Philosophies for Learning to Play the Guitar at 60: Choose the Right Guitar

Philosophy #12

Take a Tip from Harold Crick:
Choose a Guitar that Makes You Want to Play.

I once owned a 2005 Toyota Tacoma pickup that was in every way so perfectly customized to suit my preferences that had I been given an assortment of the best vehicles in the world – Lamborghinis, Mercedes, Jags, whatever – they’d have sat untouched. That Tacoma was the only ride for me.

I feel that way about my guitar.

If you’ve ever watched the film Stranger than Fiction, you’ve seen what is probably the best way to choose a guitar. Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell, has decided to finally act upon his oldest desire – to learn to play the guitar.

Like you, Harold already knows what kind of music he wants to play. And like you, he knows how much he’s willing to spend on a guitar. And so, like you, he doesn’t really need a lot of advice from the staff at the guitar shop, friends or online experts. What he needs to do is go to a store with lots of guitars, look at them, and pay attention to which one he wants to pick up and play.

And since he can’t play… not yet anyway… there’s no need to embarrass himself or anyone else by taking an instrument down and strumming it.

It doesn’t matter that when he finally made his decision, Harold chose a guitar that I wouldn’t choose and that perhaps you wouldn’t choose either. He picked the guitar that spoke to him.  Here’s a link to the minute-and-a-half clip.

Stranger than Fiction: Harold Chooses a Guitar

If you’ve made a commitment to learning to play the guitar, get one you really like now rather than later. A rose is a rose is a rose… until you get to know roses and every subtle difference among them pops out.

Although I had an inexpensive but perfectly serviceable Fender acoustic steel string when I began this experiment, I knew after two weeks of practicing on it that I wanted something else. Since I live in the Alaska bush and don’t have access to a guitar shop, I did my looking online. I knew next to nothing about guitars, but it wasn’t long before I found exactly what I was looking for – the guitar that spoke to me. 

I called Mammoth Music in Anchorage, paid a nominal fee to have the guitar delivered to Lake Clark Air (our bush plane service) and in short order I was playing the guitar of my dreams.

I love this guitar.

I love that it was crafted in my home state so that there is a connection with a place I love.

I love that the top is Sitka Spruce, and that I can follow my memory to spruce forests in Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska where I’ve hiked and camped and that I can almost smell the loam and trees, hear thrushes singing, see sunlight streaming through spruce boughs when I pick up my guitar.

I love that my very first musician hero, Johnny Cash, played this model. So did Jimmy Page, Bob Dylan and a long list of other musicians I admire.

I love that the rosette design is modestly understated, so that one’s eyes are drawn to the grain of the wood rather than distracted by embellishments.

I love the way this guitar resonates when I hit a note just right – and the fact that it doesn’t punish me too severely when I hit a string wrong.

So, go find the guitar (or fly rod, cookware, camera, or whatever it may be) that’s right for you. It can make a big difference as you continue on your journey.

3 thoughts on “Philosophies for Learning to Play the Guitar at 60: Choose the Right Guitar

  1. Fabulous discussion about playing the guitar and I am now inspired to the do the same. I had never thought of finding an instrument that spoke to you. I am now on a search.

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