My New Guitar: Washburn R320SWRK Parlor Guitar

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.

Washburn parlor guitar

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 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 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.