Fretboard of Life
by Hope Diamond
Since spring of 2016, I’ve been conjuring up big dreams for an illustrious musical future in fantasy infused heavy metal rockstardom. Prior to last November, my musical skills consisted of singing and writing lyric-focused songs, reinforced with a faded familiarity of the piano from years of highly loathed childhood lessons.
Subconsciously, I knew I was very limited in my technical understanding of music as a whole. I didn’t like that I only knew how to sing. Sticking to the instrument of voice works for some people, but I like to know my shit from the ground up in an all-encompassing capacity. Knowing my shit in the world of music means hammering some theory basics into my brain and revisiting the idea of playing an instrument in addition to my own vocal chords. I knew I didn’t want to be parked behind a keyboard all the time. Instinctively, I felt drawn to the aggression and wild sexiness of the guitar.
I began to take guitar lessons last November. Some interesting differences arose between my former knowledge of piano-based music theory and the fresh perspective provided with guitar. Keyboards moved on one plane. You could play a keyboard back and forth from left to right, but the direction was always horizontal. Even the slightly raised black keys were just little hiccups in a continual horizonal direction. There was one way forward and one way backward and that was that.
Guitars moved along the fretboards up and down the neck of the instrument. BUT (and here’s the first giant revelation that blew my mind), you could also play the guitar in a totally perpendicular direction in relation to the six strings! This was (and is) an incredibly exotic concept to my piano-indoctrinated brain. Different notes could be made depending on which string you pressed and in what place that string fell upon the fretboard. BUT (and here’s the second giant revelation that blew my mind), although the strings sounded individual, the pattern of notes remained consistent for each string. The only difference was that the strings started on different notes because each string was intrinsically tuned to a different note from the get go. So much balance is within this imperfect perfection, a simultaneous contradiction and affirmation of its own existence. Consistency within chaos.
I began to see similarities between the components of the guitar and the human experience. There are different strings. There are different people. Sometimes, you retune a string to become another note. Sometimes, you retune a mind or a heart to become another person. And sometimes, a person retunes themselves.
When guitar strings are properly tuned, each string will sound unique even when it’s played on the same fret. The song of life presents humanity with a similar set of choices and potential experiences (frets.) But who we are as people (strings) determines what choices (frets) we will make to create the life (song) we want. Not every person wants to play the same song. But every person must play a song. Even if your song is simply the continuous sound of the string that you are, that string keeps strumming until the day you die.
Make sure your string is in tune with who you know you are. Some strings have been made ridiculously out of tune since birth. Other strings are ridiculously twisted out of tune later on in life. It is your duty to yourself as a string to get in touch with your intuition. Your intuition will whisper in the tiniest and most quiet voice of perfect truth what note you are as a string. Listen to that little voice. Tune accordingly. Once you are properly tuned, you will make choices that compliment and complete the song of your own life.
On that note (no pun intended), I shall leave my keyboard (cue: unintended second pun), get up from my computer and play guitar.
Photos by Tifani Truelove.