Steve Dix...Comedian?

Raptus Regaliter

A prime example of it all going pear-shaped.

29.10.2005 10:06 - Every Guitar Should Carry A Government Health Warning

I have decided, not content with the reduction of my life to tatters by the six-stringed tools of the devil, to inflict the curse upon a member of my family.

To whit : I have bought a guitar for my niece, who is six years old. She's just about the right age to take up the guitar. This is the starting point : in about three years time we can progress to one of the small electrics, and she can then proceed to drive her mum (my sister) insane, in revenge for all the years of her blowing her recorder loudly and tunelessly when we were kids. Then we can move on to dying her hair and wearing a black tutu, Doc Martens, and enough mascara to make her look like a panda, and going out with long streaks of piss who think that two power chords, a leather jacket, a bad haircut and a cheap tranny amp qualify them to pronounce judgement on the world from their lofty position. Fans of "Tokio Hotel"[1] may realise what I'm talking about. Doubtless I will get hatemail in the comments.[2]

The guitar I've bought her is quite a nice little acoustic guitar for the price (35 Euro) : 1/2 size, fairly well-made, nice matt finish, and comes complete with tuning pipes, extra (crap chinese) nylon strings, a carry-bag and a strap. It even manages to hold its tuning - no mean feat for a 1/2 scale guitar. The frets are well-finished, and the action seems OK, if ultimately a little high, but why should she have it all her own way, eh? It's better than the guitar I started out on.

The guitar I started out on was a third-hand nylon acoustic. It came in a cardboard coffin, with "Jimi Hendrix started here too!" written on it. Unfortunately no further documentation of Mr. Hendrix's association with the guitar could be found, otherwise I'd have been off down Sotheby's like a flash.

Like most cheap nylon acoustics, this one was, as I later found out, unbelievably shite. Unlike the one I bought my niece, which has a decent combined bridge/string anchor, this heap featured a floating bridge, carefully designed to impart bugger-all vibration to the top of the acoustic guitar, making it produce a sound that can only be approximated by the word "thurp". (A closer approximation would be the sound that a staffordshire bull terrier makes when it's eaten too much chicken and gets the runs.) I would gently strum it (the guitar, not the staffy) : "thurp thurp" it would go. I would attempt the lead line from The Rolling Stone's "Satisfaction". "Thurp thurp, th-th-thurp tha-thurp thurp" went the guitar. Not tunefully, either.

The floating bridge lived up to its name : it floated. Hit the strings too hard, and it would move, destroying any chance of getting the thing in correct tune. Don't even ask about intonation. I SWEAR that bloody bridge would move forwards and backwards as it saw fit. It was possibly the inspiration for the Fender Jaguar tremelo. It did not help that the guitar had an action on it which made it not so much of a guitar, more a banana.

I couldn't play barre chords on it.

You read that right. I couldn't play barre chords on a NYLON-strung guitar.

To this day, that poxy guitar has influenced my playing. I still don't play many full-barres, preferring to play small-barre chords. Now, I'm able to play barre-chords, even on a 12-string, and I'd like to be able to compare the action on that guitar, but the truth is, I gave it away. A friend turned me on to the fact that she could get me a staff discount on a steel-strung Höhner Leylanda acoustic at Argos. Terrible as it may sound, the Leylanda was an infinitely better guitar than the nylon, and it was my only acoustic for nigh on two decades, until I got my Hoyer.

[2] Be warned. Your comments will be marked out of 10 for lack of grammar, use of irrelevant pimply vernacular and hyperbole, roundly ridiculed for misunderstood Americanisms and then sent to your English Teacher at the Realschule.

[1] "Tokio Hotel" : A pimply-faced bunch of angst-ridden teen haircuts currently doing the rounds in Germany. Sort of 3rd-rate teenage Nirvana copyists. Oh, and as for the mascara - so Rad, dude. It's not as if your dad wasn't doing it in the seventies.

Copyright © 2003-2011 Steve Dix