Letters to the Editor

Dear Ed,

I write to make a case against the two-guitar duo, that ubiquitous musical bore that infests our coffeehouses, pizza parlors and other night spots. Or, to put the matter in a positive light, I will argue for the value of musical duets that feature a variety of instruments.

I understand some of the reasons many pop and folk singers take the two-guitar approach. Some of them feel that their guitar playing is "weak' and that the addition of another guitar will make them sound "big." But very often, two guitars whanging away only create rhythmic clashes and drowns out the singing. Others want to be able to play hot guitar licks and feel that the only way to have proper rhythmic support is through adding another guitar. This often result in two guitar players of fairly modest ability trading licks that may be fun for the two guitarists but are fairly mundane and, usually, boring for-the audience to listen to. Others use two guitars out of old habit or because their rock 'n' roll heroes did it that way.

Many times at jam sessions, my skill as a multi-instrumentalist has been praised by persons who described themselves as singer/songwriter/guitarists. We trade phone numbers. I get the rap from the singer that he will call me when he gets some duo jobs. I open my paper on Friday (or look at my LMN calendar) and see that he or she is gigging with another singer/songwriter/guitarist. They both can sing well, they both write nice songs, and they both can thump out a good rhythm on their guitars. Their show has many good qualities, but it is instrumentally narrow and often weak. For the most part they are using two guitars to do the work of one. Both the singer and the audience - most importantly the audience - are missing out on one of best possibilities of duet music, that is the interplay and contrast of the guitar with other instruments.

Meanwhile, it's Saturday night and many fine musicians are sitting at home. There is the piano player who doubles on accordion and organ. There is the drummer who also plays the washboard and the congas. There are many string players who can double (or triple) on the mandolin, violin, banjo, viola or cello, There are sax players who double on clarinet or flute. There are harmonica players who play second instruments. Many of these folks can sing and play the guitar as well.

Singers, I encourage you to sing well, improve your guitar playing and hire somebody other than another guitar strummer for your next duo gig. You will be pleased and so will your audience.

Ray Major

Borden, Ind.