I know I’ve complained about this before in the space but why the heck is it that guitar manufacturers make so few decent but budget-priced acoustic guitars for lefties?! Right now I have a couple left-handed students, which is a challenge from a teaching perspective but a fun challenge too. The issue is their instruments. In both cases the guitars being used are barely passable at best. One guy took my advice and bought one of the X-series Martins, a dreadnought, from one of the big on-line retailers and it came through with a set-up that made it all but impossible to play, a poor example from this otherwise reputable company. He ended up sending it back but frankly I was a bit embarrassed to have recommended the guitar when I saw it. There are a few inexpensive models out there from companies like Yamaha and Alvarez, but very few. Otherwise, lefties are pretty much left with only very expensive instruments to choose from; in most cases a beginner is not prepared or inclined to pay well over $1000 for a guitar in the beginning. I get it – the left-handed guitar market is small, even smaller in the world of acoustics vs. electrics. But I think the makers of the higher quality Pac Rim instruments are missing the boat on this market. My brother is left-handed and I well know that the world is stacked against lefties in many annoying ways but I also know that crappy guitars will never inspire a player to go to the next level when it comes time to commit to playing in the long term.
I continue to be excited about a lot of the new music I’m hearing, as I have been for a few years. Of special interest is a group from the Boston area called Darlingside. Fantastic songwriting, playing and especially singing with three tenor voices that are incredible. Check them out. I think they have a very bright future. I’m also psyched for the new album that is coming out in a couple months by Mandolin Orange. They just released the first single from that album and it sounds great.
Finally bit the bullet and worked out a song by the immensely popular Ed Sheeran for one of my young students who loves his music. OK, I am a cranky old guy once in a while (maybe more than once in a while!) but his music has always sounded contrived and disposable to me, at best. But hey, a gazillion starry eyed young women can’t be wrong, right? Anyway, “Photograph” is now on my list of songs for students. Get over it, Gene!
I was reminded yet again that a skilled luthier is worth his weight when my regular guy, Fran Ledoux of Bay Fretted Instruments worked his magic on a 30-year-old Yamaha for a friend of mine. She was a student way back when and her guitar was at that time one of the top-end guitars from that maker. But 30 years of brutal variations in our Cape Cod humidity did its worst and that Yamaha had become almost unplayable. I tried to adjust it as best I could but it was way beyond my skills to fix. Fran managed to return it to Martin specs, action-wise, dressed the frets and re-glued places as needed and now that old guitar is almost as good as new. I’m sure my friend will begin playing again, which is great – she used to really enjoy it. Many people set themselves up as “luthiers” with little or no training or experience. Fran studied guitar making and repair at a highly respected school many years ago and time has only made him better. He is having some health issues now and I fear the day when he’ll retire. We are very fortunate to have him in the area.
My winter project is going to be transferring all my repertoire to an Ipad to use when I gig. Been meaning to do this for a few years. Lugging around a big notebook with lead sheets and lyrics is just silly with the technology that’s available now. I have tried OnSong in the past but gave up. I’ll probably revisit that site and buy an Airturn pedal for use when performing. A big project for sure – I have upwards of 300 songs in my repertoire and the time has come.
And on that note, I began practicing my (gulp) Christmas songs this week. Some came back easily, some are lost in the depths of my sketchy memory. As I’ve said before about this time of year, one of the big problems with Christmas songs is that everyone knows them! So….if you screw up, there is no hiding behind fills or random changes as you can sometimes do with less familiar songs. Gotta get to work, it will be time to crank them out before I know it. I did come up with a nice arrangement last year of the “Peanuts” Christmas tune, “Christmas Time is Here.” That will be the first big challenge as I’ve totally forgotten it! I try to add one or two seasonal songs to my list every year and need to get going on that, too.
Also now looking forward to the big NAMM show in Los Angeles in January. I have something of a game plan, which I can’t reveal just yet but my hope is to launch a new and different site for acoustic guitarists in the not too distant future. Watch this space for news!
Peace & good music,