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Manaala

“My guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. It is who I am.” ~ Jett

Three years ago I was in my room when suddenly I realized that Dad had a guitar and it was in my closet (because my twin sister played a little… occasionally… somewhat… practically never). Immediately I got it out: a little old guitar that’s probably worth a lot as an antique. I sat down and said, “Okay, Andi, what’s a G chord?”

That’s pretty much how it all began. I learned the G chord, and D, A, Em, and C ~ with those five chords you can play a multitude of songs. Dad had a few old hymns in the guitar case that he used to play when he played in church. Sometimes he used to play them at home, too, when we did our family devotions. I recognized some of the chords ~ G and D especially ~ from watching him play so many years ago.

I loved it. I learned fast and before long those old hymns just weren’t enough anymore. I played every day until my fingers hurt (okay, maybe not that long, but I was caught up in the dramaticalness of the whole story) and Andi started playing again too. That guitar quickly became a major part of my life, and I definitely stayed more entertained when I added it to my list of possible things to waste my time on.

I quickly found out, however, that playing guitar was not a waste of my time. Before long Andi and I got a binder and started printing out songs to play (we’re probably the main reason my family is always out of printer cartridges). The binder filled up fast, and by that first Christmas, I was ready to get my own guitar.

I took my time on deciding which I wanted. I liked the old style guitar, your typical western-like acoustic, but I think that was mostly because I was used to playing Dad’s old guitar (I have this problem with letting go of things. I tend to get attached too easily). I checked reviews and brooded about strings and sizes. Finally I picked out a Yamaha guitar. Andi chose a Rogue cutaway and we put together everything we would need: capos, straps, stands, picks.

That was the longest wait I ever had. I was so excited to get my new guitar somewhere around Christmastime. I was always excited for Christmas, but this time it was different. I wasn’t just getting candy canes or toys or scarves, I was actually getting an instrument, something I would likely spend many years of my life using (in other words, something truly useful).

The guitars arrived by Christmastime but we had to wait until Christmas Day to check them out. I remember that morning, getting up, finally rousing Mom and Dad from bed, and sitting in the middle of the room full of crumpled wrapping paper with my new guitar in my hands. It was beautiful. It was shiny and new, and it looked like something you’d see in a magazine. The only problem was that the strings were horribly out of tune.

It took a long time to tune it, but finally we did and our song collection continued to grow. We started exploring with capos and picking. We got good fast ~ good enough to play together, and for other family members. That helped me out with my talking problems (and general socialization issues), and I could actually sing in front of somebody (as long as I was playing guitar as well) without too much heartburn. Before I hardly sang at all; with the guitar, my voice improved, and I don’t think I sound that bad (but then I don’t know what I sound like to other people, which frightens me). I don’t think any material thing has made as much of an impact on my life than my guitar.

Now I’ve been getting tougher and tougher songs, tougher both for picking and for singing, mostly by watching Boyce Avenue acoustic covers and copying the patterns. I can switch between using a pick and not using it in the middle of a song, and because of my guitar ~ which I dubbed Manaala (“perfect harmony” in Elvish) ~ I have gathered more and more instruments and learned to play them, I have started pursuing a career in the music industry, and Andi and I co-wrote our first song. Manaala has changed my life completely and is my fondest friend, and it all started with a G chord.

If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing.” ~ Peter Pan

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