Five and a Half Minutes in the Life of a Lead Guitarist

I plugged in my guitar and kept gently pushing the pedal forward until I could hear myself on the amp. I took a deep breath and raised my head to look at the crowd. There were so many people, so many unknown faces, hundreds, no thousands (at least a couple), that one may easily get overwhelmed. I was about to get lost in my thoughts when I heard some familiar voices ; my friends were cheering for me, shouting at the top of their voices. No sooner did I hear their voices, than a smile ran across my face. It amused me how one could possibly scream so loud. I was traversing through all of my friends and with each familiar face my smile kept incrementing. And then I saw my best friend sitting beside the girl I liked, in the front row. He was shouting at the top of his voice, trying to get my attention and pointing towards her. “This guy is crazy, as if it wasn’t tough already playing in front of so many people”, I thought but then I remembered his dialogue,“Mai pagal nhi hun, mera dimag kharab hai (I’m not crazy, it’s just that my brain has a few screws lose.” I had a quick peek at her and quickly looked away, trying to think of something else.

I turned around to check with everyone on stage. Ashish was already set and gave me a thumbs up, as if telling me to rock with all of my might. On the far left corner of the stage Tyagi was doing some final adjustments on his keyboard. Nikhil also seemed all set up and was gazing at the ocean of people in the front. I had a look at Zubba; he was grinning and had that always funny look on his face. He was just done setting up the high hat. Veda and Sahil were in the center, holding their mikes. Murli, standing beside me was almost done tuning up his guitar. It was a great honor performing with these great musicians, they always make me push myself over the limit. Zubba gave the cue, “Tonight is gonna be great,” I thought and started with the ‘Dance of Death’.

The band kicked in and I could feel myself move with the rhythm. We were all in perfect sync. It felt great. We had practised hard to perfect playing guitars in harmony. To be able to play for five minutes on stage, you’ve to practice five hours a day. We had spent many sleepless nights jamming and it was so awesome that finally everything was paying off great. Hill’ffair practices are the best time for us. Infact practices are better than the Hill’ffair itself, which gets over so soon. We would impatiently wait for the classes to get over so we could start with our jamming sessions. Attending classes takes a second priority during extensions. I remember once we were there from evening 5 PM to the next morning 5 AM and Murli was still eager to go on. Actually the most productive time, when we would work out our parts and add some more, was after 11 PM when the girls left; along with the boys who followed them to the lecture hall. There was no distraction then.

It was the cold month of November, people were covered in layers of clothing and here I as just in a tee and jeans. But it still felt as if my body was on fire. I was sweating. Playing live, dealing with the sound is an entirely new issue. You don’t have the luxury of hearing what it sounds like, outside to the audience. I could only hear the drum beats and bass from the side fills. It’s enough to keep in tempo but one mistake, one wrong note could lead to fatal consequences. It might even throw someone else off rhythm.

The song was progressing well. People seemed to be enjoying and connecting well with the song. I mustered some courage to have a look at the faculty members who were occupying the VIP seats. They seemed awestruck, having a grave expression on their faces. I turned away.

My guitar solo was approaching. I could feel my heart beat increase rapidly. I held my breath. My entire focus was on those 22 frets and 6 strings. My fingers took a life of their own, moving from one note to another as I was picking, bending, sweeping and doing some legato. I could feel the strings push against my skin from the adrenaline rush. Time seems to slow down, in such intense situations and it feels awesome. Before you know it, those five minutes are over!

What about the other half minutes? I don’t speak much, playing guitar helps me express myself. It’s my medicine, it’s my passion, it’s a way for me to express myself, it’s a way to connect with my emotions, it’s a way to take out that frustration, that anger or simply pass time and relax. Music is a powerful form of emotion and it has the power of connecting souls even without words.

In the end, as Slash says,

“Guitar is the best form of self-expression I know. Everything else, I’m just sort of tripping around trying to figure my way through life!”