Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Choices, Decisions, and Service...

Okay, it's time to admit something - when I'm leading worship, I sometimes forget that I have these pieces of steel and bronze underneath my hands that are measured in decimal points of thickness.  I just kind-of get a little happy, and start hammering away on a sliver of metal that (with a different consistency) would be used for sewing tiny stitches.  Hi, my name is Adam, and I'm a Heavy-Handed Guitar Player.  I have a tendency to lose focus on playing while I play AND sing, and my guitar tends to pay the price.

A guitar for me has always been a tool.  I'm just not the kind of guy who longs to have 'that' guitar because of the particular wood its made of, or how nice it fits, or anything else like that.  I've only recently in my life realized the importance of 'the action', or how different woods and body style cause different intonations.  I've not been real particular about the tool, just the way it works.  I am particular about some tools - my hammer, for instance.  I don't like a fiberglass handle, and I don't like a light-weight hammer, either.  A metal shaft with the right amount of rubber grip, 16oz head... and I've been using this same hammer for 8 years.  I've never had to change grips or heads, or anything else.  (Yes, dear reader, I build things sometime too.)

Over the last six weeks, I've had to change strings on my guitar five times.  I took it in 3 weeks ago and had it serviced by someone I trust.  It just doesn't seem to be able to keep a set of strings on it... so this week I went searching for a new guitar.  And I learned something about Choices, Decisions, and Service in the process.

First, choices.  Once upon a time, there was Martin, Taylor, Yamaha, and Cheap (with someone else's brand on it).  Now, everyone and their brother has a guitar out.  Brands that I've never heard of before, but very nice.  McPherson is one that I'll check out later in life (low-end guitars in that line are $3000), and I'll have it built-to-order with just the right wood, and just the right pickups, and just the right action...and then I'll probably keep it in a glass case, 'cause I won't want to play it.

Seriously, there are so many, many brands of guitar out there, how can you choose?  You can't order one of each, and play them all!  What you CAN do is the reason this falls into the domain of the Worship Geek - look it up online.

One of the things I've learned over the years can be summed up like this - if someone has a good experience with an item or store, they will tell a few close friends.  If someone has a bad experience, they will stop strangers on the street to tell them.  And so it is with reviews online.  Take them with a grain of salt - if someone has a bad experience, they get online and review the item with a rant ("this is the biggest piece of junk, and you're a loser if you buy it").  If someone has a good experience, though, and they take the time to write about it, then you know it's really good -or they're getting paid!

The best review collection I've found is at one place - Amazon.  They sell more types of items than anyone except eBay, and there's a place for reviews on all of them.  So, when you begin to choose, read reviews, and take them 'with a grain of salt'.

Now, for a guitar, the only way to make a real decision is to play it.  It deserves travel time, and some extra ears.  So for my journey, I took the most honest people I know - my kids.  They will say stuff like 'that one sounds good' or 'that one's ugly' or 'that one sounds awful, daddy!'

Thankfully, there is a store near me that allows me to play many different guitars, and see for myself.  So off we went to Tallahassee and Guitar Center to make a decision.  A decision crafted by the feel and sound, weighted with the listening of extra ears, and balanced by the reading of online reviews.  But...I found that because of the kind of service this place has, my decision doesn't have to be the final one!

I came home with a great guitar.  It sounds pretty good acoustically, and at the writing of this, I haven't plugged it in to the system in the worship center to see how it is there.  I have a rehearsal tonight that will let me get a chance at a work-out on it.  Thanks to great customer service, if I get in there and don't like the sound, I can bring it back, and trade for another one.  Now, try doing that at your local car dealer, or appliance store!  I've heard of very few appliance stores that take back a unit because someone didn't like it, and I've NEVER heard of a car dealership that would take a car or truck back because someone didn't like it!  But Guitar Center (insert shameless plug here) tells me if I don't absolutely love this guitar, they'll take it back and let me choose another to try. Cool, huh?!?

So, dear reader, Choices, Decisions, Service.  What does that teach anyone else?  Well, hopefully, from my experience, you will have learned -
1. Find what you need (tech, instrument, music, etc), and begin to narrow your choices based on the response of the marketplace.  Capitalism is alive and well, and running headlong into the future on the Internet.
2. Make a decision based on personal experience and trusted voices, trying out a few of the things you've narrowed your choices to.
3. Find a place with great service to purchase from.  There is no substitute for service, but there aren't many places that provide it these days.  Find one, and stick with them.  I've found a few, and they always get my business AND my recommendation.

Until next time...

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