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Notes from the Field

Bragging Rights

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There is a syndrome, in my experience much more common among some guitar players, where bragging rights accrue to getting the absolute cheapest most beat up instrument possible. I think it has to do with resolving the cognitive dissonance of playing blues, down and dirty blues, on a guitar costing a couple months pay, or more, at a good job. Authenticity, or something like. But whatever the reason, a fellow carrying a guitar that looks like it was found in the men's room of the New York City Port Authority Bus Terminal, with jute chord for a strap, with no case at all, is not an uncommon site.

For others bragging rights go to the high end instrument of stratospheric quality. And price. Pride of ownership, sure, and perhaps taking a wee bit of satisfaction in the jealousy that may be generated in other mandolin players at the jam. Not even a little bit of satisfaction?

There is third category however, where bragging rights go to how much money you saved. This, to me is perhaps the most irritating. You hear:

  • "Yea its a Shmergal Devastator II, but I only paid $470 for it."
  • "I only paid $100 for this entry level mandolin shaped object, but I set it up and it sounds every bit as good as the high end Shmergal. Proving, by the way, that the Shmergal reputation is all hype."

It seems to be a pride in how much one got away with, or how shrewd one is in finding or making deals, or not being taken in by the hype. What you pay, in this case, is not nearly as important as what you might have spent, but cleverly did not.

It is easy to get getting caught up in this kind of thing. At least I find it easy. I find it difficult to avoid feeling like gutter sludge when someone so brags (oh so subtly), and yes, it is also difficult to avoid doing some bragging myself.

So here is an idea. Once you have purchased what you want, for whatever reasons you want, spending as much as you can justify on as nice as you can appreciate: get on to playing the potatoes out of it. Don't dwell on what you might have could have spent, or what deals you missed. Stop shopping. Get to playing.

And if the urge to brag comes upon you, or you find yourself feeling bad or jealous due to someone else's bragging, try this: Enjoy your mandolin ownership more than the next person. Brag about the transcendent moments you have had, eternal moments where time cannot be measured in minutes, where you nailed that riff, or discovered another way to play that chord; or played in that jam and were on fire and everyone looked to you, leaned on you, to keep the energy going. Brag about how it feels. Brag about the absolute kick you get playing, or holding, or just looking at your mandolin; seeing it in your hands. The fun of coming back to the mandolin after a dry and dusty day at work. Brag about the surprising moments of awe and joy when you casually see your instrument hanging on the wall, a powerful reminder that you are more than your boss thinks of you. Brag about the aching beauty you are trying to achieve with the music, which overwhelms you when you can achieve any little piece of it.

Well, bragging out loud about this is kind of weird, mostly because the joy is its own reward. But… maybe a little swagger is appropriate, the secret knowledge inside you that a reservoir of transcendent joy, the remedy to life’s bruises, is right over there, in that odd shaped case, available whenever you want it. With that mandolin over there, you can walk into life and say, “bring it on, ##&@#$#, I have the knowledge and the tools and the ability to be happy, and none of you all can touch it.

This is quite possible, regardless of how much, or little you spend, it is more an attitude and openness to the joy, letting the mandolin make you happy. Also, it has nothing whatever to do with whatever mandolin someone else has, or how much they spent, or managed not to have to spend. I myself have maybe too often spent more than I needed to, in order to achieve this. But I never would rather have the money back.

Let the mandolin make you happy. Everything else will fall into place.

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Updated Mar-05-2018 at 9:34pm by JeffD



  1. Bill McCall's Avatar
    Yes, it is a choice. Choose carefully grasshopper.

  2. William Smith's Avatar
    Great Post!
  3. Jim Garber's Avatar
    Well, that is all well and good. I agree the whole point is that we acquire these to play. Does this include merely posting on MC when one acquires a new mandolin? I seem to recall a few of those postings that you have made. Granted I never heard you brag about getting the bargain of the decade but why deny anyone the joy of New Mandolin Day? I think these forums we frequent would be a lot emptier if we eliminated those posts. In fact why show up here at all except for advice on what to buy or how to play?

    It is not an either/or IMHO, more like some of each. And I actually don't really recall many posts here at all of someone bragging about the bargain they got.

    But I do agree about your comment about potatoes and mandolins. Always!
  4. JeffD's Avatar
    I am sure I suffer a bit unnecessarily from an over active jealous reaction. Probably some deep seated insecurity that would send a therapist's children to college.
  5. JeffD's Avatar
    The most wonderful New Mandolin Day ever, with what has to be no detectable bragging or self satisfaction and the most amount of naked joy, has to be Mr. Rod Neep.

    Here is a master class in enjoying the moment and letting the mandolin make you happy. I don't feel like I want that mandolin, as much as I want to be that overwhelmed with joy.
  6. lflngpicker's Avatar
    Hey Jeff! This is something I get. You talk, er, uh, write about things that I think about a great deal myself. There is something to be said for the "find" and then there is the employment of the instrument in seeking enjoyment. And fulfillment. We must seek above the name on the headstock and the value, as you have said, the playing itself for the joy it brings ourselves and possibly others. I think that the guitar bought at a great price, say two days' wages, and in turn played well, is a higher call than the expensive guitar charged on the card and held as it suffocates in the case. I love the well-played, hard earned Pac-Rim built Epiphone over the USA made Gibson for a bluesman who has something to sing and play about. I appreciate your point. Great writing, man!