Around this time of year, I always seem to get a little emotional – perhaps a bit more sentimental than usual. (Translation: Steve likes to drink during the holidays…)
I also like to find a way to show my wife that she is important to me without just going to the store and picking up a trinket that she may or may not need or even like. I like to be a little more creative than that. (Translation: Steve is cheap…)
Call it what you will, but this year I was able to give a gift to my wife that meant a lot more than the gift I gave her last year, the year before, and each of the years prior.
“Oh that’s great Steve – this year you wrapped it in a bow…must be difficult to put that back away without getting the bow caught in your zipper…”
As a sidebar, if my Mom is reading this, then I apologize for the last paragraph for two reasons. First, because it’s the truth and you shouldn’t have to picture that, and second because now Dad has the same idea, and you have a birthday coming up soon. Dad, if you’re reading this, get the really soft bows. Repeat after me, no sharp edges.
OK…getting back to the story while trying to get that image out of our collective brains…I am always in search of new songs for my repertoire. New songs, old songs – it doesn’t matter. As long as I can play them (maximum of 3 chords that must include G C and D) AND as long as they’re fun and I can put my own little flare into them, I’ll learn them.
One day I was sitting thinking about new songs to play, and then suddenly like my Dad after I pushed my sister down the stairs, it hit me. I had never learned how to play my wife’s two favourite songs: “Die Husband Die” and “Get That Thing Away From Me Steve”.
OK, those aren’t really her two favourite songs, but I do hear her singing them a lot…
Her two favourite songs are “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland and “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. So I set about learning them, and would play them for her for Christmas. I ended up learning a lot, particularly from “What a Wonderful World”.
When I set off to learn a new song, I typically start with Google. (If you’re unfamiliar with Google, quickly go to Facebook and post a picture of yourself and tag it as “The last person in the world to hear about Google”).
From the Google home page, I search for the name of the song plus the word “chords” after it. (i.e. “What a Wonderful World chords”). That brings up a list of a number of different links to places where people have posted the chords for how to play that song. I always have my guitar in my hands at this point, because there are many people out there, while well intentioned, that post “their way” of playing the song, and sometimes “their way” is actually “poop”.
So, with my guitar in my hand, I click on the different links until I find something that sounds right when I play it, and that fits with my skill level. The great thing is that often there are different ways of playing things depending on how good you are. If you find that things are either too easy or too difficult, keep searching until you find one that works for you.
If that doesn’t work well, you can search YouTube for “How to play (insert song here) on guitar” and often there will be a tutorial that someone has posted. One of the best I’ve seen is a guy by the name of Marty Schwartz. He is usually really good at breaking a song down into bite size morsels that you can easily digest. Then you can take the bits and pieces and mash them together to make them your own.
And this is what I did for Somewhere over the Rainbow. I put together all the pieces. I changed the tempo a little to give it a small kick. I used a capo to change the key to fit my voice. I made it mine…and I was happy with it.
I tried to do the same with What a Wonderful World. I sped it up. I slowed it down. I used the capo. I slid the capo all over the neck. I tried a shuffle type beat. I tried reggae. I even tried to make it a country type song. I tried and tried to make it mine.
And here’s what I learned: some songs just work better in their original form. I now play this song, and when I do, it’s as close to Louis’ version as possible. I had to learn a couple of new chords in order to play it, I had to teach myself how to sing in the same key as he did, but it seems to be for the best, because the song really comes alive when it’s left alone. It just feels right.
So the big day came, and I pulled out the guitar and played them for my wife.
Mostly because she wanted jewelry.
But that’s ok…I still have the backup gift….
Merry Christmas, honey.