will result in a irritating buzz when played. One can go on and on about the bracing, tuners, sizes, shapes, finish, nut etc etc....all of which affects the durability, payability and sustain of a guitar. Oh and get this, I also learned that I can create callouses (yes, thick hard skin - the ones that your manicurist will file away!) on my fingertips trice as fast by swabbing them with rubbing alcohol twice a day! What a great tip! I really need that for my fleshy fingers. Tell you something silly, back in those days when I just started my classical, I was so desperate to toughen my fingertips that I'd twist a rubber band around each fingertip to stiffen them! It worked....but also left me with cold and grey fingers lah. Hey, I've never pretended I was born to be a musician did I? And based on an expert's assessment, I am a mostly left-brain kind of person! But that's okay cos coach says (the classical one again) that playing an instrument is 90% practice and 10% talent. So there....I have hope! Don't laugh, you're the same.

Anyway, I was overwhelmed by the information overload. Of course, NO purchase should be made without "touching and feeling" the instrument for yourself. I read reviews for the next 2 days but found out later that sound is a very subjective thing. What a reviewer like might not be what I like. So after short-listing a few recommended models, I plucked up my courage and head down to the music stores. I was immediately intimidated. I was the only girl in all the stores! There were guys, boys, even uncles....but where are the girls?? As much as I was trained to be "thick-skinned" by my classical coach, I still felt veeery tiny, not to mention incompetent, in the midst of these men. (((shudder))) And the moment you decide you want to try out one of these stringed instruments, that's when the mother of all fears descends upon you. I'm not talking about running your fingers across the strings to test the sound, I'm talking about actually asking the sales person to take them down for you and bring you a stool so you could sit down properly and play a tune on it ..... all the while knowing what you'd sound like being a clueless newbie and how everyone in the store will know what a disgrace you are to the community of musicians and would-be musicians. (((( shudder shudder)))) Miraculously, I survived that.
Finally I decided to settle for a Daisy Rock Pixie. It's a girl's guitar in a sweet powdery pink. It was going for a 50% discount, how not to resist? Plus the reviews have been great. It's a serious full scale guitar with a smaller and slimmer neck to accommodate smaller hands. It looks sturdy and well made and comes with Grover tuners. It has a solid spruce top with a composite body like the Ovation ones. Sound wise it's comparable with other smaller guitars though I find it a tad too metallic-y. The bass is also kinda weak. I brought it to a friend who could play and he feels that it's loud and bright enough, only lacking in bass. I'm still trying to figure out if that's due to the strings or the smaller composite body but overall, for that price I'm a happy girl! I think it's a better move than blowing a budget on something I'm still relatively clueless about. If I am still actively playing a year from now, I'll upgrade to a better one with a bigger budget. By then I should be experienced enough to know what exactly I'm looking for. Then it'd call it money well invested!

Alright, that's all I have about my new toy. Gotta go polishhh me pixie and swab me fingers now. Ta!



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