Boy Meets Guitar
Are you my musical soulmate?
Published: June 24, 2012
by Dave Carroll
The special bond between a player and his instrument.
You need to understand something. You need to know that a guitar player’s instrument is never just luggage. It’s important to understand that when we buy our instruments, the process is not unlike a courtship, and when musicians commit to a guitar, many times we marry these instruments for life! We may be accused of polygamy, but that’s the way it is. I personally own eight guitars from various eras in my life; like so many musicians, I simply have trouble saying good-bye to any of my instruments.
With so many makes and models these days, a guitar is a hugely personal choice, and most musicians invest significant time researching and testing countless models before buying theirs. As in life, different personalities initiate romance with their own unique style, and I’d like to share with you my process that eventually led to meeting my Taylor 710ce so many years ago.
When buying a guitar, I enter the store like Clint Eastwood walking into a strange saloon, pausing just inside the entryway with doors still swinging, scanning the room with eyes only, face forward. For added drama, I enter with the theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly playing on my iPod.
When I zero in on the acoustic-guitar section, I move toward it, but I take the long way getting there, not wanting to appear desperate and alert the guitars to the fact that “I’m interested.” I walk slowly but with confidence, and at first, I walk right past them, pretending not to notice the parade of finely polished wood and steel.
You see, I’m doing the walk-by test. It’s a very important first test, and it’s during the walk-by that you wait for one of the guitars to catch your eye and speak to you. While some players make a beeline to the entry-level guitar racks, listening for a quick and dirty message that equates to “Hey, sailor, buy me a drink,” I move directly to the high-end section.
I’m looking for a long-term relationship here, and as I walk past these finely crafted instruments, I’m listening for one to say, “Oh, excuse me. You look like an old friend. Do we know each other, and might we enjoy a rumba?”
If that happens, I stop. I turn slowly and deliberately with a confident grin and give the guitar a thorough visual exam beginning at the headstock to learn its name. My eyes drop down to its neck, then to the body and back to the top. It’s a look that says, “I don’t believe we’ve met, but hello, my name’s Dave. May I play you?” By this time, Barry White appears on my iPod.
From there we move to the feel-test that requires a stool, and one can always be found near the high-end guitar area. Out of respect, the first order of business is to take off your jacket and lay it on the dirty floor. Zippers and metal buttons pose a danger to the finish of a fine instrument, so respectful guitar shoppers don’t worry that there isn’t a hook for their coat. The most seasoned shoppers simply wear fleece (and possibly even angora if you have the self-confidence to pull it off).
Dave Carroll is a singer-songwriter and social media innovator from Halifax, Canada. Following his 2009 YouTube music video release called United Breaks Guitars, about his poor customer service experience with United Airlines, Dave's career blossomed and he is now a highly-sought-after performer, content creator, author, keynote speaker and consumer advocate.