Sunday, February 02, 2014

The (Old) New New Guitar

So. I know I was all excited about my new guitar, and even gave her a name and everything. But sometimes you just have to suck it up, admit you’ve made a mistake, and do a complete about-face.

After spending a little while in the honeymoon phase, then a little while in buyer’s remorse, and off-and-on convincing myself that I should just get over it, I finally went and had a talk with Karen, friend and choir director extraordinaire. She confirmed that, yes, perhaps I had bought a guitar that matched me pretty well, but did not necessarily best match what I was trying to do.

Well, when you put it like that… okay, back to square one. Practice spiritual qualities like non-attachment and non-embarrassment. (Is that one? It should be.) Karen was kind enough to come with me this time, and was an immense help in being an extra pair of ears and getting me to spend more time on guitars I would have overlooked.

Seraphina was a Taylor, and I liked a lot of the Taylors — they have a bright, clear sound, feel lovely to play, and many of them are just beautiful to look at at well. Most of the other contenders were Martins, and I like their sound too, though in a completely different way — more resonant, and just plain yummy. But most of the smaller selection at Gryphon didn’t feel as nice under the fingers as the Taylors did, and were simply unattractive, so I tended to pass over them. But Karen kept dragging them back out.

Finally, after about an hour, she found a surprise: a used Martin D1, not particularly noticeable, not very expensive, but with a simple fascinating sound. The low strings are so mellow that at first I thought they had just been left on too long (though all the guitars there have bright new strings). But then when you start playing it you find that it has just a huge dynamic range. The higher strings sound brighter, and here my first feeling was that it just wouldn’t blend well, but in some miraculous way it does. I almost didn’t like it at first simply because I was so distracted mentally trying to figure out what was going on.

I also have to admit that I just dislike the look of the dreadnaught body shape, and it’s a bit much to get my arms around sometimes, though it really does the trick with the sound. Karen told me to play with my eyes closed for a bit, and that helped. It felt okay to play — better than the other Martins, if not as lovely as the Taylors. But it’s the sound that sold me. Karen remarked that being used is a plus: it sounds like it’s been played and loved.

So the new guitar came home, and needed a name. It popped up in meditation that night: Neville. I almost couldn’t bear to name it “Neville” after giving up a “Seraphina,” but there’s really nothing else for it. It’s a good name, and one that will be forever associated with the Harry Potter books in my mind. Neville is the one of the most humble characters, but in the end also one of the most heroic. He does what you need him to do with courage, compassion, and faith. You could do a lot worse.