The first post: The Democratic Nature of the Guitar

Posted by Brian on 13th April 2010 in Guitar, The Instrument

I’ve subtitled this blog ‘Musings on “the most democratic of all instruments.”‘ In his book “Guitars: A Celebration of Pure Mojo”, David Schiller describes the guitar as “the most democratic of all instruments.” I’m here to second that opinion.

The guitar really is a remarkable musical instrument. It ranks among the greatest inventions ever – right up there with Lego and the bicycle. A simple instrument (who hasn’t, as a child, strung an elastic band over a Kleenex box and proceeded to bring down the house with an impromptu performance?), the design of the acoustic guitar has not changed substantially in over 150 years and its ancestors, which can be traced back for millenia, bear striking similarity to the modern instrument.

As for its democratic nature, most North Americans can procure a new, decent quality guitar for roughly a day’s wages, making it one of the most easily obtained musical instruments on the planet. And what an instrument! Within a few hours, almost anyone can learn their first three chords and, if they are willing to open their mouths and sing, perform their first song. At the same time, the person who meticulously studies the guitar for a lifetime will not ever find themselves reaching the limits of possibility for the instrument.

Like a piano, the guitar can be used to play melody, or accompaniment, or both; and among popular instruments, only the piano has a wider usable frequency range – and try carrying a piano on your back or throwing one in the trunk of your car. Also like a piano, the guitar is equally suited to both solo or ensemble performance – whether your desire is to quietly play a classical piece by yourself in your room or to strum along with a dozen or more fellow guitarists at the local jam, the guitar will suit your social mood or temperament.

One also has a difficult time coming up with a musical genre in which the guitar is not comfortably at home. Bluegrass, jazz, classical, rock and pop are all well suited to the guitar, so, chances are you can find something to play on your guitar that is to your particular taste – no matter how particular that taste might be.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of the instrument. And I hope that with this blog, I can ignite, or re-ignite, your enthusiasm for playing “the most democratic of all instruments”, the guitar. I don’t know how regularly I’ll be able to post, but check back now and again – you never know when something here might “strike a chord”.

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