A congregation of the United Church of Canada
February 2, 2022
One of my favourite music groups in the late 70s-early 80s was the Little River Band from Australia. They produced one of my all-time favourite songs, “Reminiscing”. So, so good! I was really starting to find my own way as a musician back then, exploring different genres, especially jazz. So it’s no wonder that I love this song because it’s a pop song but has significant jazz harmonies in it. Well, I decided last night that I was going to learn how to play Reminiscing on the guitar – and let me tell you, it was a disaster! It was way harder than I thought.
First, I downloaded the lyrics and chords from a guitar sharing site. There were several versions offered, so I picked the one with the most complex chords, because I knew the song had such rich harmonies, and if someone could write them down they must know what they’re doing, right? Then I went to YouTube and found a few video tutorials and selected what I thought was the best one. Within 1 bar I was frustrated! I’m a pretty fair guitar player, but I’ve never studied it formally, and I can’t play those fancy, stretched finger, way up the neck chords. Guess what? The whole song is like that! Ack!
So, I thought, I’ve got a music degree, and a pretty good ear – I can just figure it out myself. I know all about music theory and b5 #11 concepts (just not on guitar, apparently). Besides, I wanted to play it in a lower key so I could sing it more easily, so I needed different chords anyway. (By the way, the original singer can’t sing it in the original key anymore either.) So I’m using the chord chart, and I keep getting frustrated because it doesn’t sound right. I go back to the video, and I realize that the chord chart I’m following is incorrect. Lesson learned – just because something is written down one shouldn’t take it as gospel!
I’d like to tell you that I unlocked the piece, it all came together, and I sound awesome. Nope. It kicked my butt, and humbled me. I wanted it to come easy for me, but some things you really have to work hard at, because they’re worth it.
May I suggest we approach scripture the same way? We’ve inherited some awesome ‘chord charts’ that we’ve downloaded, but really they are just the best attempt at relating something by someone playing by ear. The underlying ‘harmonies’ are very complex, and they take much care, patience, study, and practice to get ‘under our fingers’. For me, I’ll keep at it, and I will eventually be able to play Reminiscing – and the journey will shape me along the way.