Since my new video went up online, I've been getting the occasional criticism from guitarists for mistreating Wilma (my lovely, faithful handmade Lowden guitar). "Look at the state of her!" they cry. "That's a cruel thing to do to a beautiful instrument!" they wail.
It makes me sad. :(
Why? Well, I love my guitar. Anyone who's seen me play will see that I clean her immediately after every gig. If I'm playing two sets, she gets cleaned during the interval too. I lookafter her to the point of obsession, and she might look worn but I've played over 1,000 gigs with her and she's still the only guitar I take on the road. That's right - I don't take a spare. "What happens if you break a string?" I can hear you asking in my head. Not sure how you got in my head. But anyway - I have never broken a string on a gig. Well, once in Rome but we were both tired.
The damage on my guitar is caused almost exclusively by scratching the top, often with a pick (Jon Gomm signature picks, available in the store!). The same is true with Tommy Emmanuel's famous beat-up Maton (and that's cedar topped too, as I recall, so it's even softer!) Your guitar won't get that scrapheap look from normal drumming techniques.
If you are trying out percussion on the guitar - which I HUGELY recommend if you enjoy fun - the only way you'll damage it is if you do it badly, just like any other technique.
1) Don't drum with your nails, especially acrylic or plastic nails.
2) Don't use your knuckles - but that's at least 50% to avoid hurting yourself!
3) Don't do it hard - the percussion sounds are naturally far louder than the regular notes, so if you do it hard you'll be all out of balance, volume wise.
4) Don't do it directly above/below the soundhole (this depends on the bracing pattern of your guitar. If it's a Takamine, for example, you WILL crack it there).
The better your guitar is, the better the percussion sounds you will achieve. Hitting a $100 Fender acoustic will sound like slapping drywall. Hitting a £2,000 Lowden, or a £20,000 Michael Greenfield guitar sounds mellow and warm, like a tom tom played with a soft mallet.
DISCLAIMER: If in doubt - chicken out! Don't send me the repair bill, anyway....
Thanks for reading,