It happens quite often that a customer will come in to the shop telling us that playing guitar hurts their fingers, or with a story of how they tried to learn guitar years ago but it was too hard on their hands. Now, this is true: playing guitar can hurt because your hands and fingers aren't used to contorting into the odd shapes required to form certain chords, and the strings can cause your finger tips to be sore after practicing. This is normal and natural; just keep it up and eventually you're muscles will adapt and you'll form calluses and, before you know it, it won't hurt!
The flip side of that coin is that sometimes the pain is the fault of the instrument. When instruments are not set up properly, the height of the strings can be too high, causing the instrument to be almost unplayable, and your fingers and hands to hurt more than they should. Often a beginner won't be aware that their instrument can be made to play easier and just figure that it's too hard and they give up.
A 'Set-Up' is like an oil change and tune up for your car; it's something that every instrument needs from time to time. So if your fingers are hurting, bring your instrument down to us for evaluation. We can help to make sure your instrument is as playable as possible so that it keeps you playing and enjoying every minute of it.
This week I would like to highlight a piece of equipment that serves an important role both functionally and aesthetically on a guitar: the pickguard! There have been a number of different pickguard designs over the years, some crazier than others, and I thought I'd show off some of my personal favorites.
By the way, if you are into bluegrass music, check out the 1972 documentary "Bluegrass Country Soul"...You will not only see some enormous/ridiculous pickguards, but also some classic performances by the likes of Earl Scruggs, The Osborne Brothers, Ralph Stanley, The Country Gentlemen, Roy Acuff...well, you get the idea!
Flatpick wizard Bryan Sutton is fast becoming one of my favorite modern acoustic guitarists. He holds multiple Grammys as a go-to studio musician in Nashville and plays some of the fastest and cleanest lead lines I've ever heard. Though his 1948 D-28 wasn't built to be left handed, Bryan says the guitar "spent some good playing time upside down!" Thus the twin pickguards.
Perhaps the most outrageous of the bunch, the Porter Wagoner "Wagonmaster" D-41 features one of the most outlandish pickguards I've ever seen on an acoustic guitar. Sort of a Batman-meets-Spinal Tap thing going on here. Nothing conventional about this country singer's axe!
Perhaps the most recognizable guitar in country music (also a great representation of the virtues of having a pickguard!), Willie Nelson's famed "Trigger". If that guitar could only talk, I believe it would have a quite a few stories to tell...
Until next time!
McCoy Tyler is a salesman at Sylvan Music with an aptitude towards acoustic guitars, amps, and pickup systems. When he's not spouting musical knowledge on the sales floor, he can be found doing some hot picking and sweet singing with his group The McCoy Tyler Band.