Author: Campbell, Bruce

The Hole You Throw Money Into

Thereís an old joke that defines a boat as a ďHole in the water you throw money into.Ē Iíve had several friends with boats and while boats are lots of fun, they do seem to demand frequent and expensive upkeep. So, I resisted the temptation to join the boat owner fraternity and silently patted myself on the back for that prudent decision.

But I have come to learn that we all have those money holes in our lives. Ask any golfer - the amount of money they spend on equipment, lessons, green fees, balls and shoes is astonishing.

Music is my money hole. Over the years, I have collected a modest number of fine instruments, and none of them came cheap. Iím not a complete hound when it comes to collecting instruments - I know lots of people with many more than I. As a lifelong musician, I knew there were some added costs - decent cases, for example, to protect my investments.

And of course, there are the consumables - buying strings is an ongoing cost of ownership. You canít have a fine instrument sounding lousy because itís wearing dead strings. That would be disrespectful. Then there are capos - I like to have one in eachguitar case, ready to go. And I prefer the Shubb capos, which have a interested tendency to get lost, mainly because they donít attach firmly to the instrument, unless theyíre actually ďcapo-ingĒ, so thereís a yearly replacement cost on those little thingies. Incidentally, it seems that capos are THE most numerous item in the lost-and-found after each Fatherís Day Festival, so itís not just me.

And then thereís tuners. We live in a remarkable age of really inexpensive tuners. For $15-$20, you can have a tuner clipped onto your instrument and honestly, I have no desire to go back to the days of tuning forks and five different musicians who all believe their ears are infallible. Of course, I need one of those in every instrument case, too. Moreover, each year brings some new tuner iteration thatís smaller, faster and has a cooler display, so periodic upgrades are common. After two beers, I will gladly - GLADLY - fork over $20 to get the latest whiz-bang tuner at a festival.

Then, I was surprised to learn that items that I thought of as one-time purchases have an underlying cost. I have had some of my instruments so long that the cases are wearing out, literally falling apart. Of course, this is the case doing its job. It takes the beating so the instrument does not. But some of my trustworthy cases are coming apart and need to be replaced. How much do I need to spend to protect an instrument worth several thousand dollars? A basic hardshell case is at least $100, and a professional road-quality case is more like $600. Yikes!

Even the instruments themselves require some maintenance. Eventually, any fretted instrument thatís played frequently will require a fret job. Age, and atmospheric conditions also affect instruments, and adjustments in the set up are also required now and again.

Iím not going to make fun of boat owners and golfers anymore. Well, maybe a little - my money hole hobby does pay me some money now and again!

Posted:  7/9/2014

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email