Author: Zuniga, Nancy

Too Many Guitars, and Never Enough
On any given day, there are somewhere around 5,000 acoustic guitars listed on eBay available for viewing and bidding from one‘s home computer. Additionally, one may find up to 800 mandolins, 300 resophonic guitars, and perhaps 800 banjos (yikes!). For the bluegrass aficionado, this smorgasbord of acoustic instruments could be compared to having a casino in the home of a compulsive gambler. But when does one have too many instruments?

When I was twelve years old and my brother Ron was thirteen, our parents bought each of us a $25 folk guitar and enrolled us in lessons with a music teacher named Mr. Tarzia. It was at the end of our third or fourth lesson when our mom came to pick us up and casually asked, “How are the kids doing with their lessons?” Mr. Tarzia replied in his heavy Italian accent, “Your son’s-a gonna be another Segovia, but your daughter, she just-a hasn’t gotta da touch!” Discouraged, I stopped going to lessons after that, while Ron continued for a short time. (As it turned out, Mr. Tarzia was not entirely correct; In spite of Ron's superior talent, he did not go on to become another Segovia.)

I didn’t touch a guitar for the next few years. Then, when I was fifteen, I once again expressed an interest in playing. My parents decided that I should have a better quality guitar, and indulged me with a classical guitar with the brand name of “Canora”. At $125, it cost five times as much as my first small sum in 1966. My brother, always more knowledgeable than I in things musical, helped to pick it out, and explained to me with an air of authority that the Canora was “an exact replica of a Spanish Tatay.” Although I had never heard of a Tatay, I was duly impressed with Ron’s name-dropping. I promptly re-learned those few basic chords, though not much more. The Canora went through the next 26 years with me, until I joined the CBA in 1992. Then, in my ignorance, I made the mistake of taking my classical guitar to my first CBA campout. One of the first people I met was a longtime CBA member named Brenda, who kindly explained to me that I needed a flattop guitar to play bluegrass music. Somehow, at that point in time, I did not grasp the concept that it would actually be okay to own more than one guitar, especially if they were different types of guitars used to play different styles of music. I thought that in order to justify buying a flattop, I would need to sell my old classical guitar. It happened that my son’s fiddle teacher Rob Bonner was in the market to buy a guitar that his daughter could take with her on a trip to Europe...something that she wouldn’t have to worry about getting too beat up during her travels. The Canora, already pre-dinged and scratched from many years of use, fit the bill nicely.

In another astounding display of ignorance, I promptly bought the cheapest flattop guitar that I could find, comparable in quality to the $25 number that I’d been given when I was twelve. That one didn’t last long; Soon it was replaced by a Gibson LG-O (another cheese cutter), and ultimately, a fine Martin D-28. I was doing a pretty good job of limiting the number of guitars owned to a bare minimum until I got together with my future husband Henry in 2002. Henry came to the relationship with a Takamine classical guitar... a fine instrument but not suitable for playing bluegrass music. That situation would be remedied eventually, but not before I had purchased, on impulse, two more decidedly non-bluegrass guitars (a vintage jazz archtop and a requinto) on eBay. Okay...So we have eclectic tastes in music. But does that justify our current collection of more than twenty guitars including at least half-a-dozen wall hangers? It seems that once I overcame the notion that I was entitled to own only one guitar at a time, the floodgates were opened, and I went from one extreme to the other. (The fact that I married an enabler who shared my new addiction didn’t help matters any.)

I realize that the time has come (or is long overdue) for me to learn how to “just say no” to more guitars. And while I’m at it, I could try to improve my picking skills on the guitars that I already have. Wouldn’t it be nice to prove Mr. Tarzia wrong?!
Posted:  10/4/2007

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