Monday, June 8, 2009

'A perfectly good guitar'

You’d be forgiven for thinking that if you’re planning to play in somewhere as rough and tumble as the New York Subway, especially in the height of summer, that any old guitar would do.

But every instrument is different, and any musician will tell you there’s a unique feel to each one that can’t be replicated. If it doesn’t make you comfortable, then you’re always fighting against that, when you should be worrying about other things. Even borrowing someone else’s instrument never really feels right.

So I can’t imagine starting off this project tomorrow without one or other of my own favourite guitars, both of which are relatively easy to transport and have a good, resonant sound that will carry above the sort of ambient noise I’m likely to encounter.

So for the next three months I’ll be using either a Little Black Martin – pretty much the perfect travel guitar – or a Yamaha APX-4A.

The Yamaha I’ve used at gigs in hot and sweaty environments before, and while I haven’t played it in public for about three years, I know it’ll be just fine. Every time I pick it up, it’s like shaking hands with an old friend. I’ve just had it restrung with Martin light strings.

I love the little Martin, but In trial runs when I’ve played it outdoors in the sun, I found it would go out of tune quite quickly in Brooklyn’s late spring heat – and it was especially obvious when playing with a capo above the fourth fret. I’ll use a little Korg audio tuner, but I’m guessing that most of the time it’ll be “close enough for rock and roll”.

I’m looking forward to talking to the musicians I come across about the equipment they’re using and any particular challenges playing in the Subway poses for their instruments.

On the content front, I’m going to be using a Flip handheld digital camera to capture video of the folks I talk to, and I’ll also use an iPhone app called Speakeasy which creates MP3 files for the Mac, so I’ll be able to have audio files on occasions where maybe there isn’t enough light underground to use the Flip.

As for this blog, it used to be that scholarly works would have a frontispiece detailing how the book was typeset, what font was used, or how many monks toiled at the illumination. The modern equivalent, I guess, is the Blogger template, so thanks for your many variations.


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  2. Great choice of guitars. I have a Taylor Big Baby ... great sound, but not too much resonance. Good for a quiet platform, I suppose. Good luck.

  3. Hi Eli;
    My wife has a Taylor Big Baby and loves it. Their other models were just too expensive for us, and this one is great.