Different Strums (Issue 1138)

In which we are reminded that the methods that we use to sell one client may not be the right methods to use for another that looks just like them.

Danny’s shop is at the back of a 1950s-built wood-framed industrial building that, I’m guessing, was once the town maintenance facility office. His workspace is, maybe, 10’ wide by 20’ long. Well lit. Wood floored. Mid-chest height work bench on the left wall. Dust-covered woodworking machinery in the middle and against the far wall. Tagged, black acoustic guitar cases piled one on top of another here, leaning against a wall there, or snuggled up against machines. He repairs guitars and banjos.

I put my guitar case down and stood in the open doorway for a moment, taking it all in. “Hi, Danny. I’m Nick, here for my 11:30 appointment.”

“How can I help?”, he replied. I would guess Danny is about 60 years old, tall, tightly trimmed beard, glasses, slightly stooped in the shoulders, warm smile.

Pointing to my guitar case, I said, “I bought this hollow-body electric guitar. It’s my first electric guitar. The shop from which I bought it said they set it up right. It doesn’t feel right to me. I can hear a buzz when I play certain chords and when I hammer on the D string and G string at the first fret and at different points up the neck.”

“Show me,” he said. I pulled out the guitar, sat down on a stool, and played for a bit.

“Do you hear it?”, I asked.

“Yes,” he said, taking the instrument from me. He looked the length of the guitar neck, measured the string heights, made some adjustments, and handed the guitar back to me. “Try that.”

It felt better to play but I could still hear a little bit of a buzz. For 20 minutes, we tried different strategies. Nothing worked.

He studied the guitar for a moment. “Plug it in,” he suggested, handing me a cable to a nearby amplifier.

“Play”, he said. I played for about a  minute. Chords and scales up and down the neck. He stood about three feet in front of me, watching.

“Can you hear the buzz now?”, he asked.


“Nick,” he said. “Two things. First, many electric guitars buzz or rattle a little when you play them without an amplifier. They’re just built that way. Yours is fine. Second, you’re playing this hollow body electric guitar the same way you’d play one of your acoustic guitars. Yes, it looks sort of the same – a big body like your acoustic guitars and you can hear it when it’s not plugged into an amp. But… electric  guitars and acoustic guitars are completely different instruments. Completely different. So, even for the same piece of music, you need to approach them differently. And, if you want more volume, you just turn up the knobs.”

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more

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