December 30, 2009 by David Gillaspie
Sound Off, Sound On
by David Gillaspie
DG’s B&B believes in kindness. Every baby gets a hug; every kid gets his hair messed up. The adults get the most, they get to feel normal. Kindness is a virtue. You may not know the question, but kindness is always the answer. Kindness leading to more kindness.
There is always enough room at DG’s B&B, enough air in the room to breath. King Arthur would approve of the friendly round-table discussion. Differences aren’t so extreme that they turn into wedges that separate. Kindness is the word. Don’t think you need to know all the verses of Kumbaya on the first visit, but it wouldn’t hurt:
“Someone’s singing my lord, kumbaya.”
And it’ll be you. If you can play a guitar and sing then you must audition for the band. One man had a thumb so big he played two bass strings over the top. One woman did a classic Janis melt-down on Me and Bobby McGee so well that it ended up looking like a seizure.
There are rules. Like the girl you take to the dance, you audition with the guitar you bring. If you make the band, you play the audition guitar. An unwritten rule of the BB Band is ”Don’t buy a dream guitar, but if you do, keep it secret.”
There are good reasons why.
“Someone’s laughing, Lord, kumbaya.”
Every normal person who strums a G and an E minor across the strings of a fine guitar has the same reaction: they get a jolt and put the guitar in a safe place, leave the room, go directly home to bed without passing a music store. If they strum that G and E minor on the right guitar it gets that bad.
A band member brought a new guitar to practice, the most beautiful instrument off any wall. Its classic shape and size marked it an instant classic. Holding it meant playing it; playing it meant adding it to the list of haunting guitars. All guitar players have a haunt list just the same as they have an explainable reaction to a G to Em progression on the right guitar.
“Someone’s crying, Lord, kumbaya.”
Remorse is when you have extra money but can’t find the right guitar. The haunt list is reserved for the right guitar and not enough money. Getting it right means the right balance. It means finding the right sound then finding a guitar you can afford that comes close to the sound.
The hard part for others to understand is how long a sound, a feeling, can last.
Some players test guitars while they lean against a wall. Some test while they squat near an amp. Music stores are littered with them. They all know the feel they want. They walk around a room and grip the necks and know all they need to know. The ones they play pass a few tests before pick hits strings.
If you’ve played the one guitar that sent electricity though you without plugging in, you remember. You’re frightened. You should be when a man says, “The American Gibsons with the good wood start around five thousand dollars.” He might as well be speaking Korean.
If a great guitar starts at five grand, where does it go? If it’s more than $5001, it’s too much. But where do you find the sound of an expensive Gibson? It’s important to note that using a Gibson for a reference point kinks the economic curve. No one goes to the store looking for a $4999 guitar.
But that sound won’t go away.
There’s never a good time to jump on the sound that won’t go away, and it certainly isn’t gig night. One guitar shines in shimmering lines that go all the way to Nashville and back. A note is more than a note, a chord more than a chord. You can’t concentrate when you hear it.
On the right guitar a simple progression leaves the haunting memory of the first sound called music. It makes you realize what Pink Floyd felt rolling from G to E minor the first time. It makes you dizzy.
Every song recorded fits between G and Em, and when that universal sound comes out of a dream guitar on the other side of the room, it leaves a mark. Like an acoustic whip it drives you to search for your own haunting sound again.
“Someone’s sleeping, Lord, kumbaya.”
It won’t be you until you find that guitar. You don’t want to look. You don’t want to find it. You know you won’t find it, but you’ll come close enough to feel the balance shifting. And you’ll add another guitar to add to the list.
DG’s B&B is a kind place, and thanks is an expression of kindness as well as good manners. Make giving thanks an important part of every day. Be thankful that music has the power to move you and you have the power to make music. Be thankful for the brotherhood of musicians.
Be especially thankful when you burn that guitar haunt list; when you finally find your sound.