There are some habits that are etched so deeply into our childhood bones their shadows survive every reinvention. Our response to music is an example, as I have written about before. Our spending habits are another.
I grew up in a household where all unnecessary spending was avoided, and most non-essential spending was considered unnecessary. This is a good principle but can be taken to extremes and can be counterproductive (e.g. Buying sale items that you don’t need (and often don’t even want) is never a bargain!)
A persistent legacy is my need to justify any spending that I perceive to be self-indulgent. The definition of self-indulgent is not data-driven, evidence-based, systematic, or based on reason at all. I have no definition – it’s just how the potential expense makes me feel. Or maybe it’s how I subconsciously think it would make my parents feel.
All musical expenses feel self-indulgent.
Which is why I struggled for weeks before buying a second guitar. “How can you need two guitars?” I told myself. Sometimes adding maliciously “You can’t even play the one you’ve got”.
It all started with Laura Marling
I fell in love with Laura Marling, when I accepted a spare ticket to her 2012 show at the Royal Albert Hall, though l knew nothing about her or her music. My love was ignited before the gig began when she announced she would play the songs on her album in order without saying anything.
Then she started singing and I was a goner. Her delivery, tone, and storytelling are unique, at once soothing and stimulating.
A year ago, she was back at the Royal Albert Hall playing with the 12 Ensemble as part of the proms. Sadly, I wasn’t there, but thankfully, it is freely available to watch.
‘Suite’ which includes ‘Take the Night Off’, ‘Once I was an Eagle’, ‘You Know’, and ‘Breathe’ is a favourite of mine and I was struck by how weird but achievable the guitar accompaniment looked. Weird because the notes didn’t seem to fit, achievable because there were no hard chord changes.
Alternate tunings - wow!
I looked up the chords and discovered that for Suite her guitar is in a non-standard tuning (DADDAD). This makes it much easier to play and gives a different, moodier quality to the guitar sound.
I fell into a whirl of exploring alternate tunings from which I am yet to emerge. And to finding Laura’s charming IG tutorials on how to play her songs, including Suite.
Passion to paralysis
I was so excited to explore songwriting in alternate tunings. I thought it would bring a new dimension to my music and liberate me from the constraints of playing in standard tuning with tiny hands. I was wrong. I stopped playing guitar altogether, the time and pain of re-tuning turned out to be even more of a constraint.
Paralysis to purpose
A little voice in my head started whispering – “why not buy another guitar so you can have one in standard tuning and one in another tuning?”
Several months and many internal struggles later, I bought a Gretsch G9500 parlor guitar which I keep tuned to DADGAD.
I’ve written my first song on it – called ‘Rosie, Take a Bow’ which I promise to share with you very soon.
Yours Hopefully is an experiment in living hopefully. With music and musings, from a singer-songwriter-scientist. Why not subscribe and get a post every Sunday in your inbox?