My husband, Dave, is an accomplished musician. He plays guitar, bass, upright bass, banjo, baritone, ukulele, pretty much any plucked, stringed instrument. In a pinch, he can also play keyboards and drums. Until this year, he had mostly steered away from singing. Perhaps because of his job teaching rock music to high schoolers or perhaps because of his different sideman gigs where he is asked to add a harmony, he has started to explore his voice. Still, it is not his first inclination when he picks up an instrument.
Dave is always picking up one of the many instruments that lie around our house. Sometimes he is practicing something he needs to learn for an upcoming show; sometimes he is figuring out a particular part to teach one of his students; sometimes he is writing a new lick to add to a song he is composing, but often, it is just the way he relaxes. He’ll pick up a guitar and play a familiar riff that has been his friend for the better part of his life. The kids are now almost immune to his musicality. Although, on a recent evening, I was tucking our daughter into bed. We were chatting as we often do and I could hear Dave downstairs picking up his guitar and walking over to his computer to work on an arrangement. As he walked he played a remarkable little guitar lick- allowing the not plugged in electric guitar to sing. My daughter stopped our conversation and put up her hand indicating to me to be silent. When the lick was over, she rolled her eyes and said, “Wow, he’s good.” Perhaps actually learning to play the guitar- as she is now- makes her aware of just how accomplished you have to be to play the guitar really well.
Still, this attention to her father’s talents is the exception to the rule. The other day, though, Dave sat down in the music room and started to play AND to sing(!) Sting’s Love is the Seventh Wave. The sound of their father singing was like a light to moths. They dropped what they were doing and swarmed into the music room- me too!- to listen to this amazing sound of their father singing. They couldn’t get enough really. “Sing it again!” they chimed. Then my son crawled into Dave’s lap- between his Dad and the guitar and joined in. Dave pressed down the chords with his left hand while William strummed the strings with his right hand.
I don’t know whether it was the different approach, by their father, to the music- the singing- that drew my kids in or if it was the actual sound of a voice, any voice. In college I studied Indian classical music and learned that the instruments that were invented and created to play the music were all attempts to recreate the human voice. There was a belief that the human voice was the most beautiful of all sounds so why wouldn’t you want to make any instrument you play sound as much like the human voice as possible. Maybe they were on to something. Certainly in my house, on that morning, the sound of a familiar voice, singing, was more alluring than anything else- the television, the legos, the Star Wars books, the superhero action figures, Harry Potter VII, even the pancakes with fresh maple syrup.