Author: Daniel, Bert

Too Many Instruments

A while back I wrote a column called Too Many Books in which I detailed the pathology of my obsession with purchasing practically every bluegrass instructional book that's ever been written. My bookshelf is still loaded with bluegrass music books, (which threaten the stability of our continental shelf around Healdsburg). And Steve Kaufman is probably still vacationing on the Riviera every year from the profits of my periodic spending sprees, but at least I've slacked off enough recently to feel like I'm in control of that particular obsession.

I'm afraid I might have a much more serious problem now: Musical Instrument Acquisition Syndrome (or MIAS). For the past eight years I could easily justify owning three mandolins. It's an instrument I aspire to play and I need one old time mandolin, one bluegrass mandolin and one travel mandolin. I play them all regularly and I was prudent enough to sell off my first F5 after i bought a better one. But MIAS strikes when you least expect it.

My son plays the fiddle and my daughter loves to sing and play guitar. I've always tried to provide them with the best instruments possible. And when my daughter said she might want to try the banjo, I found a good deal on a used Epiphone and now it's upstairs in her room.

What other instruments are out there? Well, quite a few it turns out. Our house has turned into a boarding house for various musical instruments. My wife's grand piano is very solid piece of furniture that dominates our living room. It's not going anywhere. I think it must stare in amusement as the parade of stringed instruments comes and goes. Juliet has already been through four guitars and now we're looking for a new one. She was given a Yamaha for free last year with the stipulation that it had to be passed on under the same conditions to a new player when it was outgrown by its host.

She passed that guitar on to a promising student just prior to leaving for Spain this summer. But I got to play it last summer at music camp. After four straight mandolin classes, I figured I'd try something different so I took guitar. And this year at music camp, I took beginning bass with Lisa Burns. My friend Lorraine let me borrow her bass for the class and I also got to play a nice loaner courtesy of Steve Swan.

Lorraine had just bought a new vintage bass so she offered me her old bass to take care of for a while. Of course I jumped at the chance and to make a long story short, our house now has complete instrumentation for a full bluegrass band. The current inventory is: three mandolins, two fiddles, one guitar, one banjo and one bass. Of course if that doesn't satisfy you, you can always play the piano or pick up a harmonica or Jew's harp. We have those too. I did have an autoharp until a few weeks ago but I tuned it up and gave it to a friend who might actually play it.

Maybe I should get therapy for my MIAS. I've thought about it. But I must say, I have some friends who have way more of an instrument problem than I do. Come to think of it, you can't get any more bluegrass than Flatt and Scruggs. I think I need a Dobro.

Posted:  7/14/2013

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