A Guitar Named Alice

Meet Alice. That’s the brand name of my new classical guitar. Alice is a sweet-sounding Chinese-made guitar with a solid spruce top, and I just brought her home this afternoon. I’m taking a break from practicing, since my out-of-shape left hand fingers are sore from fretting the strings. I’d forgotten how much playing a classical guitar hurts for the first few weeks or so.

Like everything else in my life in China thus far, purchasing an instrument was an adventure. It took me weeks to get up the courage to venture into the warren of music stores surrounding the Sichuan Conservatory of Music. I’d done a reconnaissance of the area once before, looking for some likely guitar shops, but the language barrier was too formidable for me to venture inside one.

I was then bitten by “guitar fever” about a week ago, and began madly scouring the internet, trying to find out how to buy a guitar in China, and what kind to look for. I’d been missing my first guitar, the one I left behind in Los Angeles, and I needed music in my life again. It was time to take the plunge.

In honor of the Golden Week national holiday, I drilled myself in a few useful guitar-purchasing phrases in Chinese, and walked into one of the small music shops yesterday. A friendly young man showed me a couple of guitars, and the one named Alice intrigued me: why would a Chinese company name a line of musical products Alice? I played it for a few minutes and discovered that I wasn’t quite as rusty as I thought I was, even though I haven’t practiced in months. I was noncommittal, however, and went home to sleep on it. The guitar’s price, 1,900 yuan, seemed a bit steep for my budget.

This morning I set out again, taking the #76 bus to the “street of instruments” near the conservatory, and I boldly walked into a couple of shops, sampling instruments in each. Once I found my courage there was no stopping me. I played guitars with solid wood tops for as little as 400 yuan, but that just seemed TOO cheap. In the second shop I visited, I played a more expensive model that didn’t impress me much, and then they handed me – voila! – another Alice. It sounded as good as I remembered from the day before at the first shop.

After walking around and debating with myself, I went back to the store and wrote down an offer of 1,200 yuan, and was shocked when the owner accepted it. Instead of paying the equivalent of $240 for a guitar, I got it for $150 with hardly any effort, a considerable savings. I was even more amazed when I asked for a music stand and a guitar stand and the store threw them in for free.

Time for some more practice. I’m a bit hungry since I skipped lunch to get an early start on guitar shopping. Oh, the sacrifices we make.

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