Zia Hassan

The Magic Of An Old Guitar

A friend of mine came over recently and was playing some of my guitars (I have 8 of them).

He picked up a vintage acoustic, one from the 70s that I had picked up used on eBay a few years ago, and examined it closely.

“Ew! The neck of this guitar is covered in dead skin cells. Want me to try to clean this off for you?”

I had noticed that the neck was a bit gross looking, but hadn’t realized that what I was looking at was literally the skin cells of the player(s) who used this guitar before me.

Gross. And yet…

There’s something special about an instrument that has been previously owned and played, particularly a guitar.

The guitar has been a conduit for so many stories. So many emotions that couldn’t be expressed in mere words or with a simple memo. So many characters and settings. So much frustration, joy, and wonder have vibrated through its spruce top.

And all those stories, like pieces of fruit in a juicer, leave marks behind. Residue of life, stories, music, soul. Units of residue. Cells.

When I pick up the guitar, my palms rub against that rough coating on the back of the neck (though my friend did try to clean it).

And I hear the essence of those stories, of those melodies. I hear the essence of all the heartbreak and repair and curiosity and joy that went into someone’s art.

And I’m inspired.

So now when I play my modern guitars, I press a little harder with my palms on the back of the neck.

To pay it forward to the next owner, years from now, trying to bare their soul through wood and steel.