But the truth is a talented musician can make just about anything sound great.
This is no new insight on my part. An old poem credited to Myra Brooks Welch makes the point better than I ever could.
In “The Old Violin” Welch writes about a beat up fiddle up for auction that can’t get a bid of a dollar to two. But then an old man picks up the instrument, and after brushing off the dust and tuning the strings, plays a beautiful melody on it. Following that, the violin is sold for thousands of dollars.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Master’s Hand."
I was reminded of this poem when I saw my friend Ian Larrimore perform at an open mic recently. Ian is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter who can coax melodious music from the most unlikely of sources.
That night I heard Ian and his wife, Chieko, play on original song on brightly-colored Fisher Price xylophones. At the same time Ian was using a stick to bang out accompanying rhythms and chords on two open-tuned guitars lying nearby.
Ian has the vision to recognize the musical potential of discarded toys and instruments from thrift stores and yard sales. He installed a homemade audio pickup in a miniature guitar to give it a unique raspy sound that fits perfectly with another Ian-penned tune.
It’s a reminder to me that as much as I think a new guitar or effect will improve my sound, there’s a lot I can do with what I’ve already got with more practice and creativity.
After all, nothing can make as much difference as “The touch of the master’s hand.”