Instrumental Inheritance

March 26th, 2011

My better half is a song-writer of some note, and still performs regularly. Recently, he’s been hunting for a new instrument. Not to imply any lack of affection for his old guitar — a beautiful Guild with holes worn into the face from strumming (Willie’s not the only one). But he wanted something a little smaller, lighter, less imposing. It took a while, but he finally met his match with a Blueridge Parlor Guitar. What a sweet, mellow tone it has! And though the sound of the parlor guitar could fill a symphony hall, it’s nearly a third smaller than his dreadnought.

Before reaching his current bliss however, we tried out a few other instruments along the way. Instruments which I now seem to have inherited…


First, there was this autoharp. Invented in the 1880s (I think), the autoharp offers an easy way for anyone to accompany themselves without learning to finger chords. But it’s another thing to really play the autoharp well. It can be finger-picked in any style, or, with a little cleverness, can play both melody and accompaniment simultaneously.


Next, he tried a ukulele. This traditional Hawai’ian instrument was invented by a Portuguese immigrant to Hawai’i in the late 19th century. It became popular in America shortly before World War I. With only four strings, the ukulele is not terribly versatile, but it is light as a feather, and very easy to play.


Finally, he admitted that what he really wanted was a smaller guitar. So he rushed out to the best guitar store in New York City, Carmine Street Guitars, where he saw the Blueridge parlor for the first time. But still,  he hesitated. And while he was teetering on the brink, he picked up this Taylor “Baby.”

It’s an adorable little thing — steel strings, but a very light, compact body. And the fret board is quite narrow, so it fits my hand well. I’m just a bit too small to feel comfortable playing a full-sized guitar. And for someone who can barely change chords without looking, it’s a very nice instrument.

Of course, my real love remains my cello — a far better instrument than I deserve, now going on 15 years old, with a tone that gets richer every year. But, as they say, when life gives you stringed instruments, make lemonade.