From our Music Therapy Intern…

My guitar calluses have started peeling, and I’m not sure if they’re supposed to.

What an appealing way to start this week’s blog, I know. Trust me, though, because it’s relevant to the topic for this week.

During the summer leading up to the internship, I worked a job that left me with very limited down time. This meant that I did not spend any time practicing my guitar. I came into this internship feeling like a student back to school on the first day, trying to remember how to do basic addition again. I hadn’t even opened the latches on my guitar case in three months. My fingertips were fresh, plush, and vulnerable. I had only taken one semester of guitar lessons at Western Michigan University, but that was the only guitar learning experience required for my degree. I knew how to shape a few basic chords, and I had one go-to strumming pattern.

I entered the internship with the fear that I had not gotten the time I needed to improve my guitar skills before embarrassing myself in front of five professional music therapists. To some extent, this was true. I had the basic skills I needed to get by, but I have been expected to grow and learn in these past two months (Wow! Has it been two months already?). Luckily, each of the women here have taken the time to show me a trick or two.

I have been told to challenge myself to use these new “tricks” even if they don’t sound good yet. I have learned that most people don’t notice one flubbed chord in a song, and if they do, they aren’t personally offended by the unwanted twang. In these moments when I push myself to use an unconventional chord, or fingerpick a melody, or use a new strumming technique, my neurons are actively firing. Even if the attempt ends in a flop, my brain considers “I bet I could do that again, but better.”

With repeated exposure I become more comfortable with the A Major7 chord, or the F-Bar chord, or the D Major Suspension. As my mother always tells me, I’m becoming a pickle. A cucumber in a jar of vinegar doesn’t realize that he’s slowly being pickled, but one day he wakes up and he’s a pickle! He’s been absorbing all the flavor from the brine, milliliter by milliliter, until finally, he’s no longer a cucumber.

I am starting to notice the changes in my thought processes, my dialogue, and my skill sets. And the obvious change I’ve noticed this week, specifically, is that I have guitar calluses…and they’re peeling. I have lost feeling in the tips of my fingers on my left hand, and I think I’m proud. I used the F-Bar Chord yesterday, and it actually sounded pretty good. I’ve never played guitar consistently enough to build up calluses before, let alone so much that they peeled. I’m proud of my new fingertips, and it excites me to think that I might actually be being pickled!

Hannah Avery is our very first Music Therapy Intern here at Harmony Garden Music Therapy Services. Stay tuned for her blog posts as she goes (and grows) through her music therapy internship.