“Alas, my love, you do me wrong,
To cast me off discourteously.”
Back in high school, it was a struggle of love to show up for guitar lessons each week, paid for myself out of a scant minimum wage. I had no rhythm to speak of and was unable to find a correct note, but I loved music so much that I dreamed that I could one day play.
After picking my way haltingly through “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” my lack of ability was clear, but I stuck with it lesson after lesson, hardly ever able to turn the page to a new ditty. When I finally arrived at the hauntingly beautiful “Greensleeves,” though, I found a new enthusiasm.
I barricaded myself in my room and played only that one song over and over, slowly working out my first chords. I practiced until I could play it by heart and just about keep the time too — well, all except for a pesky F sharp on the fourth fret that my little pinky could never quite reach. I showed up for my next guitar lesson and performed the whole song from memory for my teacher.
I eventually decided classical guitar wasn’t for me and begged him to teach me how to “just play,” visions of leading sing-alongs of “Do Wah Diddy” around a campfire were plucked out in my head. That never happened. I cannot sing either and never got the hang of playing. My guitar collected dust for thirty years, but “Greensleeves” remained for me a pure moment of musical joy.
A month ago I pulled my guitar out, dusted it off, and tried to learn to play again. I suffered through the basics, back with Mary and her lamb. Mired in frustration, I flipped forward 40 pages to take a peek at the prize, “Greensleeves.”
I didn’t remember how to read most of the music, so after painstakingly looking up each note in each chord, I began to play it again. To my surprise, my fingers ignored my scribbled notes and magically went to the right spots on their own, muscle memory awakened after a 30-year slumber. Well, except for that F sharp that my husband heard me miss so many times that he asked if it was the F.U. sharp.
After running through it over and over, I had it down, not perfect by any means, but a song I could play by heart. Just don’t expect “Do Wah Diddy” around the campfire anytime soon.
(Video link) Here’s the video with a friendly disclaimer that I am a beginner and there is a very loud bird squawking in my backyard.
My friend Karla graciously allowed me to accompany her lovely vocal performance when I wanted the experience of performing with someone. We made this video about a week after I made the above video.
#44 (101 things in 1001 days): Relearn how to play “Greensleeves” on the guitar.