This is a true story. As I discussed this situation, I thought immediately that I should be writing this down. I have a young adult client named TJ. I also have an old guitar in my studio. I’m not exactly sure where it came from, probably a relative whose attic needed cleaning. I took the nearly useless guitar, thinking that even if I couldn’t use it (which I thought I probably could) as something that could take a beating, I would utilize it as a wall decoration. It was missing the bridge, and after I re-glued the bottom and a crack in the body, I asked my son to restring and re-engineer it, telling him know not to sink much time or money into this. After all, its best possibilities were wall decoration or an item to pluck or strum for fine motor work. There was little hope for sound. After my son engineered it to functioning ability (for fine motor work ONLY), the strings vibrated so much that no string had an actual tone. They all just rumbled, although it did go well with my decor.
My client TJ has learned to enjoy trying new things and often scans my room for any new instrument to explore. His exploring is true musical exploring, not a childish whim. One day, possibly a little frustrated at the lack of new instruments, he asked for the guitar on the wall. I have plenty of guitars for him, from acoustics to electrics to acoustic-electrics, not to mention the same variation of basses. I handed TJ the guitar, warning him about the sound. After he strummed it once, I tried tuning it to see if this might possibly help. Tuning this guitar was more like a “general approximation” of a pitch. That day, TJ began to refer to that guitar as “Grumpy Guitar.” Since then, TJ has asked for the guitar just a couple of times. Each time, it was “tuned” first and played briefly. The only time it was ever heard was at TJ’s request.
This week, TJ asked again. I went through the same routine of “tuning.” The 4th string gave me some trouble. I waited for the string to fly off as I used all my strength to turn the knob ever so slightly. Surprisingly, each string tuned to the note. It wasn’t perfect, but for the first time I could play chords of the Grumpy Guitar. TJ repeatedly said to me, “But why, Mrs. Morris?” as he constantly refers to me. ‘Why is it working now?” I replied, “TJ, I guess it just needed someone to allow it to sing a little.” The guitar felt a little better each time. I told TJ that the Grumpy Guitar could now sing, thanks to him for giving the Grumpy Guitar a chance. TJ still insisted repeatedly that it could use a coat of paint.
Antoinette Morrison, MT-BC