I choose this axe

January 5th, 2014, 1pm

Lately, I’ve gotten this itch to make music again.

For most of my life, I’ve played and owned at least one instrument. But when I moved to New York, I shed them all because I had no idea where I’d be living. My gut told me wherever I ended up would be a small place with neighbors who’d prefer quiet, so the instruments were shipped off to friends and Goodwill.

I thought I’d somehow be able to sneak my way into practice rooms at Juilliard and play piano — returning to the discipline and long hours of studying that had taken up a large chunk of my life. I could imagine myself working on technique. Regaining strength and speed lost in the years I haven’t been playing daily. And learning new repertoire.

Turns out Juilliard is a pretty intimidating place for someone trained in classical music — and entering the school beyond the lobby requires clearing electronic turnstiles. At some point, I’ll be wily enough to talk my way in. Not yet, though.

So piano was out, as were most other instruments I’ve played or aspired to: French horn, saxophone, English horn (too loud); cello, guzheng (too big and time-consuming to play well).

But the guitar.

The first time I held a guitar, I must have been about 7. My mother had decided to take lessons at the community college, and I, being curious and already playing piano, took this new thing on.

I picked up basic chords by reading tab charts. Easy enough. But my piano training and the necessity of getting a small hand to stretch across the neck of an adult-sized guitar caused some odd fingerings that I still retain to this day.

My parents insisted that I stick to the piano. And with a regular schedule of lessons and auditions, plus school and homework, my childhood prowess with the guitar never got past dabbling — not even in college, when a roommate gave me free access to her instrument and the music school gave me free access to their practice rooms.

Still, I played now and then.

The guitar and I have been tangoing for almost all of my life.

The last time we got together, I knew the sound I was looking for was warm and articulate. I picked up a cheap acoustic guitar (not recommended) and plucked the rhythms to bossa nova-inspired songs.

I went back to school to learn flamenco. In search of a better instrument and more options, I made a fatal mistake and traded “up” for a semi-acoustic.

If you want to play flamenco, don’t buy a guitar that you and Liz Phair can rock out on.

They say that dedication to music is really about committing to the calling — soothing the insistent need that drags you along the slow river of learning and practice. Without commitment, you’ll never improve. Without the calling, you won’t stay interested for long.

When the familiar niggle hit last year, I waited, saving money and checking my resolve. Will I make the time? Will playing actually hurt me? Unlike the cello, playing guitar reasonably well does not require hours of practice. Nor does it cause aural and physical pain, unless the guitar is poorly made or too big for the player. The two most pressing questions seemed to be out of the way. The only thing left was to find the right instrument.

Emanuel, Jack and Evka said thanks.

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Chrys Wu

Seeker, adventurer and maker; mentally walking that space between the real and the ethereal.

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