OK, I’m going to use this week’s holiday to catch up on some topics that have been requested/stacked up in the queue.
A couple of weeks ago someone sent me a link to some Fender super-duper-special-ultra-mega guitars and asked if I thought it was a good idea to buy one. The only answer that is worth a light is “I don’t know: play as many as you can and find one that sings.”
There are two types of guitar-buying: guitars as investments and guitars as working instruments.
The former is the easier to deal with: if you have the money to buy serious vintage guitars go ahead and do so but keep them in a safe place, heavily insured, and don’t take them out on gigs.
The second reason to buy a guitar is to acquire a working instrument. Most of us want one main weapon that does 90% of what we need but is robust enough to stand up to the rigours of gigging and recording sessions. It also needs to be generic enough to be replaceable if the worst happens and it is stolen or badly damaged.
What criteria to apply, then?
Mine is simple: does the guitar sing?
What the hell do I mean by that?
Simple: go into a guitar store, ask to try 5 or 6 of the model of guitar you think is suitable for your needs and budget, and spend an hour playing them.
One of them will be a complete dog, some will be OK, but one will seem to play itself. That’s the one that “sings.”
Play them unamplified too: the one that “sings” will stand out even more.
Buy this one.
I have a 1972 Les Paul DeLuxe that I chose by this method. I asked the shop to give me all the DeLuxes on their “topshelf” but not tell me anything about them; no dates, no previous owners’ history, nothing.
One of them “sang” and still does. It is theoretically crap (everyone knows that early 70′ Les Pauls are rubbish, right?)
Here’s how I figure it.
A guitar is a physical object, but not all are identical. There are knots and variations inside each plank of wood that may not be visible to the naked eye, and as wood ages it changes. Out of any given batch of guitars, some will age nicely and settle down to be “singers” and some will never be playable.
I had a 1968 Strat, white, the Hendrix model, that was an unspeakable dog of a guitar. I sold it for 3 times what I paid for it to pay a tax bill. The guy who bought it has probably tripled his money again…
This applies to “cheap” and “non-premium” guitars as well as to the so-called “classics.”
My main weapon for 25 years is a Strat. I love it when people come up to me after gigs and ask about it.
The conversation usually goes something like this:
“That Strat sounds great: what is it, ’59? 60?”
“No, it’s a 1987 Japanese one.”
Off to a party with our fine hosts here in Provence, the Gay Gordons.
I may have a shandy.