Guitar Built For Baby Boy and Grown Man

Roc jams, 13 months old.

Roc jams, 13 months old.

I built an electric guitar for my son.

It wasn’t difficult –- it came in a kit and cost about $100. I spent another couple bucks on stain and sealant. Once I finished the body and shaped the headstock, it took less than an hour to put together, the only tools needed were a couple of screwdrivers.

I got the guitar kit shortly after my son was born, but I wasn’t motivated to assemble the instrument until recently, when I became aware of a terrible injustice among musicians, an injustice that has been prevalent for years, but about which I only recently took notice.

It started when a co-worker asked my advice on buying an electric guitar. He didn’t know how to play, but he wanted to learn on something good. He had a budget of $1,000. I told him he didn’t need to spend that much; he could buy a decent guitar for $200-$300.

Roc jams, 13 years old

Roc jams, 13 years old

“No, I want a good one,” he said.

“Okay,” I said. “If I was going to spend that much, I’d buy a vintage Strat or a Les Paul.”

“No. I want a new guitar.”

I wondered why he even asked my advice in the first place. Our company’s vice-president overheard our conversation and tossed in his two cents. He owns an early ‘70s Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, a classic guitar worth several thousand dollars.

“It’s sitting in a case in the back of my bedroom closet,” he said. “I haven’t touched it in years.”

A few days later, my co-worker bought a brand new Gibson SG. It’s a beautiful instrument, and he’s getting pretty good at rudimentary chords. But I wonder how long it will be before that instrument is sitting in the back of a bedroom closet, too.

I conveyed these thoughts to a friend, who teaches guitar in Westchester County, NY. The majority of his students are young teenagers toting $1,500 guitars bought by wealthy parents. Most of these instruments will undoubted end up stowed away in closets and stuffed under beds, unplayed. Meanwhile, my friend plays a Frankenstein Strat, pieced together from various Fender parts for a total of around $400.

The pattern of injustice became clear: The people who can play and appreciate a fine musical instrument can rarely afford one. Good, quality instruments are not priced for working musicians, the guy who earns a couple of hundred bucks playing bars and wedding bands on weekends, maybe another $75 during the week giving lessons. That guy can barely afford toilet paper. The musician who already has a record deal and sold a few albums probably has an endorsement deal, too, and gets his instruments for free. Meanwhile, a vintage 1970 Gibson Les Paul sits in the back of a closet, a forgotten memento of some CEO’s youthful folly, its strings silenced, its shiny Goldtop shut away in darkness. It’s not fair.

That’s when I decided to build Rocco a guitar of his own. If it gets relegated to the back of a closet so be it. It’ll still always have his name on it, still be a one-of-a-kind instrument made just for him.

And if he actually does take an interest in playing his guitar, we can swap in better parts, or upgrade to a new instrument all together.

Sure, Rocco’s only 16 months old and hasn’t even mastered holding a spoon yet. But he’ll grow into it. Someday, a decade or two down the road, he’ll develop the finger dexterity needed to tackle the subtle variations of a G chord. His guitar will be ready when he is.

-30-

 

Autism+Music=BuddyClub

Rocco and I have a band called Buddy Club. Check out our tunes on Soundcloud below!

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