Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Guitar Store Attitude - "What's a Five String Bass For?"

I don't think that there is any place on earth that is more full of unspoken dismissiveness and 'tude than a store that specializes in electric guitars.* The guys working there tend to be mad that their band isn't more famous, and as a result, the more they actually know about guitars, the more it makes them resent other people who play guitars. This might not apply to you, if you work at a guitar store and happen to be reading this. But I'm going to go ahead and bet that you know what I'm talking about. Anyway...

I don't go to guitar stores very often, but yesterday I went to a local independently-owned guitar shop with a friend of mine. He was buying guitar strings, and I picked up an acoustic and thought to myself "What can I play that these guys aren't totally sick of?" Then it hit me, the beginning of "Happy Days" by Jim O'Rourke. For those of you who don't know, it's just one note (the lowest note on a guitar), and then another note, an octave higher, back and forth, over and over again, played at a kind of dirge-like pace for about four minutes. It's quite a sinister sound, let me tell you. This guitar part is not hard to play. It's completely delusional to think that I was impressing anybody with this riff, except perhaps only if I was impressing them with my great taste. They probably hated it.

He got done buying the strings, and then I put the guitar down, and we went in the back of the shop to look at the electric guitars for sale. We got to the bass guitars, and just then the same guy that rang up my buddy for the guitar strings, he asks us if he can help us with anything, or maybe he asked if we had any questions about anything, because seemingly out of nowhere, this comes out of my mouth:

Me: What's a five-string bass for?
(the guy's like... Is this actually happening? Does this guy actually not know what the fifth string on a five-string does?)
Him: It has lower notes.
Me: How many?

He just looked at me like I was from another planet. I just looked at him. I tried as hard as I could to keep a straight face, and I held out for what felt like an eternity. Then I just laughed and said I was just playing. He looked really pissed. I don't think I will ever be able to go there again. Oh well.

Just in case you were wondering about the answer to my second question, the answer is five. There are five additional lower notes that you can play on a five-string that you can't get on a regular four-string bass. Dare I say it? - When you think of it that way, it kind of almost makes that fifth string seem not even really worth it.

*Except maybe the Apple Store.

1 comment:

rachel said...

I totally understand why people would go for that. After all, I just spent an extra 2 grand or so to get a bass clarinet with the bonus three low notes. That's like $666 per note. Doesn't really seem worth it, but then again those are the best three notes on the whole instrument!