Let me get one thing straight. I’m no musician. I don’t play, I don’t perform. But I’ve owned a guitar since I was a teenager and, when no one’s listening, I get pleasure from stumbling my way through the dozen or two chords that I learned back then. I could probably manage a tolerable Kumbayah at a campfire, but Hendrix I ain’t.
I’ve toyed with the idea of picking up a second instrument to keep out here. So after a couple of days of unrelieved typing at the end of last week, for a diversion I went down to one of the big music stores in LA to mooch around and try some out. Not the best idea because it was a Saturday night and the place was full of guys showing off.
Some were encouragingly bad, but one or two were quite good. I found a quietish corner but, being used to the wider classical fretboard and nylon strings, I could barely hold down a chord on some of the models. I’m not really in the market yet because I don’t know how long I’ll be here for, but the looking’s half the fun.
I overheard this woman talking to one of the staff about an instrument for her daughter. I left them to it while I gravitated to a little side-room where they keep their small selection of classical and flamenco guitars. After a few minutes she came over and started asking me stuff!
Seems the staff guy hadn’t been too helpful because she’d wanted to know more about the classical models but he’d steered her away to the dreadnoughts and acoustic-electrics, saying that the narrow necks made them easier for small hands to play and no one really plays classical anyway.
So I explained what little I knew – the classical fretboard’s wider but you hold the neck differently, the nylon strings are at a lower tension and are easier to fret, that the kind of guitar you choose should depend on the style you want to play and the kind of sound you want to make – and after a bit she went and got the sales guy again and made him show her a classical Ibanez.
She didn’t seem to take my best piece of advice, though, which was to bring her daughter in and let her choose for herself. Because the guitar you choose is tied up with your image of the player you want to be.
Or maybe she did in the end… I snuck out before I could get dragged back into the conversation!