One of the problems with having a guitar is it sometimes seems that everyone and his dog plays one. There is very little room for individuality.
There is also a great deal of rivalry between guitar players (especially, though not exclusively, men), who are constantly trying to out-play any other guitarists within earshot.
When I moved from playing the guitar to the mandolin as my primary instrument, it removed me from this testosterone driven chest thumping and allowed me to play in folk-sessions at pubs without having to fight for dominance. I could simply enjoy joining in and playing the music.
Unfortunately, mandolins are a bit more popular in this region of Scotland and not long after moving here I found myself back in the heat of competition. At one point I was in a pub where there were no less than 5 other mandolin players.
However, shortly after this incident, I got talking to a guy who fixed guitars in his spare time and he agreed to look at a bouzouki Maggie had bought me many years before. I had never really used it because of problems with the bridge, which meant it went out of tune as I went further up the neck. He created a new bridge for it and lo and behold, it became playable.
Soon I was taking the bouzouki along to folk sessions and was once again allowed to just get on with playing without having to worry about needing to turn it up to 11.
But it’s not been without its difficulties – the biggest by far being the fact my bouzouki was a Greek-style one, which meant it had a round back.
A round back does create a rich sound, but unless you have a concave stomach with velcro attachments, it has habit of sliding round and ending up flat on your lap – which is a much harder position to play from. Over the years I have devised near-yoga positions with my legs to find ways of clamping it to my body in order to avoid this problem.
Additionally, I never did sort out a way to fix the new bridge firmly, so it only stayed in place because of the pressure of the strings running over it. This meant if I strummed a bit too hard for a bit too long, it had a habit of suddenly swivelling round, which would instantly change the tuning and make it impossible to play.
Last year, on a brief and rare weekend away Maggie and I managed to get, we called in en-route to Omega Music in Brampton, where I had a go on an Irish-style, flat back bouzouki. Flat backs I’ve tried before have tended to sound a bit, well, flat; lacking the deeper resonance the round back usually gives. However, I was rather impressed with this one, although at the time a new bouzouki was so far down the priority list I didn’t hesitate to hang it back on the wall and leave the shop.
But since then it’s been calling me.
Each time the bridge has unexpectedly swivelled round, or the bouzouki slid off my belly to end up on my lap, staring up at me with a resigned sigh, I found myself thinking about the rich-sounding flat back bouzouki I’d seen last year.
Then, in January, I decided to look at the Google Ads account I have attached to my blogs. Those ads attached to my posts (not seen if you are reading this via your RSS feed, or imported into Facebook) earn me a penny, sometimes 2, when they are clicked on. Although put in place well over 5 years ago, I rarely ever check the account as it’s always been a bit depressing when I do. If I was really lucky, I might have earned $2 in a month, but it was usually less.
What I had forgotten was about 18 months ago, my sudden appearance in Blogs of Note sent a phenomenal amount of traffic to this blog for a few weeks, and a percentage of them clicked on the ads.
Anyway, the upshot of this is, when I did decide to check my Google Ads account I found over £250 sitting in there. I spent the next 2 days trying to figure out how to transfer this money to my bank account.
Although it didn’t cover the complete amount, Maggie was quite certain it should be put towards a new bouzouki for me. So this weekend, when we managed to get another rare and brief weekend away on our own, we called in at Omega Music and bought it.
I’m over the moon.