Musicians in literature and life

I’ve recently been listening to Patrick Rothfuss’s fantastic audiobook The Name of the Wind  and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Despite the odd slow, meandering section and a distinct Harry Potter-ish feel in places, it’s the kind of book an author reads (or listens to) and thinks, “Man, I wish I could come up with sentences like that!”

patrick rothfuss name of the wind

Rothfuss’s writing is very immersive and, in particular, the sections where his main character Kvothe plays his lute really struck me, being a guitarist myself.

At one point, Kvothe asks to hold someone else’s lute and there’s then talk of how that’s akin to asking a man if you can sleep with his wife or some similar analogy. I forget exactly what it is the writer says, it was probably much more subtle and interesting than that, but the point is: asking a musician to let you hold their instrument (no innuendos here please!) is a huge no-no.

spinal tap
“You’ve never played…?” “Don’t touch it!”

It took me back 25+ years or so, to a time when I was just learning to play the likes of AC/DC and Motorhead on a crappy old acoustic guitar. My friend’s older brother had a nice Yamaha axe and a big 100 watt Marshall amplifier and I yearned to try them out, but it was made very clear to me I’d be killed if I ever touched either of them. Some musicians really DO covet their prized instruments as much as the characters in novels!

It’s not even a question of money. Someone like Jimmy Page had his legendary Gibson Les Paul which he almost always played with Led Zeppelin even though he had enough cash to buy as many guitars as he wanted. Hell, Gibson even gave them to him for free, but that one guitar was like a lover to him.

jimmy page number 1 les paul theremin

Personally, though, I have a few guitars which I love but I leave them out on their stands and if my two year old son wanders in and starts whacking the strings and pulling on the whammy bar I don’t really care. I can just imagine what my teenage friend’s brother would have made of that.

To me, an instrument is just a tool. I have a few guitars, a bass, a mandolin and an Artley flute that was born in the same year as me. They’re just tools. To someone like Kvothe, or Pagey, or my friend’s big brother, it’s something more than that and I love how a fantasy novel got me thinking about this whole topic!

Jackson PC-1
My prized Jackson PC-1 that Riley loves to mess about with.

What about you? Do you play guitar or bass or mandolin or piano or whatever? What does your favourite instrument mean to you? How would you describe it in a novel? Do you let anyone else play it? Let’s hear your thoughts and show us your photos (if you can’t post the pics here, post them on my Facebook page or email them to me at and I’ll put them up for you).

My Jackson Soloist in action. Kvothe’s lute would have been no good at this gig.




5 thoughts on “Musicians in literature and life

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  1. As a guitarist (and fantasy novel lover) I have both electric and acoustic guitars, however I have one acoustic guitar in particular I am more than a little smitten with. Still, I wouldn’t have a problem letting someone play it if it was someone I knew and trusted not to damage it. I did have to lend my electric guitar to someone I didn’t know last year and he snapped a string. Never again.


    1. I hardly ever change strings, they never seem to tarnish. Fast Fret probably helps. I’ve tried 8’s – I believe Jimmy Page and EVH used 8’s – but they always end up slipping off the bottom of the fretboard. I must bend down a lot when I use vibrato! Cannot remember the last time I broke a string.


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