Author: Campbell, Bruce

Let's Get Personal

Looking around the fairgrounds in Turlock, I noticed how much effort everyone puts into personalizing the things that matter to them. This isnít a bluegrass pickerís trait only, nor is it even limited to humans. Anyone who has watched a dog prepare a blanket for optimum comfort before settling down appreciates the value of making something uniquely your own.

First, on the macro side thereís the rides and the rigs. Little touches reveal the attempts of the owner/operators to build their brand. Just walking by a truck or camper, you will often know if they prefer old time music, have grandkids, own pets or vote blue vs. red. Youíll know if they want to be considered proud Americans, friends of the Earth, broke or crazy.

A similar aesthetic applies to instrument cases. Iíve been a sticker collector forever, so my instrument cases have dozens of stickers on them. I think I want to give the impression I have been on tour all over the world, but a closer inspection will reveal more. Youíll see which bands I like, radio stations I like, bars I like and in some cases, stickers with no conceivable redeeming quality beyond theyíre cool looking.

Once the instrumentís out of the case, personalization continues, although it shiftsmore towards personal preferences than projecting an image. Guitar straps, for example, come in all shapes and sizes. Some like big fat straps that take years to break in but once they do, are treasured friends. Some like softer cloth straps, and some like the really skinny leather straps, often with a slide-on shoulder pad. I have never been able to get one of those shoulder pads to stay lined up with my shoulder Ė they always slip behind me or in front of me.

Even picks are a very personal choice. Thereís thin vs. thick, nylon vs. plastic vs. tortoise vs. space-age synthetics, and a wide variety of shapes, textures and even more esoteric finishing touches. I have several friends who carefully shape their picks and the edges of the picks to exactly suit their needs. All of those friends are incredible pickers, so how can I argue with their logic. I have invested in some fancy picks, and while I like their sound and feel very much, Iím terrified of losing them, so I rarely use them. Itís one thing to lose a plastic or nylon pick on a lawn in the middle of the night, and quite another to lose a fancy $40 pick. You know what? Theyíre equally easy to lose!

And donít get me started on strings and caposÖ

Posted:  4/24/2013

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