Six Nylon Strings This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

April 21, 2013
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The dark caress of the fret board. The slippery touch of nylon. The complex pattern of your rhythmic right hand interwoven with the liquid fluidity of your left. The smooth, mahogany body situated firmly in between your legs, an inanimate lover composed of Spanish wood and six powerful strings.

And the notes.

Rich and mellow; from the ovular heart of your guitar they sound, drifting into the open air with the fullness of ripe fruit, with the freshness of summer rain, with the beauty of undeserved grace. Wood and nylon and human touch combine to produce the divine music that Pan played on his flute and that Apollo echoed on his lyre.

For six years, I’ve participated in this love affair with classical guitar. I took lessons at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago every Saturday, and these lessons were amongst the most frustrating and rewarding moments of my life.
Classical guitar is different from acoustic or electric guitar; it is not simply playing chords or learning bass lines. Classical guitar combines fingerpicking with arpeggios, structure with improvisation, complexity with simplicity. The difficulty of technique, of proper wrist shape, of timing and curvature, combined with the musical theory that forms classical guitar, is something only understood by classical guitarists. I remember many nights of frustration, going over the same two measures of Bach or Villa Lobos over and over and over again until I was satisfied with how it sounded; even the shaving of a single second off a vital note could weaken the entire piece. The beauty of the classical guitar, I soon realized, came with its price.

Yet, as callouses formed on my fingertips and fresh persistence invigorated every Saturday lesson, a realization started to stir in me. I would carry my guitar into my room and play simple melodies; I would listen to a classical piece on the computer and play it alongside the recording; I would pluck an arpeggio mindlessly as I studied for finals, and this realization deepened in my mind like a splinter paranoid of being forgotten. I found that what I was participating in, this practicing and producing of music, was something sacred and ancient and beautiful, something uniquely human.

Today, I do not play my classical guitar nearly as much as I used to. Strenuous AP classes at school and impending college applications limit much of the time I have to play. However, in a rare moment when life slows from its prestissimo race to an allegro stroll, I pick up my guitar and rest it between my legs. I pluck an arpeggio and listen to the melodic notes soak through the room. I play and I play and I recall the old, sacred beauty that I have somehow forgotten. The music resonating from the polished Spanish wood and warm nylon strings releases a whisper that divulges the essence of humanity, and every pluck brings that whisper closer to my ears.

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