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  • Serious Question: So What Is It about Guitars?

    I've been playing guitar for a long time, and have quite a collection. While I don't have the mythical guitars that fetch six figures at auctions, they're fine, playable, wonderful guitars.

    So do I need another guitar? No. But last Friday, there was a "scratch 'n' dent" sale at Epiphone, so of course I stopped by...and ended up buying a Limited Edition Swingster Royale in blue sparkle for $200, and a square neck Hound Dog dobro for $60.

    Now, I can justify the dobro. I've been playing slide guitar a lot more, and it will be nice not to have to raise the adjustable nut on my LP when I want to convert it to slide guitar. But the Swingster...I justified it to myself because I don't have a hollow body electric, let alone one with a Bigsby tailpiece. Did I need another guitar...no. But since buying it, I can't resist picking it up, looking at it, strumming it, and not feeling in the slightest that I should have spent that $200 on something else.

    Every guitarist I know has a lot of guitars. Some I don't know have even more. I've heard of artists who have dozens or even hundreds of guitars.

    Why?!?!!?!?
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  • #2
    Serious answer.

    I think we live in a world where we're cut off from being satisfied with just being. Being a part of an organic larger system (Gaia), being fully aware of our consciousness. That is, if we were more integrated with the real world, we wouldn't want for external, material stuff.

    So there's that side, the spiritual side.

    And no duh, we're completely indoctrinated into a capitalist society. Self worth is measured by accumulation of wealth. We are raised to believe happiness and fulfillment can be bought with things.

    *****************

    There's an interface that's kind of unique with tool users between admiring finely crafted, superior tools, or specialized tools, and imagining yourself making correspondingly finer creations with them.

    *****************

    I'm guessing the answer for most of us is in a relationship between these factors. I'm the last person to damn us for "gear lust" (although my heart rose when I saw that sidebar on HC last month that had a headline something like "The End of Gear Lust"; I had hoped it was a post-election plea to get real about what mattered in this country!)- I've had it, I get it too. Not damning anyone for trying to find their joy in this life. But personally, I'm heading toward desiring more of the types of connection I wrote about in my first paragraph.



    Last edited by sharkbait; 02-19-2017, 09:42 PM.

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    • #3
      I'm not personally a guitarist, but part of the challenge is that one instrument can't replicate the large quantity of sounds out there. A Telecaster will never sound like a Les Paul, and a Les Paul won't sound like a Telecaster. You sort of have to have both, if you want those sounds.

      It can be taken to extremes, though... My brother has a problem with it. He has at least 20 instruments, and some of them are repeats of one another (two or three Les Pauls, a couple of Stratocasters, etc). He can't afford it, it's not his profession (he doesn't need that many instruments), and frankly he doesn't play that well.

      As a kid, there was a picture he saw of Eddie Van Halen with a backyard full of guitars, and he always wanted to replicate that. He never really got it in his head that Eddie could afford to do that, and he can't.
      144 dB
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      • #4
        Originally posted by sharkbait View Post
        Serious answer.

        I think we live in a world where we're cut off from being satisfied with just being. Being a part of an organic larger system (Gaia), being fully aware of our consciousness. That is, if we were more integrated with the real world, we wouldn't want for external, material stuff.

        I'm guessing the answer for most of us is in a relationship between these factors. I'm the last person to damn us for "gear lust" (although my heart rose when I saw that sidebar on HC last month that had a headline something like "The End of Gear Lust"; I had hoped it was a post-election plea to get real about what mattered in this country!)- I've had it, I get it too. Not damning anyone for trying to find their joy in this life. But personally, I'm heading toward desiring more of the types of connection I wrote about in my first paragraph.
        But the question is "what is it about guitars"? Because I really don't have gear lust, I don't need anything, there's just something about guitars. I've been thinking about it some more, and came up with several reasons.

        I like being able to touch the sound generators directly and feel the vibrations of the strings, as well as the way the guitar cradles into my body. To me, it's a lot more sensual than playing a keyboard (although I have to say the ROLI is getting there)

        It's mostly wood and metal, compared to things that are mostly plastic. That wood was once a living thing, and some of that vibe is still in it.

        They're visually striking. I'm not the kind of person who has guitars to put on a wall, I have them to play and I play all of them. But, I'd put any of them on a the wall as art. I just can't see the average synthesizer hanging as a work of art.

        They don't take up a lot of space. I think having a dozen drum kits set up would be...well, interesting to say the least

        It's a reminder of the days when humans called the shots. I can't help but think all those hands working on a guitar leave something behind. Sure, there are CNC machines for the bodies, but there's a huge amount of human element in a guitar.

