As an Instrument Technician I get to meet an eclectic mix of customers from all walks of life. They all have one common thread – they all possess a passion and love for their instrument. From the pet names, to the twinkle in their eye when they pick up their favorite guitar or bass; it’s clear there’s some magic happening!
So what calls forth this magical mojo between a player and his instrument? In short, I believe it comes from an instrument that doesn’t fight against you, a lack of resistance if you will. Some artists even consider their instrument an extension of their body. So how do we make this happen? Let’s take a look past the branding stickers, nostalgia, cork-sniffing hype, and mystical snake oil touted by manufacturers to a more bare bones practical point-of-view. Below are few thoughts to consider as you hone your skills and advance musically:
1. It’s wood and metal. Whether you paid 100 bucks for a pawnshop special, or 10,000 dollars for a one-of-a-kind Martin acoustic, it’s still wood and metal. Price points do not make you impervious to the atmosphere or the elements. Wood and metal will always behave like wood and metal. Accept them for what they are, and learn to tell when they need attention (spoiler alert frequently). Sometimes the smallest adjustments at the hands of a skilled tech can make all the difference in the world.
2. It was meant for you to enjoy. Duh! Right? Believe it or not, most of my customers are surprised at how much MORE they enjoy playing their gear after a loving setup. Some have even forgone a sell because they fell back in love with their instrument. Sometimes the music can be challenging enough - don’t complicate it with an inadequately setup guitar or bass. A well set up instrument should always be enjoyable to play.
3. Poorly setup instruments foster bad playing habits. Consciously or subconsciously, musicians adapt their playing style to accommodate for deficiencies in their instrument’s setup. This can be crippling, as muscle memory is a bear to undo. Learn on a guitar or bass that is setup well. Your fingers will thank you, and your technique will not suffer. Our musical bliss and sonic nirvana are at the mercy of some pretty fickle elements. Reactive to temperature, climate, elevation, friction, abuse and neglect, a change in the instruments playability over time is guaranteed - sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst. Just as ones vision can gradually and seemingly unknowingly worsen over time, so too can your instrument’s playability. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Playing styles are as unique as fingerprints. Everyone has certain idiosyncrasies that make their attack and approach their own. If your instrument is setup to accommodate your style, you can relax and enjoy focusing on your music!