From dreaming of another time with a 1977 throwback, to learning how to jam together in realtime through the internet, Acoustic Guitar‘s top 8 stories of 2020 offer a reflection of the year that was. The guitar Bob Dylan couldn’t have from our Anniversary Guitar Auction made the list, as did an updated guide to parlor guitars. A lesson, a gear question, and instrument innovation also made the list.
1. Throwback Thursday: Linda Ronstadt Sings ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ in 1977
Those of us of a certain age fondly remember Linda Ronstadt’s incredible rise during the mid-1970s, when she made hit album after hit album and could seemingly do no wrong. This video features Ronstadt in 1977 singing a version of the old Buddy Holly ballad “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” written for Holly by Paul Anka in 1958. Ronstadt recorded it on what turned out to be her commercial breakthrough, album, Heart Like a Wheel.
2. Bob Dylan Couldn’t Have It. But You Can.
Earlier this year, to celebrate our 30th anniversary we hosted an auction of custom guitars made for our 10th Anniversary. The “photonegative” Martin HD-28V was one of them. When Bob Dylan saw a photo of the guitar in our December 2000 issue and requested one from Martin via his guitar tech, Tom Morrongiello, he was politely, reluctantly, but firmly turned down—despite being the owner and player of numerous Martin guitars throughout his incredible career. Dylan ended up getting a similar guitar made by Martin after the release of Love & Theft in 2001, and a limited edition of 135 photonegative instruments styled “HDN” debuted soon after in July 2002. But the original went to one lucky bidder in our May auction.
3. Taylor Guitars Discovers a New Sustainable Tonewood in Its Own Backyard
Taylor’s latest idea just might change the way you look at the trees right on your block. The company’s Builder’s Edition 324ce is made from urban ash supplied by West Coast Arborists, who cut roadside trees throughout California and Arizona. Besides being plentiful, urban ash—also known as Shamel or evergreen ash—sounds great as a tonewood and is a joy to work with. It’s an auspicious beginning for Taylor’s vision of a world in which future generations of luthiers source their wood directly from city streets and backyards.
4. What’s the Difference Between Long-Scale and Short-Scale Guitars?
There are several differences, but a main one is scale length can have a significant effect on playability. All factors being equal (string gauge, string length beyond the nut and saddle, break angles, and so on), shorter scales produce lower string tension, are more elastic, easier to fret, and require less arm extension. On the downside, a shorter, slacker string travels further when plucked or strummed and is more prone to buzzing and fret rattling when played at higher dynamic levels.
5. Am I Too Old to Learn Guitar?
Short answer: No. Of course our age and stage of life does significantly affect the learning process, but we all live and learn according to our own schedules. The simplest answer is that we are ready to take up the guitar when we are ready to take up the guitar—when we have the desire, the energy, and the time.
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6. How to Fingerpick the Blues Like Mississippi John Hurt: The Alternating-Bass Pattern
Listening to players like Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, and John Fahey will get your ear accustomed to fingerpicking blues. In this lesson, you’ll apply the techniques they’re known for to a 12-bar blues, but you can also use them to play ragtime, early jazz, and folk.
7. Virtual Jamming: The Latest Tools for Playing Together in Real Time
Most of us have discovered ways to connect with friends and family using audio and video conferencing systems like Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and many others, so it’s natural to think that we could use these to play music as well. There are three basic obstacles to using these programs for music, and we tackle those challenges and ways to overcome them.
8. Parlor Guitars: A Brief History and a 2020 Buyer’s Guide
Parlor guitars are finding renewed interest among a broad spectrum of players, both professionals and those looking for small, lightweight instruments to take to beach parties or campfire singalongs. The growing list of other companies that have added parlor guitars to their product lines—including well-crafted instruments at affordable prices—is a testament to the popularity of this model. In this article we present a guide to parlor guitars, originally published in print in 2015, with an updated buyer’s guide for 2020.