Monday, April 13, 2009

Musical Etiquette: Don't Touch My Guitar

Dear Musical Etiquette:
Can I play your guitar? Please? I'm wasted and I really want to rock out.


There is no faster way to upset a musician than grabbing an instrument and playing it without permission. I am glad that you asked, but I must decline. You see, I don't know you and your breath smells like it could melt a hole in a battleship. I don't know what you're about to try and do with that guitar. Even if you posses skill, you might be inclined to play thrash metal and on my D'Addario Lights and you'll pop that low E in about ten minutes. You might want to fiddle with my amp settings and quite frankly, I'm not having it.

The answer is no. You most certainly may not touch my guitar.

You say "Eriq, aren't you being kind of an ass about this? In fact, you may very well be a dick! I'm shocked." Well, I can understand and appreciate your concern. I pride myself in avoiding all manner of douchery here at Musical Etiquette. In fact, I'm here mostly to ensure that you don't participate in any kind of Weak Shit. So please, dear readers, allow me a chance to elucidate the reasoning behind my position and rest assured that by the end of this post, you won't be offended by me breaking your wrist as you paw at my nylon guitar like a drunken frat boy searching for a bra hook.

Guitars Are Like Lovers
I am attached to my guitars in what can only be described as an emotionally unhealthy fashion. I probably spend more time with my guitars than any other thing in the world and in my own psychotic musician's mind, they have personalities. My Brownstone is a needy little thing, always requiring upkeep and falling in and out of tune at whim. My steel acoustic is a total trooper, tough and able like a single mom. She's been through the worst of it and it's come out sounding even better. My nylon acoustic is a classy lady, smooth and gentle. She needs a special touch and a gentle hand if she's gonna keep singing. I think most musicians get attached to their instruments like this after a while. So when you ask to play one of my ladies, please understand that it's like asking to borrow someones underwear. If you don't know me really, really well I'll probably give you an incredulous look.

It's In An Alternate Tuning For A Reason.
I enjoy alternate and open tunings a great deal. They enhance the creative options for composition and improvised performance considerably. So when you pick up my guitar and inform me that it is "totally out of tune dude", you are in fact, a babbling ass. It's actually tuned to open Dm. That's why it's in my room, next to a pile of theory books and scribbled notepaper. It's weird, I know. But it's my guitar and I tune it how I like it. If you attempt to re-tune this guitar, I will strike you in the head with a stack of half finished music. While on the subject of tuning I'd like to point out that;

If You Touch My Micro Tuners, I'll Break Your Goddamn Fingers
Your perception that my tuning is slightly flat may have something to do with the three pints of Jameson currently swimming in your gullet. I just spent two hours breaking this Floyd Rose bridge down, lubing up the sub-assemblies, stringing and tuning this puppy. In fact, if you include the time driving up to the store to get new strings, it's my entire night right there. I will personally guarantee that it's in tune. Micro tuners are a blessing and a curse. you get finer tuning control but it's far easier to knock a guitar out of tune whilst playing. And you, sir, are rather drunk.

Same Goes For My Amp settings.
Amplifiers are likewise a highly personal possession for guitar players. Like guitars, they require a degree of technical prowess and considerable experience with an individual amplifier to achieve the tone you're looking for. The one you just set your cigarette on, for example, is my recently purchased Fender Super Champ XD. I have presets from the last time I played set right there and you just destroyed about an hours worth of work getting the reverb settings right for a recording session that was to come tomorrow morning. Please, don't fiddle with amplifiers unless you know exactly what you're doing and you've discussed this with the owner. They are likely to get angry and, just as I am doing now and retrieve a pair of pliers from their toolbox to break your fingers with.

You Sound Terrible
If you're unfamiliar with an instrument (or have a toxic blood/alcohol ratio), the results of your clumsy and ill conceived performance may cause undue suffering in your audience. Please, for the sake of everyone here do not subject us to your shit-faced rendition of "All Along The Watchtower". If you are wholly unskilled, have some decency and practice your first three chords in your room. When I was first starting out I declined to play music for other people on many occasions. The assumption was that it had to do with stage fright, my ego or some inferiority complex. This is simply not the case. I don't like subjecting people to bad music and playing my off-time rendition of "Come As you Are" seemed like a really bad idea. Nowadays I decline the offer to play harmonica for much the same reason, I have only recently started practicing on it and have enough sense to practice where I won't disturb others.

So as you can see, I'm touchy about my guitars. The fact is that they require a lot of practice and a bit of raw talent to wield appropriately. The same can be said for broadswords. I wouldn't give you a broadsword right now given the probably fatal level of whisky flowing through your veins. You might cut yourself. Likewise your continued attempts to grab one of my guitars will end with lacerations. I hope that this has enlightened you to the reasons behind my decision and will keep you from requiring stitches the next time you meet a guitarist.

Good luck at the hospital!
Eriq Nelson.


Amber Dawn said...

Eriq - as a flute player whose current instrument is the second-most-expensive thing I've ever owned (though it would probably still have cost more than my car if I didn't get an exceptional deal on it) I know exactly what you're talking about. Fortunately, people usually have sense enough to realize with a flute that if they don't know exactly what to do with it, they shouldn't fucking touch it. But your post brought to mind experiences with my first indie-rock band explaining to drunk folks at parties that surprisingly, my keyboard was neither a toy nor a beer rest, and if they put their beer on it again, I might have to break their fingers or noses. As always, thank you for spreading the good word.

Jess Gulbranson said...

Hmm. Never been so much of a gearhead, have never been that defensive about my stuff. But I do think that irate idjits need to respect peoples' gear, especially if you're a fellow musician. The douchey drummer from one of the bands playing at a recent gig of Coeur Machant's decided it would be a great idea to knock all his drums over in the tiny space where everyone's stuff was stored. His hihat nearly cleaved my keyboard in twain. Not cool, man.

t wiggins said...

i leave a piece of shit acoustic guitar lyin' around on my porch or couch just incase some drunk needs to go into sweet home alabama or knockin on heaven's door. not only is the guitar a barely tunable craigslist score, but it also has so little meaning to me that if someone really goes into stairway or some song they shouldn't play at a party or ever, i can just grab it and smash it!

Jess Gulbranson said...

Dude, I think I had that same guitar. The strings were so old when I got it, I'm pretty sure coral was growning on them. Then when I changed the strings it was COMPLETELY untuneable.