        They're not disposable, they have "legs" for as long as you can buy strings. Guitars have no problem lasting well over half a century (I have a few that already are). I have to admit, when I saw that Swingster one of the first thoughts was whether my daughter would like it, because she'll be getting my guitars after I'm gone. I had no doubt it would played and loved for years to come.
        Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

        Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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        • #5
          They're handmade, each one slightly different. They seem to have a personality. They don't require updating. A nice one is a work of art. They're portable. They're physical and very responsive. They can play soft, tender passages or raging, full-on noise.
          Ken Lee on 500px / Ken's Photo Store / Ken Lee Photography Facebook Website / Blueberry Buddha Studios / Ajanta Palace Houseboat - Kashmir / Hotel Green View - Kashmir / Eleven Shadows website / Ken Lee Photography Blog / Akai 12-track tape transfers / MY NEW ALBUM! The Mercury Seven

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          • #6
            This may seem really weird to you, but I see guitars as languages and musical styles as countries. As a comparison, I can get by speaking English in Germany, but my visit there is so much more rewarding if I speak German. Accordingly, I can get by in an Country music context playing a Les Paul but it will be so much more rewarding if I play a Tele. I can use a steel string acoustic playing a bossa nova but will get more out of it playing my nylon string.

            Apart from that, I always find new guitars a huge source for inspiration.


            Cheers,

            Mats N
            Last edited by Mats Nermark; 02-20-2017, 02:05 PM.
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            • #7
              In this era, timbre and tone, the "sound" is the thing, musically. Good guitar players have a unique sound similar to the way singers have unique sounds. Of course, with other instruments, people express different styles in their playing, but usually it's a lot more subtle and less interesting to the listening public than the dramatic differences in style and tone that can be created with guitars.

              Only synthesizers exceed the electric guitar in range of timbres and tones and expressive gestures. But the bane of synthesizers is that they just don't bond with your fingers and your muscles and your body like an electric guitar does. That direct hands-on way of making your own unique statement that guitars provide is a gift from heaven. Watching someone work a synth - you just don't vicariously feel the visceral element like you do watching guitar players.

              And of course, the various models of electrics are so fascinatingly different. So there's the geeky, tweaky thing, too. Piano players don't gut their pianos and rebuild them with boutique components. So combine this with all the other factors - looks, vibe, feel, tones, geek fodder, and then make very good guitars affordable by the masses, you have some kind of perfect storm of appeal. No wonder Henry is probably one wealthy dude

              nat


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              • #8
                I don't have instrument lust. The 1956 Martin D-18 that I bought at a pawn shop auction in 1965 is the one I play nearly all the time that I play (which isn't a lot these days). I have a 1973 000-25 that I traded my first good guitar, a late 1940s Gibson J45 for (I traded an outboard motor for the J45) because I wanted a better finger-picking guitar than the D-18. The 000 hangs in my bedroom in case I'm at that end of the house when I get an inspiration. I don't wake up in the middle of the night and write songs. I went through a Lead Belly phase (that's a singer, not a physical condition) and have a Holtzapfel 12-string guitar that it turns out was one of 100 made for the Baltimore Mummers for a parade in the '40s that they commissioned but never picked up. It doesn't jangle, it growls.

                I have several other guitars that were targets of opportunity (cheap or given to me) that are mostly curiousities. There's a late 1950s Guild semi-solid body electric (someone told me the model number once but I forgot it), a Weyman arch top, a Coral electric sitar (Jerry Jones model), a genuine Dobro but with a 14-fret Spanish neck (not the ones that bluegrassers played) but with a nut extension permanently living on it), a ZB pedal steel that looks like it was built in Zane Beck's garage, and a Casio MG-510 MIDI guitar. The last one of othose oddities I wanted to play was the Casio, to see how it worked with MODO Bass, but discovered that the MIDI part was dead, so it's now in the pile of electronics-not-working-and-too-good-to-throw-away, waiting for me to make up a Digi-Key shopping list and replacing all the electrolytic capacitors. That seems to be the concensus of those on MIDI Guitars forum who have brought those guitars back to life.

                My one instrument indulgence was an origianl gold plated Vegaphone Deluxe 5-string banjo. I loved the sound and how it played when I had the opportunity to buy it for $2500 (that was in the '70s), but these days I prefer playing my 1880s Fairbanks Electric (that's a model name, not a banjo with a pickup) that I bought for $50 from a classified ad in the newspaper (remember those?) before I got the Vegaphone. I also have a fretless banjo that I built myself around 1968 that's still hanging on the wall.

                Then there's the Gibsons, an A-0 mandolin and K-1 mandocello. And an Ampeg fretless bass guitar, the one with a mostly solid body and F-hole cutouts that go all the way through.

