Guitars and Innovation

CategoriesEDLD 5314

Yesterday a friend of mine saw the instrument closet in my home studio, where I have 10 guitar cases neatly lined up. I got the reaction I usually get when most people see this for the first time: “How many guitars do you HAVE? What are they all FOR?”

Not pictured: electric upright bass, mandolin, dulcimer, and electric kazoo.
Yes, electric kazoo. Don’t judge.

And my reply put me in mind of this week’s discussion topic (because, let’s face it, there’s no way to get grad school OUT of my head right now). 

“Well, those two are basses. One has frets, and one doesn’t, so they have completely different sounds–one’s a smoother, jazzier sound, the other is much more rock. And then that one’s a 12-string guitar, and that one’s a classical guitar, and those two are steel-string acoustics–one has a big, boomy sound, and the other is a much lighter, more sparkly tone,” and so on. And it struck me that I have this large collection of instruments not because I love guitars (although I do, I really, really do), but because each one serves a purpose. I didn’t buy a second steel-string because it was pretty (don’t tell her I said that), but because I needed a stronger sound on some of the music I was playing.

? Isn’t she loooove-ly, isn’t she wooon-der-ful? ?

If I just wanted a pretty guitar and had no real use for it, how long before one of those guitars would just end up sitting in a closet? I know from experience that the answer is, not long. I’m fortunate in that, when I realize that I’ve acquired a tool I have no use for, it’s relatively easy for me to sell it to someone who does. Most school systems don’t have that easy a time recouping their losses from a failed technology initiative. 

On the plus side, though, I’ve often found that when I acquire a tool with one purpose in mind, I quickly find other uses for it that I hadn’t anticipated. (This has been true of my woodworking tools as well–I have a long and beautifully complicated relationship with my router.) This is value added, rather than losses recouped. If one were to apply the Plus Delta framework to my guitar buying over the years, it might look something like this: What worked? Having a specific purpose or reason for acquiring a new instrument. What could have been done better? Not using “Man, that guitar looks and sounds amazing!” as a specific reason. How to apply the lessons learned? Don’t buy a guitar unless you know exactly what you’re going to use it for. My instrument budget, like most school systems’ operating budgets, is a) finite and b) smaller than I would like it to be. Both of us need to use our resources wisely, and if we do so, we can accomplish what we set out to and more. To use the LAUSD iPad initiative as an example (and to shamelessly mix some metaphors), I don’t have the latest fanciest model of high-end guitar brands. Alongside the LAUSD’s brand-new iPads, I have factory-refurbished Verizon Ellipsis tablets. But they do what I need them to do, because I knew what that was before I got them.


Chambers, B. (2014, August 28). L.A. cancels iPads-in-the-schools program: a failure of vision, not technology. Retrieved from

Wonder, S. (1975). Isn’t she lovely. On Songs in the key of life [CD]. Los Angeles, CA: Motown Records. (1976)

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About the author

I am an instructional technologist for the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry in Richmond, VA. Before that, I spent more than 20 years as a public school music teacher in Chesterfield County, VA, primarily teaching guitar and music technoogy at the high school level. I hold a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Richmond, and a Master of Education degree with a focus on Digital Learning and Leading from Lamar University. I believe that every person has the need, the desire, the ability, and the right to learn, and that as educators we must meet our students wherever they are, and help bring them to where they want and deserve to be.