Friday, August 3, 2012

Flying with a Guitar

Norman Lebrecht has a post up about the difficulties violinists have getting their instruments on airplanes. Traveling with a guitar is even more difficult. Decades ago it was pretty easy to smuggle a guitar on an airplane. The standard classical guitar case fits with a little care into the overhead luggage bins. Back in the 70s and even 80s I would just carry my guitar slung unobtrusively over my shoulder and rarely had a problem. Of course airline personnel, if they caught you, would lie shamelessly that the instrument would not fit. A few times I had to, with great apprehension, check my instrument. Once I flew on Iberia with the case wedged uncomfortably between my legs. Since I gave up my touring career I haven't tried to smuggle a guitar on board and I am pretty sure that now it would be impossible. I note in the post I linked to that violinists, with their much smaller cases, easily accommodated in an overhead, are encountering the same arrogance and barefaced lies that I used to. I think I hate this kind of attitude and behaviour even more than I hate the dangers of exposing my instrument to baggage-handlers. My solution is to avoid air travel! At least with an instrument.

So the next time you attend a concert, give a thought to the difficulties the artist may have had just traveling with their instrument...

UPDATE: Another little bit of guitar lore. You might notice a couple of times in the above clip that the artist, David Russell, seems to scratch his forehead with his right hand just before starting to play. Other guitarists you will see rub their nose, always with the right hand. What they are actually doing is rubbing the fingernails across the forehead or side of the nose to pick up the oils that naturally are present. This makes the passage of the nail across the string smoother and more liquid. The natural oils act as a lubricant. Some guitarists go even further and store a small amount of vaseline in the corner where the neck meets the body. You will see them rubbing the nails there before playing. It's all for the tone!

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