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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cranky’s New Toy

Cranky’s New Toy

Forty years ago I bought a brand new guitar.  At the time I had two children and one on the way.  I figured I wouldn’t have the time or money to continue playing golf, I needed something new to play.  I thought guitar would be cool.  I spent $125 for a Yamaha dreadnaught model, a fortune at the time for a financially struggling cranky young man.
40 year old clunky twangy Yamaha
does not sound great, but gets terrific mileage!
In 1975, if you told someone you bought a Yamaha they asked “How many CC’s.”  I still don’t know what a CC is, but I know they meant motorcycle.


I played for a year or two and learned maybe six chords, a few songs and some bluegrass picking.  I also learned that though I thought I could sing, I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.  I also learned no one wants to listen to mediocre blue grass picking.  I put the guitar away for 38 years.

Fast forward to today (picture a calendar ripping off months and years) and I decided I had the time to again try and learn to play guitar.  I pulled out the old Yamaha.

After several months playing, I have learned a few new chords and a few new songs.  I still can’t carry a tune, but in my basement venue with no one around, it is kind of like a shower, it sounds pretty good to me.  The only problem was some chord changes were extra difficult, my strings did a lot of buzzing, and my finger tips hurt like hell after about a half hour of playing.

Someone suggested that maybe a forty year old Yamaha, produced when Yamaha meant motorcycle, might not be the best guitar.  Better guitars are easier to play, will not hurt your fingertips and will just sound better. 

So I went to the guitar store armed with very little guitar knowledge but intent on upgrading my ax (that’s what we musicians call our guitars.) I spent a few dollars that I can currently afford more than I could when I bought the Yamaha forty years ago.  I bought a Martin concert style, a legendary guitar brand considered to be among the best quality guitar you can buy. 
Sweet Martin.  Does not look much different, but
it is night and day in play and sound
Martin X1-000E Custom Auditorium Acoustic-Electric Solid Spruce Top
 I don’t spend money easily; I generally cringe at anything above $19.95.  Nineteen ninety-five is my “no problem” price; anything else makes me think twice.  Regardless, I decided my children could each do with $125 less when I kick the bucket. I bit my lip and went for it.

It is a low-end Martin to be sure; they commonly sell for $1500 and can go to “The sky is the limit.”  Still, my new ax (that’s what we musicians call our guitars) is very pretty, it is a more comfortable size than the Yamaha, its tone is beautiful and it is just easier to play.  I still do not play well enough to come out of the basement, but my fingertips don’t hurt and there is less string buzzing.

I had to post this, because no one else cares. Mrs. C gave me a “Whatever” and barely even looked at my beautiful new Martin.

I did call my friend Frog to tell him the news.  Frog is, among other things, a music nerd who used to play banjo and now is a bagpipe fanatic.  Frog was very excited and wants to see my beautiful new low-end Martin.  He told me the next time I visit to bring my new ax (that’s what we musicians call our guitars.)
Music nerd (among other things) "Frog"
That’s what friends are for.


  1. Nice that the new guitar is easier to play. I tried to learn once, but what I heard in my head just didn't translate to the fingers. it isn't in me.
    I quite like bagpipe music, but I'm getting tired of hearing whoever it is that lives close by and practises for hours every Sunday afternoon. if he/she would play a tune now and again it might not be so bad.

  2. I would LOVE to learn to play guitar someday. Or piano. Or both!!

  3. Miss Mac started to learn the guitar at school once although I think they kind of jumped the gun when they asked her to play in assembly after a couple of weeks - not sure she had mastered a single chord but she did some very enthusiastic plinking!

  4. Congratulations on your new Martin. I have one. Not as pricey, or as you say, "low end". I've played other (cheaper) guitars, and the difference is like night and day when I pick up my own guitar once again.
    One does get what one pays for (mostly). I do think that buying yourself or your kid an el cheapo guitar (or any instrument for that matter) is the quickest way to get turned off from playing. It's just harder. More difficult to keep it in tune, and more difficult to play. Period. If outright buying it isn't possible, and you think the kid needs to learn to play, then rent the thing.
    Have fun.