                So, me? Lot of guitars? I don't think so.I don't even have a ukelele.
                --
                "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
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                • #9
                  I have but one guitar, a Washburn D21 that I bought almost 25 years ago. It is the guitar I play because it is the only guitar I own. However, for me instead of having multiples of the same instrument, I preferred to learn new instruments. The result is that I now have a Tacoma M3 mandolin and a TK O'Brien mountain dulcimer. I also have a Samick SH-21 autoharp along with several Irish whistles (G and D tin whistles and a D low whistle), a fife, a wooden recorder as well as a bodhran drum. Yes, we display all of them, as they are all beautiful to look at and having them visible entices me to play them more.

                  What I wish to pursue is a couple of additional low whistles (keys of C and G) and a hammered dulcimer. Maybe then I look for a new guitar that I can tune in a 'Nashville' tuning style, providing a completely different sound from my current guitar. So for me, it is not about a single instrument, but rather the full range of acoustic instruments. As others have said, perhaps it is because they are made from wood (except for the whistles) that makes each one unique. I find that each has its own personality that 'matches' the sound it produces. When I am sitting in my music room, it is like I am surrounded by my friends. It is my favorite room in the house.
                  The Mandolin Picker

                  "Bless your hearts... and all your vital organs" - John Duffy

                  "Got time to breath, got time for music!"- Briscoe Darling, Jr.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Anderton View Post
                    Every guitarist I know has a lot of guitars. Some I don't know have even more. I've heard of artists who have dozens or even hundreds of guitars.

                    Why?!?!!?!?

                    Lots of reasons. We like the darned things and have an emotional and artistic connection with them - at least the good ones. We're always looking for that as guitarists. And of course, some people just like to collect them, just as other people collect cars, or stamps or whatever.

                    My own justifications come down to desiring lots of sonic options.

                    You can't get a Les Paul to truly sound like a Strat, nor can you get a Tele to sound like an SG. So yeah, you need all four of those classic models, and a good Rickenbacker too... plus everyone needs a Casino (Thus Has It Been Written, So Shall It Be... ) or some other similar hollowbody, and you're going to need a decent 12 string electric too, not to mention something that is set up for slide... Oh, and don't forget the baritone guitar...

                    We haven't even talked about basses yet. Gotta have three or four of them too - one with roundwounds, one with flats... and don't forget the fretless and the Bass VI... and you might even consider a 5 string, if you're into that sort of thing.

                    Oops. Did I leave acoustic guitars off the list? Gotta have several of those too... a really nice six string, a beater or travel guitar that you can take to the mountains or the beach and not worry about too much, a nylon string of course, another six string set up with Nashville tuning, and don't forget the Resonator and 12 string acoustics...

                    Luckily for me, I could easily see a session guitarist or (studio owner) having a good reason / justification for owning two to three dozen different guitars.
                    **********

                    "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

                    - George Carlin

                    "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

                    - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                    "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

                    - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

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                    • philboking
                      philboking commented
                      Editing a comment
                      And don't forget dobros.... Gotta have one.

                  • #11
                    I wanted more guitars because I liked them. Then I wanted more for more sounds.

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                    • #12
                      Originally posted by Bucksstudent View Post
                      I wanted more guitars because I liked them. Then I wanted more for more sounds.

                      Now that is what I call a straightforward answer!
                      Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

                      Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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                      • #13
                        Originally posted by Anderton View Post

                        Why?!?!!?!?
                        Well whatever reasons one spouts, the rest of us can probably relate to all of them at one point or another.

                        Ya know, for me at this nanosecond, it REALLY doesn't help to see the candy-colored red, blue, green, and sunburst Les Pauls plastered right in my line of sight on this page. I mean, cmon, Who's the marketing guy getting the pat on the shoulder this week for THAT idea? Very effective. I almost just HAVE to buy all four just to LOOK at them here at home every few days or months or whatever. Is there a purple one too?

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                        • #14
                          You think that's bad...I'm constantly surrounded by guitars. And walking through the factory to get to the R&D people is torture...so many homeless guitars on the way there...
                          Simplicity, my new album project, is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

                          Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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                          • #15
                            Originally posted by bookumdano4 View Post

                            Well whatever reasons one spouts, the rest of us can probably relate to all of them at one point or another.

                            Ya know, for me at this nanosecond, it REALLY doesn't help to see the candy-colored red, blue, green, and sunburst Les Pauls plastered right in my line of sight on this page. I mean, cmon, Who's the marketing guy getting the pat on the shoulder this week for THAT idea? Very effective. I almost just HAVE to buy all four just to LOOK at them here at home every few days or months or whatever. Is there a purple one too?
                            Kind of - it's called Blueberry Burst, and it's gorgeous IMHO. It's blue, but with purple highlights that shift as you change your viewing angle relative to the guitar.




                            **********

                            "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

                            - George Carlin

                            "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

                            - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                            "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

                            - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

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