Pete's Blog

Guitar store

For me hanging around guitar stores has always been one of the musical life's high-church rituals. And once the help sees you can play they bring out the good stuff. After all, what's the use of having a collector's item in stock if you can't stand in front of it and hear what it sounds like? Yesterday Marcie Miller and I went to Dusty Strings in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. They started off selling Celtic Harps in the '70s but soon enough realized that if you have folkies in the store you need Martin guitars on the walls. Now they're the biggest name in town. I started by taking off my jacket and belt - this shows the help you're not a tinhorn - and deliberately opted for a low-level instrument, in this case one of the new Martin mid-price laminates I've heard so much about. Despite being essentially a formica countertop with a soundhole the body was reasonably punchy and forward-sounding. The neck was nothing to write home about. I played a new HD-28 to remember what a real guitar felt like, then tried a mahogany Taylor that probably sounded gorgeous through its pickup but didn't project much without it. The salesman suggested a Dreadnnought-sized Collings, saying that people found it the closest approximation of a Martin for the price. He was right about that, although the neck-feel and overall balance weren't the same. I couldn't tell how it would respond to bluegrass strumming although it worked well for fingerpicking. By this time I was in the "collectors' corner" so I tried a 1958 D-28 that cost more than my 2006 adjusted gross income. Even with old strings it sounded very sweet indeed. I wish I could say that I played up to its level, but nothing came out very well all day. As I went from guitar to guitar I pulled different instrumentals out of the restaurant book but nothing really caught fire. At least they were my own arrangements and not the usual Fahey.

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