Thursday, October 17, 2002
Steamboat Springs A bunch of famous guitars were auctioned off in New York by Guernsey's auction house this weekend. Basically instruments owned by famous people, such as Elvis, Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix and Waylon Jennings, as well as the world's oldest guitar, from the 16th century.
I didn't hear about the auction until Monday, and now I'm thinking I missed something big. I scanned through the instruments online, and one of Jerry's guitars was speaking to me. You see, buying a musical instrument can be as much of an art as playing one.
That's basically what I've been learning the past year or so, after I decided I needed a better acoustic guitar. But picking one out that looks and sounds good didn't exactly work. There are millions of guitars that sound different, and I was paranoid the perfect guitar for the money would be lost in the shuffle. So I started asking people for advice. Soon I found there are also millions of people with different opinions on what to buy.
What wood vibrates the best; what neck is the strongest; what pick-up will work; what companies to buy from.
Buy only American; buy anything that's solid wood; plastic doesn't matter if it sounds good.
Buy Martin; buy Gibson; buy Santa Cruz; make your own; Washburn makes some pretty good guitars; it doesn't matter who made it, as long as it sounds like a Martin.
Opinions on instruments are like musical styles: Every musician has one and deep down everyone think theirs is the best. I did learn a thing or two by talking to people, but I was still unsettled. So I got spiritual.
An accomplished guitar player in Fort Collins, Jerry Palmer, said something to me that helped.
"You got to pick out one that speaks to you," he said.
I thought it was clichusician mumbo jumbo at first. But after I thought about it, it was the only thing that made sense. I listened to as many as possible, and the one that had a sound that said something to me, that was the one.
The problem was, the only instrument that even uttered a word to me at first was a 1942 Martin D-18 that was well out of my price range. I think it was saying, "You wish."
But I got over that sort of.
Eventually, a Gibson spoke to me. The price was reasonable and I bought it thanks in large part to an act of graciousness from my family.
But now, I swear Jerry's guitar was saying something to me, and I haven't even played it.
It was saying something like: "Not even a chance."