This past Christmas I received a guitar as a gift, along with online lessons for learning guitar. I had expressed an interest in someday learning the guitar, and my partner decided that it might make a good gift. And she was right! It has been a wonderful gift and opportunity to learn guitar and a gentle reminder to turn someday into something concrete.
I am slowly but surely getting better at playing guitar. I’m finding that what helps me get better is more than just the practice itself (though that definitely helps!); It is the choice to employ the mansion of memory technique which helps me remember what strings to pluck and what frets to touch while I play, as well as working my muscle memory into the playing so that I teach my hands how to get comfortable with the guitar. That, in and of itself, has been a novel experiment in terms of exercising the natural capacities of the body to myself learn something new.
But what I find really fascinating about learning guitar is what its teaching about music, sound and time. As a result of learning some basic lessons, I now have a much better appreciation of music and what goes into making music. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a band or be a guitar virtuoso, but I do know something more about music that I didn’t know before. I can read music somewhat now and I’m listening to music differently with an ear toward what the person might be doing that I previously wouldn’t have appreciated.
What learning guitar is teaching me about sound is the variations of sound that can be made with an instrument as well as what the physiological response can be making music. When I play the guitar I slip into a state of flow that is shaped by the sounds I create and how those sounds effect my neuro-chemistry. When I play I hit a state of ecstatic awareness where its just me and the music. It’s similar to how I feel when I write or create art, but distinct because of the expression being manifested. As I play the guitar I listen to the sounds and pay attention to how they interact with my consciousness.
In general, when you listen to music, the sounds can have an effect on your neurochemistry. I’ve found that instrumental music and soundscapes in particular can put me into a state of flow and I’ve used them on occasion with ritual, but I’ve also experimented with chanting, singing and ringing bells. Adding a guitar to the mix is ultimately my plans once I have become more proficient, because I’ve enjoyed listening to guitar instrumentals and letting the sound take me to a different place. Even the act of playing a guitar now has that effect so I can only imagine how it will effect me further down the line.
Then there’s timing. When I first started playing guitar, I’d play note by note, stringing the note and just listening to the sound. Now I’m putting the notes together, figuring out how fast or slow to play the guitar in order to produce the sound. What this teaches me about timing is how important it is to get a feel for the right time. Timing is important in music and I’m taking that principle and applying it to my magical work even more than I have by using the sound of notes and how it comes together as an indicator of when to set up the realization of a result.
When doing a working, something I’m applying is thinking of the working as a musical piece and “hearing” it in my mind, listening to the timing of it so I can determine when the conclusion should happen and the result should be realized. I imagine that as I continue to get more proficient with playing the guitar it’ll continue to transcribe itself on my magical work in terms of how I think of an approach the magical work.
A lot of this is rough right now, but I wanted to share my experience with learning guitar and show how its applying to my magical practice, and shaping my experience and perspective.