Further talk about the issues of high humidity and what it does to guitars. There is an interesting thread going on one of the guitar sites about the effects of humidity on rosewood vs. mahogany guitars. The general sense (and I agree) is that rosewood is more affected, tone-wise, than mahogany. There was an interesting observation by a custom guitar maker that is about something I’ve experienced and don’t like one bit but never really considered.
It’s common for the action on an acoustic guitar to get worse (i.e., higher) with extended period of high humidity due to the top bulging. This guitar maker pointed out that while annoying and sometimes distressing it will probably go away when the weather moderates and drier conditions prevail.
But…. He pointed out that wood absorbs humidity fairly quickly but typically takes much longer to dry out. In other words, patience is definitely a virtue. Now, patience is certainly not my long suit. A couple years ago I bought one of the new, updated Martin 00-18’s. A sweet, sweet little guitar, for sure, super comfortable to hold and play, excellent fit and finish and it sounded great. I bought it in the winter when dry conditions are norm around here. All was well until summer came. Then the action started to get worse. And worse. I knew it was humidity related and made sure it lived in my studio most of the time where the air conditioner does a decent job of keeping the air cooler and drier. Alas, this didn’t help much and by September that 00-18 was all but unplayable. My regular guitar tech said, don’t worry, nothing is really wrong, give it time. But I couldn’t resist tweaking the truss rod, with only marginal improvement.
One of my long-time students loved that guitar and she wasn’t particularly intimidated by the high action above the 5thfret because she does 95% of her playing in first position. She told me if I ever wanted to sell it to think of her first. So I did, and she bought it (for a very good price, I might add).
A few months later I began to notice that guitar was getting easier and easier to play when she came for her weekly lesson. By about Christmas, it was perfect and sounded even better. This proves the point made by the guitar maker on that forum. Oh well, she’s in love with that little Martin and I know why, it’s as perfect an example of a 00 Martin as I’ve ever heard or played. Lesson learned, Gene.
Other random stuff. In the past month I played a couple gigs that were a study in contrast. I won’t be too specific but just want to make a simple point. Yes, I get paid to perform and I know I’m a very small fish in a very big pond but basic respect is just as important to a musician as anything else.
At the first one, the people involved could not have been nicer, thanking me profusely for doing the job, telling me how much they enjoyed the music, and most importantly, paying me (with a nice tip, too) before I played a note. And then at the end they again thanked me and said how much they had enjoyed the music, and that it had definitely enhanced the day. I really appreciated everything they said and did.
On the other hand, at the second engagement there was no doubt about my status: hired, temporary help. No one was rude or outright nasty but the vibe was distant and somewhat dismissive, at best. No biggie really, I’ve been doing this a long time and I know how the game is played. I guess if I hadn’t played the first one soon before I might not have even noticed.
The final small bit of an insult came when it was time to get paid. No one in charge could find my check and in fact seemed to be pretty disinterested in the fact that I was all packed up and wanted to go home. Finally, the check was found but the person giving it to me thought it would be fun to wave it back and forth in front of my face before it was given to me, as if it was some kind of gift that I should be grateful for. I think this person could see by the look on my face that this was unacceptable behavior. I did take it, finally, and I can say with conviction that this is the last time I will play that particular venue. Oh, and by the way, the price I gave them for this engagement was well below what I usually charge because one of my students (who was not there) is a member of the group sponsoring the event. So it goes in the world of a work-a-day musician.
But hey, let’s end this installment on the up-beat. I booked my trip to the big NAMM show in Los Angeles next January. NAMM is the trade group of the music industry and the winter show (one just concluded in Nashville) is the biggest they hold. I’ve been a member for a year or so and joined specifically to be able to attend one of the shows, which are only open to members. Every manufacturer in the music industry will be there and showing their latest/greatest gear. Plus, there are performances going on all the time and great players demonstrating the new gear, giving workshops in marketing strategies and much more. My hope is to find a new line of guitars to offer, survey the latest in instructional aids, and most of all to just hang with the best in the musical instrument world.
I’ve never been to LA and I’m looking forward to that, too. And perhaps a little detour to Las Vegas for a couple nights on the way home may be on the agenda (!).
Peace & good music,