In the last couple of weeks I sold two absolutely amazing guitars to students of mine, a recent Martin 00-18 and a Martin Custom Shop OM. Both students deserved an upgrade from their present instruments and to say they are thrilled would be an understatement. And here’s the best part: I absolutely believe that owning a fine guitar after spending time with an average one can only make you a better player. It’s kind of a circular thing. You buy a new and great guitar, which you just can’t put down. So you’re playing more, which makes you a better player. As your skills increase you appreciate that fine instrument even more. So you play more. And the circle keeps moving. I love that!
In about a week a dear friend who lives in Pennsylvania is coming for a visit and I am really looking forward to it. He is a recreational mandolin player and likes nothing better than to noodle along as I play pretty much any song. He is not a slick player but his absolute joy when he plays is infectious. He is also legally blind and has only marginal eyesight, seeing only shadows. But never once in the fifty-plus years I’ve known him have I heard him complain. He truly takes every day as a gift and will not let his handicap slow him down any more than is absolutely has to. I also owe him a big debt of gratitude as his encouragement about 20 years ago gave me the kick in the ass I needed at that time to keep playing. I love him like a brother and I know I’ll have sore fingers from playing by the time he leaves.
I’ll be playing a wedding ceremony and reception this coming weekend. Recently I bought a domain name that I’m going to use for a new website I’ll be building over the next couple of months for people looking for wedding music on Cape Cod. While I really like playing wedding ceremonies and cocktail hours in many respects it can also be a bit of a PIA if you are unlucky enough to have to deal with a classic Bride From Hell. Fortunately that has only happened to me a couple times in 50-plus weddings I’ve played in last ten years or so. The key to making everything run smoothly is to explain as gently as possible that very few if any people at the ceremony will take much notice of the music, as long as it is performed in a tasteful manner and the musician is good at taking cues. In other words, it’s not a concert; the function of the music is to add to the joyful ambiance of the event. And little things like the fact that I am just one guy with a guitar and not a full band need to be understood when “special” songs are requested. In my experience, few if any brides – or wedding coordinators for that matter – realize that a wedding processional goes by quite quickly unless the bride walks a LONG way very slowly! So that processional song might only be played for a minute or so. Anyway, keep an eye out for my new site (separate from this one) in the near future.
New music is something I listen for all the time and one of the best albums I’ve heard lately is by the Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn. I’ve always liked his music and admired his guitar playing, although his lyrics are often rather dark, angry and cynical, which is the main reason I don’t use many of his songs with my students. This new album however is all instrumental pieces and some of them are just breathtaking. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of finger-style acoustic guitar.
Next week I’ll be receiving one of the much talked-about “sinker” mahogany Martin D-18’s from Gruhn Music in Nashville. These guitars are supposed to have amazing vintage sound right out of the box because they are made from mahogany that was harvested in Belize in the late 1800s and early 1900s and then sunken (hence the name) in rivers there. Some of those logs were recently discovered, purchased by Martin and then carefully dried. Used for the guitar back and sides and paired with an Adirondack spruce top they have received glowing reviews from anyone who’s played one. For example, after Gruhn received their initial shipment of 12 guitars, Vince Gill came in and bought three (!). In the recent PBS Ken Burns documentary on country music Vince is holding one as he was interviewed. Apparently there is only enough of the sinker mahogany to make about 240 instruments, all of which are promised to Gruhn so between that and the fact that Vince (who is one of my favorite guitarists) loved them I knew I had to have one. Details soon after I’ve played mine for a while.
I’ve received lots of wonderful comment about the feature on Yours Truly in the recent issues of the Enterprise newspapers. This has been very gratifying and much appreciated. At the very least, it gave voice to my background for my children and grandchildren, something that I think is very important.
Finally, for all you guitarists who live in this part of the world, don’t forget that winter is looming and with it the use of central heating in our homes. Be sure to properly humidify your guitar. Dryness is the enemy of wood!
Peace & good music,