The parable of the musician and his guitars

There was a man that was a great musician. This man was known not only for his musical ability but also for his vast collection of unique guitars. It was the largest collection anywhere. Each morning he would stand and gaze at the collection as he made his decision on which instrument to play first. Upon his decision, he would walk over to the guitar and lift it carefully from its position on the wall.

The musician would take the guitar and inspect each part before he began. He would look to see if there were any scratches on the body or if the neck was becoming bowed. He would check the strings to make sure they were free of any dirt or corrosion. After his inspection was finished, he would move to his favorite stool and take a seat.

The great musician would begin by plucking each string separately to verify that the guitar was still in tune. He would listen with an astute ear for any changes in frequency. With an expert touch, he would tune the strings with a precision unmatched anywhere. Once the guitar was in tune, the musician would launch into a song that would stir the heart of even the coldest critic.

However, this morning was different. Upon inspection of his guitar, he noticed that the strings were tarnished. He tuned the guitar and began playing for a few minutes. It was as he suspected. The guitar was in tune but there was no depth to the sound that issued forth from the guitar. When the strings were free from corrosion there was this brightness to the sound. This sound seemed like it could carry for miles. However, with the strings corroded as they were, the sound felt dull and flat.

Many would think that with a collection as large as his, the musician would simply put away that guitar and find one that was free of imperfections. The musician knew better. He simply needed to change the strings.

So he took his instrument to his workbench and began to loosen each string one by one. Once all of the strings were removed, he would inspect the fret board for dirt and grime. He would pull out a towel and begin to clean the fret board before he put the strings back on. From time to time he would look at the guitar sitting there without its strings and think about how odd it looked. A guitar was just not a guitar without its strings. Once he finished cleaning, the musician would remove a new package of strings from his cabinet. One at the time he would begin replacing the strings.

It was a straightforward process but one filled with stress for the guitar. As each string was tightened, it would begin to put stress on the neck. If done by someone without a proper understanding, it would cause the sound of the guitar to change and it would not stay in tune. Also as the strings were tightened, the strings themselves were being stretched and put under tension.

Once the musician finished tightening the strings, he returned to his stool and tuned the guitar. Once he had tuned the guitar, he would do something that seemed odd. He would take each string and pull it away from the fret board as far as possible without breaking the string. Once he had done this to all the strings, he would tune the instrument again. Even though the strings had been replaced and tuned, the musician knew that the strings would continue to stretch as they were played and would need to be tuned again.

The musician would continue this practice several more times. Finally, the strings were stretched as much as they could be and were in tune. He knew now that the instrument would hold its tune and would not need the detailed procedure as before. When he returned the next day, if he had to tune his instrument at all, it would only be minor corrections.

The musician looked down at his guitar and a smile crossed his face. He knew that this instrument was now ready for someone to play it. He set the guitar about his knee and began playing. The melody that issued forth was beautiful and the clearness to the tone resonated through the entire building. The musician smiled again. This was how a guitar was to sound.