Of Guitars

My new axe

There comes a time in every musician’s life when they think “I’m serious about what I am doing (whilst having fun), and I need a more serious instrument”. Boys seem to hit this aged 13 as soon as they are able to play a C Major (that’s “Crooked Lady” to you Phoebe). I remember the other boys doing music at school lusting after Custom Strats and Vintage Les Pauls. My story with guitars is a bit different. Firstly, I have never owned an electric guitar!

The guitar was the 5th instrument I learned to play (I am a bit eclectic). In the village where I grew up there were some fantastic “have a go” style evening classes that ran in the school and community centre. Howard,one of the teachers at the primary school played guitar, and he began a guitar class. Howard had been very involved in the folk scene in London in the late 60s and early 70s, and had some great stories to tell.

The material we covered in class was very folk and protest song oriented. Our teacher began introducing me to songs and styles which really suited my voice. He later told me that because I instinctively sang the song as I played, it had encouraged the rest of the class to do the same. He had taught classes before where everyone played the song, but no one sang! Our class sang together as we played, and after a while we began to experiment with harmonies and songwriting together.

So my first guitar was a nylon strung, snaggle toothed banana. I picked it up at a jumble sale for £15. Three of the crappy plastic tuning pegs had snapped off, so you had to tune it with pliers. The neck was completely bowed, so that by the 6th fret the action was about 6 miles high. I stuck with it from September, when the classes started until my Birthday in February. During this time my teacher constantly bemoaned my instrument and how it was holding me back. (It beat being told that insufficient practice was holding me back).

So February came, and so did my Birthday, and a trip to TPS Music in Hinckley to buy guitar number 2. To be fair, in those days, TPS was a very small shop and choice was a bit limited, especially for my budget.  In those days I never played with amplification, so I opted for a big Jumbo size which was nice and loud. The guitar cost £70 and it is a SaeHan. I have never seen another SaeHan before or since.

I love this guitar with all it’s flaws. If you have been to an Ethryll gig where I have been playing guitar you will have seen it, 24 years on. Sadly it is now getting tired and buzzy. Even some loving ministrations from my excellent friend and general guitar fiend Tim could not resolve all it’s issues. It also has more than a few bumps and grazes from being my faithful travelling companion. It could tell some stories. Thank goodness it can’t!

I had a previous misadventure trying to replace the SaeHan. I bought an Armadillo backed Tanglewood electro-acoustic whilst I was in Freedom Hill. I could not get used to it. Armadillo backs and “decolletage” do not mix. I sold it a few years later.

At the strong suggestion of my husband, and a few others I trust for sage advice, I have decided that the old girl just could not cut it any more. The nail in the coffin was doing some recording where the buzzes and wonky intonation were very obvious. It just would not do any more. So as of today the SaeHan is retiring from stage life. I have a new guitar, and I think I am finally onto a winner.

I have particularly small hands. This had always been an issue for me on the SaeHan, and there were some things I just couldn’t play as a result. On the advice of my beloved Bass man, and several musical friends, I decided to look for a guitar that is the right size for me. I am done with struggling with a massive plank. Some research later, I discovered two brands of guitar which specialised in “ladies” models (shades of Little Britain). Narrower necks, but full scale. The body somewhere between ¾ and standard. A little smaller in the body than a Baby Taylor. These were Daisy Rock and Luna. Luna was much more readily available in the UK, also their high spec electrics and beautiful designs won hands down. I opted for the Luna Passion Flower, which is in a gorgeous and very “Ethryll” purple.

It arrived today, and I am a very happy lady. The sound, of course, has less bass than my old giant SaeHan but it is beautifully clear. Not a buzz anywhere. I think the more treble sound will contrast nicely with Jackie’s larger acoustic.

It is so much more comfortable to play. It was also a pleasure not to have to compromise between sound, playability and aesthetics. I am so glad that there are now much more respectable instruments out there geared up to female musicians that don’t look and sound like toys.

The balanced output is a definite winner (bye bye DI) and I have to say the tuner beats the Fishman hands down. My only suggestion to Luna would be to reconsider the plastic material used at the bridge and nut. This is the only place where this guitar betrays it’s very reasonable price tag. The sound is great now, but I am worried about how it will wear.

It’s first outings will be our gigs on March 14th (Shakespeare’s) and March 17th (High Melton). It will be all newy newness as we also have 2 new songs and Kris’s new Michael Kelly bass. Hope we can see you there.

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