The guy behind the counter said, ‘You might like to try this’, went out to the back room and came back with a 1943 Gibson priced at US$11,000. I have never played an acoustic worth that much but today I played quite a few of expensive guitars, and yes, they all do sound different and they feel different too. My absolute favourite was a 1971 Gibson Dove with an ebony neck at US$2,700. It rang out beautifully, had plenty of bass depth and the neck felt so natural in my hand – it was perfect. Next he gave me a new Gibson L65, the neck was flatter, made for a smaller hand or a learner, but so easy to play and it sounded big and full, a real modern acoustic guitar, and only US$1,000. I visited Old Town Music on Burnside Rd where I tried a few Martins, Guilds and Taylors from $1,500 to $3,000 but none really impressed. They had a 1976 Gibson L200 (pictured), the famous acoustic Pete Townsend of The Who plays, a big jumbo body with a great thumping sound that’s ideal for stage playing when there’s a band – but at US$2,700 there was something wrong with the neck – it was a bit twisted so the action was too high at the 12th fret. One of the best guitars in the shop, to my taste, was a vintage Yamaha F30 for just US$750. I didn’t buy a guitar but I did buy a mic I’ve always needed, too pricey in New Zealand, a SM58 with a switch for US$100, and they gave me a free T’shirt.
Next it was Centaur Guitars on NE Sandy Rd and some of the finest acoustics I’ve seen and played. There is no hard-sell in these shops, they don’t hover around you, they just let you play and play – but, there is one rule, whatever you do, and there are signs up – DO NOT SING.