Time, My Hands and Revelations of a Thicker Neck

I’ve had the same guitar for 15 years. I’ve played others. Had to borrow a few here and there, but ultimately, it has been the one, constant instrument since I began playing.

This one.

This is it here. I never named it. At least, not yet. I named my Lowden acoustic, but it sort of already had a name associated with it and I felt like it would be a disservice to rename it after I bought it. Especially from such a friend as the friend I bought both of these guitars and my first real amplifier, a 1968 Fender Vibrolux, from. This guitar and I have been through a lot: Flat Wound Strings, Round Wound Strings, Nut adjustments, Bridge adjusments, Truss rod adjustments, my first musical, my first music directing gig, auditioning for the music program at UNCO and MSU Denver, etc. But recently I’ve found myself struggling to play it. I’ve noticed that my hands are much more comfortable and actually perform more accurately on a thicker neck. Recent examples would be Gibson ES-335, L5, and the American Standard Telecaster. I love my G&L Tele with it’s flamed, bird’s-eye maple V-neck, but I find myself struggling with some playability and wonder if it’s time to put it on the back shelf and begin my search anew for something a little more playable and comfortable, without having to give it up? If you’re not familiar with this problem, imagine the thing that you love doing most in the world and then struggling to do it because of the equipment you have. If you’re an artist and the one brush you were painting with for years and years, the only one you had, because it was the only one you could afford, all of the sudden didn’t feel right. Didn’t move the way it once did, didn’t settle into your hand like it was meant to be there. All of the the sudden your canvases start to look different, the sing differently. The colors start to clash in a disorganized way. They don’t lay on top of each other the way they once did. The blend is wrong. All of sudden the joy feels like work. The work creates frustration and even in the realm of practice, you find your self struggling to be joyful, to be mindful of the craft you’re attempting to push forward in. To be the best at what you do and who you are as represented by this tangible mess of magnets and wood and steel.

In this thought process I find myself jealous when I sit down and play someone else’s instrument that is almost as fluid and flawless to play as the water that flows in the channels around Tampa, in which I am currently situated, at a Hilton, waiting for a rehearsal dinner for a friend of my Woman’s. Truth be told, I don’t know a lot about the intricacies of setting up my instrument. I’ve learned how to adjust the truss, action and intonation, but maybe there’s something more? Maybe there’s a knowing that is deeper that would allow this instrument to become the fluid beauty I once knew it to be. I don’t have the funds to just go out and buy another instrument to make myself feel good about where I stand instrumentally. Sure, I want more guitars, but now is not the time. Now is the time for frugality and gaining knowledge that will allow me to propel this instrument toward another 15 years of playability. But in the meantime, I’m not sure how to deal with my frustrations in regards to my gigs and my practice habits. As seasonal as these times are as nothing does indeed last forever, I feel like this awkward winter of playing has lasted for far too long and I would really love some relief. Till then…