Here is another insightful blog from Dominic, from the U.Ks best award winning wedding band Rock My Reception, I hope you enjoy it!
A few years ago Paul McCartney walked into a music shop in America. The owner, obviously trying to glean a bit of technical wisdom out of him, asked what kind of bass strings he used, to which he replied ‘long shiny ones’.
One would imagine the shopkeeper must have been rather nonplussed at this somewhat insouciant and un-technical response; especially coming from one of the most famous musicians on the planet. The general consensus amongst many musicians is that you should not only master the performance aspect of your instrument, but also gain an encyclopedic knowledge of every make and model, and be able to name each piece of it and how it fits together. If not you’re liable to be ridiculed for your lack of expertise. This is why many budding musicians love to throw themselves into the deep end, not wanting to be outdone by their peers, researching endless facts and figures about their new instrument and bombarding music shop owners with questions about the merits of D’addario strings over Rotosound.
In the midst of all these brand names, bamboozling factoids and words from the wise, it seems, however, that an element of common sense can fly straight out of the window.
Over the years I must have spent a combined total of days, weeks, months maybe, hanging around music shops, chatting to the people in the know, picking up useful snippets of information to help me in my musical pastime. It’s a passion of mine to learn off others- after over 25 years of playing the guitar my passion for the instrument has never waned and I’m always finding out something new about the instrument off people older and younger than me. Only last week I took my Takamine acoustic guitar in for a minor repair. The shopkeeper was writing down its particulars when he said, “oh, yes: a Dreadnought”. I’d never heard this name before and asked him what he meant. It transpires a Dreadnought is a type of guitar body originally developed by The Martin Guitar manufacturers and is now a common style of body. The term
‘Dreadnought’ is used in reference, and similarity to the 1st World War battleship HMS Dreadnought. You learn something new everyday!
The only problem with the relationship between ‘The Novice’ and ‘The Expert’ is that sometimes the said expert can overwhelm the novice by a confusing mixture of fact and opinion. As well as being educated by genuine masters of their trade and passionate musicians, I’ve also been told a load of guff about ‘which guitar is best’,’why one make is better than the other’ and ‘you’d be daft to use that gauge of strings’. So, to reset the balance,here are my words of wisdom to impart on any novice who maybe reading this…
I’ve never purported to be the worlds best guitarist- I’m no Joe Satriana, Clapton, Gilmore et al. I cannot play flourid solos at 100 notes per second up and down the fretboard. I do, however, love playing the guitar. I play bass, electric, but the acoustic is the guitar I feel the most comfortable playing. I love the resonance of the string vibrations in and arounds its body, I love the way it feels to hold and play the instrument and also the fact that it is so portable and accessible: you don’t need electricity or an amplifier. Put it in its case and it can accompany you anywhere on the planet like a faithful old friend. Playing the basic chords to a song and getting a party singing along is where my enjoyment lies with music. Simple and effective. I have been lectured and literally ‘told’ by well respected instrument makers what is a good guitar. If you’re purchasing a new guitar, especially an acoustic, here are a couple of pointers you may want to follow…
Firstly, go into the shop. Pick the instrument up and play it. Play it for an hour if you have the time. It’s your hard earned cash you’re paying with. Take your time. Does it feel right- how is the action- after 5 minutes playing do your fingers resemble something thats fallen off the side of a butchers mincer? If so, you may want to try something with a lower action: where the strings are closer to the fretboard. Secondly, does it sound right. Do you want a deep, rich sound or perhaps you want more of a boxy wooden sound. Never mind what the experts say- do you like it. By all means ask the shopkeeper for their opinion, but bear in mind- it’s an opinion. And you know what they say about those!
Lastly, never feel undermined by someone who tries to tell you what’s good and bad. Being a great guitar player isn’t about knowing models and knowing if the bridge should be made of maple. Its about having a passion for, and enjoying your instrument to whatever standard suits your enjoyment. If what you’re doing puts a smile on your face you’re doing something right.
And next time you go to buy some guitar strings- ask for the long shiny ones: Endorsed by non other than Paul McCartney!