I’ve been playing guitar off and on since the mid-1970s; more off than on, in recent decades. But I recently wanted to get back into playing. I first bought a classical guitar, with the desire to play music by John Dowland, Johann Sebastian Bach, and others. But I don’t have the technique for classical music, and learning this music was like playing an instrument from scratch. So I decided to first work on my steel-string acoustic playing, and get back into fingerpicking blues, which I used to play back in the day.
I still have the Yamaha I bought back in the late 70s, and, while it’s a good guitar for strumming, it’s not ideal for fingerpicking. I did some research, and found that “parlor guitars” are common these days. These are instruments with smaller bodies and wider necks, ideal for the type of music I want to play. They also have shorter scales, with the neck attached to the body at a lower fret (this one is at the 12th fret), meaning that the distance between frets at the top of the neck is a bit shorter.
I looked at what was available, read a lot of reviews, listened to some videos, and settled on the Washburn R320SWRK.
Guitar companies clearly need to work on their naming strategies. This axe does not have a name that flows trippingly on the tongue, but sounds like a Windows laptop. No matter, it’s a nice-looking instrument, and it plays great. It’s got a smaller sound than a full-sized body, of course, but it works well for what I want to do. I’m not planning to perform; I just want to play for my own enjoyment. Note that with fingerpicks (I don’t use them), this guitar is plenty loud. It cost £439 on Amazon; it’s currently $564 in the US. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) I know you should never buy an instrument without playing it, but I bought it from Amazon, and knew that if there was anything wrong with it, I could return it.
The body of this guitar is made of solid wood, and it has an attractive vintage finish, and I love the color and the mother of pearl inlays in the neck. It’s comfortable in my hand, and the wider neck is great for agile fingerpicking. It has a V-neck on the back, which took a couple of days to get used to. Washburn makes a couple of less expensive models, but they have laminate bodies, and I preferred spending a bit more for a guitar with solid wood.
The guitar came with phosphor bronze strings, which were tight and loud; I changed for Martin Silk & Steel strings, which I have always preferred. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) They give the guitar a slinky feel that works perfectly for the way I play.
For now, I’ve been playing some simple blues songs, and I got back into the feel of fingerpicking pretty quickly, even though it’s been decades since I played this music. I plan to spend some time every day practicing and expanding my repertoire. And I’ll get back into classical music as well, when I’ve gotten back my agility on the fretboard.