The joy of playing guitar outside
There’s something great about playing guitar outside, and you don’t miss it until it’s too cold to do it. Unfortunately this is something I’ve only recently discovered in the past few years. I was always afraid of being viewed as “that guy” who brings a guitar with him to a bonfire and insists on fumbling his way through Wonderwall or Wagon Wheel.
While living in Driggs, Idaho I started to play on the front porch after work. I think, as cliche as it sounds, playing in with a mountain view was a bit more inspiring. When I first arrived in Teton Valley I had a cheap, beat up brown Squire Stratacoustic that sounded literally like a plastic box with strings. It was a guitar I purchased from a friend for $100 in Highschool and from there it survived college dorm life. Not only did it lack a warm, embracing sound, it was god awful to play. After dragging it across the country, I got the bug to sell/trade it to purchase an Ovation. I listed it on Facebook Marketplace and a few hours later I received a message from a guy with an Ovation Celebrity in Jackson Hole that said he would trade straight up. We met at the top of the Teton Pass that evening and made the switch. I was absolutely stoked. I snapped a photo of the new guitar to send my dad and headed back down to Driggs.
My dad accidentally started a tradition when my sister and I were born where he would buy a guitar each time he had a child. He is a huge Jimmy Page fan, and is the one that introduced me to Zeppelin at a very young age. When I was born he bought an all black Les Paul Custom, like Jimmy would play in studio. My sister was born in 1995, right after Jimmy Page & Robert Plant wrapped up their unplugged No Quarter tour. Jimmy was playing a black Ovation Celebrity Deluxe on this tour, so guess which guitar he went out and bought next…
I learned to play guitar from a combination of my dad and playing bass in Orchestra. Actually, the whole reason I joined Orchestra in 6th grade was because it was essentially free music theory & guitar lessons while dad was teaching me chords at home. Throughout the years I’ve owned a lot of different guitars myself. My most recent, current favorite, and the one I’ve played more than any other guitar I’ve owned has been my Martin DRS2. I decided to keep my dad’s tradition going just before Olin was born in by purchasing this guitar in February of 2017. For as long as I can remember I have wanted a Martin dreadnought, with a D28 being my dream guitar (it still is). After spending a few hours playing different Martin’s in my budget, the DRS2 was ultimately the one for me. Especially because this guitar is sustainable wood certified.
As I stated earlier, I’ve not only played this guitar more than any of my other guitars, but it’s found more time out of the house than any of my previous guitars. My favorite place to play, without any doubt, is in the mountains. Roan Mountain & Beauty Spot, both mountains that lie on the border between Tennessee & North Carolina. What makes these great places to play are their ease of accessibility and being surrounded by mountains. Playing outside for the sake of playing, not in front of people, not to get a pretty girl’s attention, not at a campfire, and not to get photos for Instagram, it’s just fun.
I decided to part with my Ovation after watching it collect dust in the months since I brought my Martin home. My dad had a Martin Backpacker that he won a number of years ago and I convinced him to trade my Ovation for it. Although the sound is a bit shallow, although somehow better than the old Stratacoustic, the best part about the Backpacker is its durability. This guitar has survived camping trips, being stuffed in the back of our Ford Escape between two dogs & a baby, and (unfortunately) may have fallen over in the closet a time or two. If you’ve ever played a Backpacker you’re immediately familiar with how awkward they are to play due to the narrow design. Where most guitars have a nice contour that pockets your leg, the Backpacker slips around like a fish out of water. For a mere $30 you can fix this problem with the Kraftboy Compadre, I recommend this to anyone that has a Backpacker, or is thinking about purchasing a Backpacker. It totally transforms it into an enjoyable to play guitar.
One of my biggest regrets is that in the two summers I lived in Driggs, I never took my guitar to the top of Grand Targhee to bask in Teton views. In fact, the thought never even crossed my mind. WTF, Right?
Over the past few months, I’ve been making it a habit to bring a guitar on our travels, and as more adventures start to unfold in 2018 they will definitely see more mountain time!