Letting people try your guitars?


So often when I'm out in a public area and I'm with my guitar, people come up to me wanting to try my guitar. Now, this isn't a problem at all if it's a competent musician that I know can be careful with the guitar. But, for random non-guitarists that just want to strum all the open strings, they don't know how to be aware of the headstock hitting something or scratching the finish with their belt, or the dreaded dirty hands. I don't mind sharing, it's just most people don't know how to treat a guitar, nor do people understand its value, whether sentimental or market value. I've had people mistreat my equipment before. How can one decline someone's request to play the guitar and then proceed to let a musician you know use it without coming across as rude?


I'd rather buy someone a guitar than let them use mine. Had a bad experience once selling a guitar. Guy randomly picked up my expensive custom guitar (that I wasn't selling) and when placing it back down banged the corner off a table, leaving a ding.

I was not impressed.

Sushi Box FX

In 2015 I scrimped and saved and finally got my first USA made guitar, a Les Paul studio. I showed it to one of my good friends who is a better guitarist than me, and he promptly struck a chord then flexed the body and neck to bend the chord. I was furious. He didn't damage it, but I was shocked that he thought it was okay to do that to someone else's brand new guitar.

So I will occasionally let friends (not that friend anymore) touch my guitars, but never complete strangers. There can be exceptions, like if I'm at a recording session or jam and another musician whom a friend vouches for asks to try it out, maybe, but if I'm at a gig and a random guy from the crowd swears he knows how to play, that still gets a no.


I don't let anyone touch my guitars in a public setting. No exceptions. I don't care if it's a random person, a competent musician, or my best friend. So I never set myself up to have the problem you seem to be dealing with in the first place.
In a private setting, like at home or a friend's house, that's different.


Gold Supporting Member
I guess I’m bad at this . I’ll just let whoever play whatever I got most times.

I like it when I give a younger kid a chance to play something nicer they normally wouldn’t have a chance to check out. It’s fun , trying to do my part I guess

Brian N

"Sorry, but I don't let people play my stuff"

It's presumptuous and rude for someone to even ask, so don't worry too much about offending someone. If someone has the nads to ask a stranger to play their stuff in public, and they're offended when politely told no, that person is easily offended, and also jaded.


Senior Member
When I was a college freshman, newly arrived on campus and hoping to make friends, another student heard me playing my Dobro resophonic guitar (round-neck) in my dorm room and asked me to let him play it. I explained that he would not really be able to play it because it was set up for slide — tuned to an open chord with high action and heavy-gauge strings — but he was so insistent that I reluctantly agreed. He immediately tried playing regular chords and pseudo-Flamenco strumming on it in such a ham-fisted way that he put a dent in one of the metal screens covering the two upper sound holes. It is still there 40 years later as an unwanted reminder.
Ever since that incident, I have made it a rule to let no-one touch my guitars except for experienced guitar techs and a tiny handful of trustworthy musician friends who I already know will be extra careful.
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Nobody asks to play my gear. From what I've heard from bandmates, people say they're afraid to touch my stuff because they know it's pricy. If I know the person asking about my gear is a decent player, I offer to let them try.


What are you doing “out in public” playing your guitar? That seems weird. Do you mean you’re just walking around looking for attention and then you’re annoyed when you get it - or are you playing a show?

For me, I would never ask to play someone else’s guitar, so - as a professional - I expect nobody will ask me. Usually if someone asks they are not someone I’d want playing it.


Silver Supporting Member
I judge it by the individual, but most of the gigs I do are intimate affairs where the audience are fans of the genre and there to listen so if someone comes up to talk gear it's not like kicking out time at a dive bar where everyone's been drinking for several hours.

Since most of my gear is vintage, I often get questions after the show and if I'm packing up and the guitar's still out I'll just hand it to them and chat about it with them while I carry on sorting my gear out. It really doesn't bother me, I love these guitars and I like to see other people's enthusiasm for them and, if it's lasted this long, it probably isn't going to turn to dust in their hands of they hold it for a minute or two.

I think partly as well I hate this idea that vintage guitars are museum pieces not for playing and I like doing something to demystify them - it's not a precious thing I need to baby, it's made to be played and I want people to get that, these are amazing things that come to life when you pick up and make music on. Putting them into people's hands gets that across, and I feel like 100 posts on TGP about why I love vintage guitars don't get anywhere near as close as actually handing one that's just played a gig over to someone. It's a cool thing to do, I hope.

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