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Esteban's Master Class Cutaway Guitar Package

I wish I could hear Esteban's students play, but his backing musicians are too loud.

What It Is: A 22-piece set that includes a handmade acoustic-electric guitar, packaged with accessories and instructional DVDs featuring rugged guitar veteran Esteban. It also includes a guitar chord poster, strings, picks and a cleaning cloth.

Description: In principle, not too much different from the guitar starter kits you might see at a Guitar Center or, frankly, K-Mart.

Quote: "This man has touched nearly a half-million lives with his amazing guitar packages!"

esteban_side.jpgShill: Esteban, who purports to be a student of master Spanish guitarist Andres Segovia, a claim rigorously thrown into doubt by this Phoenix New Times story. His pretty foil is the Home Shopping Network's own Shannon Smith. There's also a rotating cast of Esteban's students, and I'll get to them later.

Set and Costumes: The TV version of a cozy living room, with a video fireplace set high up on the wall, where a fireplace could never be. Esteban's dressed like a bad mix of Stevie Ray and Johnny Cash, and constantly wears dark sunglasses because one of his eyes was blinded during a baseball game when he was 12, and the other damaged in a tragic car accident. Shannon's dressed in a tasteful, spangled black deal.

Politics: Incumbent-friendly. He wants your support, but you don't really get to know jack about him.

Cost: About $200.

Gimmick: Esteban's students, who range from a little girl to various grown men, join him for run-throughs of songs. At first, you hear the little imperfections in their playing - which are to be expected, because the acoustic guitar isn't easy for your fingers to get used to - and sense an uncommon honesty in the presentation. Then Esteban swoops in with his nimble leads. With each successive student seem to come more backing musicians on horns, bass and drums. So you have to take Esteban's word for it when he praises each student for playing "like a pro."

Bonus Gimmick: Slobbering over the details of the guitars' purportedly handmade construction - "all-wood construction" with a "beautiful lacquer finish," complete with close-ups of the mother-of-pearl inlays.

Extra-Bonus Crummy Rhyme Gimmick: The little amp in the package is a "Bach-to-rock" amp. Which just means it has an overdrive button, like thousands of amps on the market. "You press this button, and you have hard-rock, rockin' guitar sounds."

Pavlovian slip: After Esteban plays with a young female student, Shannon says, "Imagine - that could be your daughter, or better yet, yourself." Because they know this will appeal as much (if not more) to grown men as to kids. Though said little girl is reported to "idolize" Esteban.

Pavlovian omission: You probably don't want to learn to play Esteban's guitar. You just like the idea of learning to play guitar, and Esteban doesn't want to confront you with the awkward hand positions or the gnawing of steel against your soft fingertips until after you've got that puppy out of the box.

Evaluation: It could be a great guitar, could be a piece of crap. Without the opinion of someone who knows musical instruments better than I, I'll withhold judgment. From Esteban's story, it sounds like he's a nice guy who got fucked over and milks it way too hard. And no, I'm not some silly purist who believes instructional videos cheapen an artist - just look at two of the finest acoustic blues players going today, Chris Smither and Rory Block, who don't go around with fake Spanish names.

Rating: 5 (provisional)

- Scott Gordon

* Visit the Beachwood Infomercial Review library.


Posted on January 30, 2007

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
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BOOKS - All About Poop.


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