Man if I had $5 for every time I’ve been asked “Can I Play Your Guitar?” I’d be rich! I’ve had people stumble up to me at gigs drunk out of their mind and ask if they can sit in with the band, and of course play my guitar to do it. I once had a guy grab my 2nd guitar off the stage while I was playing and play air guitar with it. Lucky for that guy he was a visiting Japanese dignitary at a marketing convention that didn’t speak any english. I think he knew enough from my reaction to quickly put my guitar back. I guess some words are universal. So when somebody asks me “Can I Play Your Guitar?” my policy is to simply say “No”. There are several reasons I’ve learned to just say no over the years.
The first and biggest reason is the strong emotional attachment musicians have to their instruments. We get attached to an instrument that we hold close to our bodies, sweat all over and use to express our most intimate musical outpourings. Our instrument really becomes a part of us because of the hours we spend setting it up, fine tuning it to fit our hands, practicing on it, cursing it and loving it when we play something beautiful on it. People don’t understand what they’re asking for when they ask “Can I play your guitar?”. It’s kind of like asking to sleep with a persons wife.
Another thing that people don’t understand is that to play professionally and sound great you need great equipment. Great equipment isn’t cheap and musicians are not generally rich. So we are extremely protective of our expensive equipment. Even something as simple as a scratch in the paint is going to lower the instruments value and it’s going to nag the owner every time they see that scratch.
Finally, if we let someone who’s not in the band get up and play with the band and they sound like crap, it makes the whole band sound like crap. We’ve let people get up and sing with us that were just awful. The crowd hated it and so did we. The worst that ever happened to me is when we let a guy get up and sing and he totally blew it. Didn’t know the words, couldn’t carry a tune and it was awful. Then he had the gall to turn around and accuse us of making him sound bad. So chalk up another reason for the “Just Say No” policy.
So to handle the folks that ask “Can I play your guitar?” or relentlessly bother us to sit in with the band to sing. We just tell them that if they want to come to a regular band rehearsal to prove they can play and then bring their own guitar and amp to the gig, then we’ll gladly let them sit in with the band. Unless they do that, then the answer will always be no!