Music Man by Marc Allum
I play the guitar, the bass guitar mainly and I have about twelve – I think. It’s a problem with the business I work in. If you have a passion for something, it’s far too easy to fuel it. Mostly, it stems from viewing auctions and an overwhelming desire to rescue things (A feeble excuse for lack of control). That’s my excuse! So, when I see a nice old guitar that needs a little TLC I’m often moved to have a bid. Luckily, I am only successful part of the time, otherwise I would simply have far too many. I’m also a little selective, preferring to buy instruments by particular makers and in particular styles.
Now the word ‘instrument’ is actually quite all-encompassing. The fact is, my predilection for ‘rescuing’ musically related objects has never stopped at just guitars. I’m not sure why, but as a relatively competent musician, I seem to think that’s I have an ability to play far more instruments than I actually can, which has led to some pretty off the wall purchases over the years. If you are a keen auction goer you’ll be familiar with those old rexine covered boxes, the blue felt interiors usually occupied by a banjo, a ukulele or a mandolin (And all the various different variations of these stringed instruments). Usually, they have odd strings missing, the sound box skins are damaged, the bodies are cracked or the bridges have disappeared. More often than not, they are beyond repair and despite their more than passing resemblance to a guitar, are completely different when it comes to stringing, tuning and playing them. This means that one’s strumming skills are not always instantly transferable. Alas, many have been refurbished just to become ornaments!
It’s the same with violins. If I had a £1 for everyone who had told me that they own a Stradivarius I would be a rich man but the labels in German trade violins are by and large an homage to the great luthier....alas, I will likely only see a real Stradivarius through the re-enforced glass of a museum showcase. However, violins are something that I have attempted too. The result? A screeching, caterwauling cacophony of barely discernable musical ability. Again, relegated to decorative status.
Now I’m not a bad drummer. Presently, my second-hand kit is disabled due to lack of a suitable space and also the potential annoyance that is might cause to the neighbours. I currently make do with an electronic kit on my iPhone but I do miss the cardiovascular workout that the drums provide for an aging muso like me. I’ve been through three kits in my time. Wind instruments I’ve generally steered clear of, just limiting myself to buying the odd trumpet because – again – they look quite nice and are often very cheap at auction.
Perhaps the most taxing instrument I’ve ever attempted was a three octave piano accordion. Nightmare! The main problem being that I was unable to squeeze, play the keyboard and press the buttons at the same time. I seem fine playing with two actions but three tends to flummox me. As a result, I have the greatest admiration for accordion players. Other instruments I have totally avoided – due to thirty years of watching them crash at auction - include harmoniums and square pianos, the former being more suited to a Victorian parlour or a 19th century Bible class, the latter being pretty but generally economically irreparable! So if you are thinking of taking up an instrument, don’t always be taken in by a forlorn looking mandolin – only if it’s cheap!
N.B. There are always exceptions to the rule!