Guitars Forever. Jenny Barrett, 2019

I’m currently enjoying a Chicks with Picks time, but I first heard guitar at home in the 1950s when I was just 4 years old. I was transported by the sounds. My mother, Alice, had played electric guitar in dance bands and at parties in Melbourne during WW2.  When raising us three kids and running a business with Dad, she often played at home – for her own fun as well as for parties. Alice had great musical intuition and loved making music all her life. I recall the lazy Sunday afternoons in the warmth of the loungeroom … the sounds her picks and slide made on that ‘steel guitar’ on her lap with its electric pick-up and her sturdy little amplifier by her side are keys in the original soundscape of my childhood.  

No prizes for guessing who bought me my first guitar for my 17th birthday, a ¾ Yamaha acoustic. I still have that guitar and always will, although it suffers from too many parties, multiple house moves and camping trips and the wrong (steel) strings. But strumming away on that guitar with my high school friend Sally on her bongos with her magical singing voice … that was the best! We did stuff like Dinah Lees’ “I’m Walkin’” and “Don’t Ya Know Yockomo” and early Beatles. Later I had a nice Epiphone that was a real friend for strumming and crooning old and new American folk songs during an alone period in my 20s, the guitar and the Collie dog my cosy companions. I have bought and sold or lost other guitars (and dogs) along the way and now play a comfortable small-body acoustic Blueridge.

I’m now retired and having confronted the limitations of the C/F/G/Am strumming that I learned from my teenage rock star boyfriend, I’m taking lessons. I love that Helen Begley offers Chicks with Picks for women to enjoy the guitar together. We cover an eclectic range of pieces and techniques and can choose to pursue pieces of interest. I’ve given up trying to play barre chords and regret not having worked harder to master the technique when my fingers were stronger and nimble. But I love that the guitar is so forgiving.  

I play just for myself, often losing myself in the pleasure and the satisfaction of making music and making progress. Still, during my guitar practice sessions, I treasure an occasional cheer from my husband in appreciation of the musical accompaniment to his writing sessions. Most reliable though is during my usual late afternoon practice sessions, my otherwise busy young Australian Terrier reclines with head rested on the carpeted first stair near by, a perfectly contented and uncritical audience. 

Jenny Barrett, 2019