  5. I like the new guitar! I think Martin's are great if I remember correctly what my husband said about them. I think we also have a Martin around here some place, but I think it is more for sentimental value since it was hubby's mom's guitar; I don't think he's played that one for a long time if ever since he got it. I think you are wise to continue on with the guitar, even after the years of lapse when you weren't playing one. It is probably good for the brain and dexterity with the fingers :)


  6. i had to smile every time you explained 'ax'. good for you, cranky!

  7. I love that you are playing again and that you got yourself a new ax. Also that you sing. These are all good things. Watch out, though, you might find your crankiness dissolving into a mist of happy song.

  8. That's cool! I once thought about playing the guitar, but I'm not coordinated enough to handle one of those six string models. Then I thought about one of those 4-string bass models. I decided to sit tight until technology brings us a one-string model. Still waiting.

  9. My similar looking guitar is hanging on the wall right by my computer desk. It daily reminds me that impulse buys seldom work out for me. Mine was bought 5 years ago with great intentions. I got that sore finger thingy, along with arthritic finger stiffness and finally settled for it being a wall ornament. It really is attractive.
    Go for it Cranky. Sing loud and proud.

  10. I think what you're doing is great. I've always wanted to learn to play the piano, but my fingers are stumpier than Lisa Simpson's. When you feel like stepping out of your basement shower, maybe you'll post a video of you playing. I promise it would take very little to impress me.

  11. Good for you. We need to do the things that we love to do. So what's your wife going to buy now? Just asking.

    Have a fabulous day Cranky. My best to Mrs. C. ☺

  12. If I didn't know any better, I'd have to think that my SO (that's what we unmarrieds call our significant others) wrote this. It could describe him almost word for word. Except he thinks he's a great singer. ;)

    Congrats on the new guitar. <--- (you can tell I'm not a musician, eh?)

  13. Everything I know about guitars is what I learned on "Pawn Stars" during the past year. But I love your new (and old!) ax and am very glad you are happy with it. Music and I do not mix. I believe that comes from being forced to take piano lessons in grade school from a mean nun. The most lying of my life was done on her practice logs. And now I have to pay all that off in purgatory, thanks to her!

  14. Now don't go chopping anything with that new ax!

    I have long wanted a Martin, but I blew my fortune feeding kids instead. Now they're making noises about getting me one for my 60th birthday. Now that my fingers aren't quite as nimble as they used to was. . .

    Martins are fine instruments - nice, low action and a real resonant sound. Like you say, all that stands between me and getting one is a measly kilobuck. Or so. . .

  15. Good for you; practice up so some young cranky can take a video for us to hear and see.

  16. So nice to have a good friend who appreciates your music and especially your new ax.

  17. As a former professional bassist - as you know, I made upwards of three figures during my musical career! - I applaud your stick-to-it-iveness (that's a technical term; it means "willingness to part with bread".)

  18. I, too, owned a Yamaha. You'll probably enjoy it more now than you did then. Good luck!

    P.S. Remember, wives spend at a 3-1 ratio.

  19. Good for you. I took my keyboard down from the closet shelf, played it for a few days, and put it back in the closet.

  20. I'm still trying to figure out how many times you had to say "No problem" while buying that

  21. Huh. That doesn't look like the JERK model.

  22. I had the BRD's keyboard here for a year or two. Occasionally I would set it up but I no longer have the patience to practice. So she got it back.

  23. Gah! I hate it when I've got something exciting that's happened with one of my interests and no one in my family cares. Their eyes glaze over and sometimes they don't even bother to stay in the room as I blether on about blogging, nature photography or the web pages that I edited today. So glad you have someone who appreciates the joy of getting a new toy. Play on!


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