Posted by: Brad Nixon | January 27, 2010


Pianists for the most part do not have the bug. Nor do organists. Granted, there are purely physical limitations. I’m talking about collecting: collecting musical instruments. There’s only so much space, after all, and there’s cost. One CAN buy a piano for the same price as a guitar, but it’s probably not going to be a very good piano, and you wouldn’t want more than one at that price. Most musicians probably have more than one instrument, and many professionals have to own more than one. Yo-Yo Ma probably doesn’t take his Strad out of the case every time he runs through a few scales, so he probably has a spare cello, but I will bet that he hasn’t had to add a room to his house to accommodate twenty or 50 or 100 celli. Trumpet players have to have not only the B-flat cornet but a cute little E-flat one, too, and maybe a flugelhorn. Saxophonists, unless they’re really, really focused on one mode might have at least a tenor and an alto. But there’s something about guitar players that turns not just a few of them but thousands — tens of thousands — into maniacal collectors.

Trumpet players, sax players and clarinettists have instruments that are more compact and easier to store than guitars. Heck, think of piccolo players; they could have several hundred instruments in one closet! Nope, not the same thing. Guitar players obsess to extraordinary levels about adding that 1967 model to fill in the gap between the models from 1954-1966 and those from 1968 to the present they already have or finding that rare 1984 flame-red model with the white pickguard to go along with the ones they already have in white, blue, sunburst and curly maple finishes. There are an endless number of devious paths that can lead into this dark forest of obsession. One can have a “horizontal” focus, aiming to collect as many axes as possible from one manufacturer or one year. Even more dangerous, one may be cursed with the desire to achieve what’s called “vertical integration” in industrial circles, like General Electric or Tyco: aim to own one each every TYPE of guitar: 6- and 12-string acoustics in many body styles (orchestra, dreadnought, jumbo, etc.); six-string electrics; 12-string electrics; DOUBLE-NECKED electrics! One might get infected by the celebrity musician-model virus and start collecting the Slash and Tom Petty and Edge and Yngwie Malmsteen models from various manufacturers. (If you are tempted by the Suzanne Vega Rickenbacker model, you may wish to seek professional help.)

As just one example from a well-known but relatively small manufacturer, take a look at this page of the models currently offered by Rickenbacker, down in Santa Ana, California. All those models on that page are available in various colors and other details, and those are just the current lineup, and don’t include the decades of previous models they’ve manufactured.

Guitars are available everywhere: not just music stores, large and mega, but pawn shops, department stores like Target and Best Buy, and in vast numbers online. You can bid for them on Ebay, find them on Craigslist or scout the Internet where there must be ten thousand Web sites dedicated to buying and selling guitars. Try it. If you’re not familiar with this mania, try typing “guitar collecting” or anything like that into your search engine. Staggering.

I didn’t even list all the types of acoustic and electric bass guitars, tenor guitars and … well, perhaps you, yourself are also starting to feel that jumpy, nervous little twitch of a hankering, too.

That means it’s time to run through the Blaknissan Guitar Acquisition Modification Exercise (B-GAME). The B-GAME runs through a carefully engineered series of escalating questions designed by psychologists meant to focus the decision-making portions of the guitar collector’s brain in order to reach a reasonable conclusion.

Go to a room in your house that does not have any guitars. Close your eyes. Ask yourself these questions: “How many guitars can I actually store in my house without throwing away food or clothing?” “How many guitars can I actually play for an hour apiece in the course of a week?” (There’s an exercise with this one: visualize getting the guitar out, taking it out of the case, practicing for an hour, putting it away, repeating with another guitar.) “What is my bank balance?” “Can I sell one existing guitar or trade it in order to buy a new one?”

If you still feel that accelerated pulse rate, you must ask the final question: “What will my (wife/husband/parents/girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.) say when I bring home another guitar, and how will I respond?”

I provide this exercise as a public service, and give permission to all readers to distribute it to any afflicted individuals you know. It is most effective when administered by a certified counselor at a reputable clinic such as the Steven Stills Guitar Disengagement Center (Stills is a notorious collector), but can also be self-administered.

If we all work together, we can lift this unfortunate burden from many of the afflicted.


  1. It all sounds so familiar! Kirk loved it, too.


    • Better send this to my brother(this is him during a gig:
      He just got a new apartment and when we were moving him, we moved about 10 guitars and 2 cellos. And a few amps as well. He is the kind you describe in the blog.
      And he is always trying to tweak that sound, which he will always crave for.
      When his girlfriend saw them coming in I could not help but notice her face. lol.


      • Clearly a man with a cello-collecting problem.


  2. Brad,
    I think this column will certainly strike a chord with a lot of folks. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist)


    • Be careful, Sister of mine. As a professional keyboard player with BOTH a piano and an organ in your living room, you, too may be a victim!


      • Erm Brad?
        Not to be rude or anything, But, how many harps(harmonicas) do you exactly own?


      • Well, uh, I don’t know EXACTLY. Maybe 15. Maybe 20. But I NEED those.


      • Oh yeah, I forgot something about earning your keep in Shanghai. And of course we need to blow them from their feet again in June. So I guess you’re right.


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