does my guitar say anything about me?

Warning: This post is almost completely untheological. Non-guitarists may wish to click off now – you may get bored!

Guitarists, you may be deeply offended by my opinions (I know how personally we take out tastes in guitars…)

Some of my readers may be aware that I enjoy playing, writing and recording music. These days it’s nothing serious – I just enjoy it.

My journey through guitars is interesting, to me at least, and I wonder whether it reflects anything about me as a person.

I first started playing music at 14 when I picked up the bass. From there I added the guitar and then other instruments subsequently.

Gibson Les Paul

My first guitar was a cheapy, but the guitar I aspired to was the Gibson Les Paul. As a teenager there was something about this guitar that just stood out to me. Guitarists often know Les Pauls for their attitude, their fat, punchy, thick sound, and their heavy weight.

For non-guitarists who have bothered to get this far, think songs featuring Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin or Pete Townshend from The Who for famous and typical examples of the Les Paul sound.

The rougher edged growl of the Les Paul sound resonated with me, and so when I eventually bought one I thought I had found my perfect guitar.

But tastes change. People change.

I eventually became bored of the Les Paul sound. It was, in a sense, a one trick pony. Big beefy sounds? Check.

I began a search for a new sound. Having sold the Les Paul I tried a number of Fender Telecasters, as was (and is still) the fashion. Even though I love Telecasters, with their bright-yet-smooth and delicate sound, I just never found what I was looking for (it didn’t help that everyone I knew had one…)

To cut a long story short, and after a number of trial-and-errors, I eventually settled on a new go-to guitar, one that I had despised in my teenage years – a Fender Stratocaster.

Why? The Stratocaster is a complex beast – it is known for its bright and chimey yet full and clean sound, though it shines when played both clean or overdriven. Its three pickups allow for five sound combinations, including two “out-of-phase” options, each unique and well-suited to a range of musical styles. The neck pickup, my favourite, is smooth like honey, round and soft – think many of John Mayer’s guitar tones (especially the Continuum album).

Fender Stratocaster

But more than these things, the Stratocaster is a guitar that a guitarist must wrestle with. It can be noisy if not tamed, though this is part of the character (think Jimi Hendrix). But it’s only through this wrestling that you get the best from a Strat.

A Strat certainly doesn’t have the proverbial balls that a Les Paul does, hence why my teenage self was not interested. As I emerged from adolescence however such a concern was far, far less important. Musicality, style, dynamics, feel, personality, versatility – all these things became far more desirable traits.

(That’s not to say I might not be attracted to the Les Paul again at a later stage.)

I wonder what this transition from Les Paul to Stratocaster says about me, if anything. The Les Paul is a relatively simple guitar (not that there is anything wrong with that) and compared with the Stratocaster is it relatively black-and-white. For me the Stratocaster’s variety, complexity and character stand well and truly over that of the Les Paul.

I wonder whether this is a good sign of developing maturity, or whether it is just over-analysed rubbish.

After all, does my guitar say anything about me?

MCA

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Posted on February 16, 2012, in Culture & Art, Haphazard and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Matt, as always one of your posts leads me to put pen to paper or mouse to keyboard as it where…. I think the underlying tone for me in your postulate is that what it says about you is that you have perhaps only a two dimensional view of life by only having two guitars. : )

    Unless I read wrongly you only refer to two types of “thunderstick” as the great Tommy Emmanuel (CGP) refers to them occasionally as.

    Imagine the possibilities if you had also the opportunity / challenge to sample, experiment and soar with your musical abilities with the likes of a gretsch (Chet Atkins), a fender “tele” (Mark Knoplfer) or even a rickenbacker (Robin Zander, Cheap Trick), not to mention the subltey and flavour of a steel string accoustic from Maton 6 or 12 string, Takamine, Washburn or even an Ovation 12 string?

    It’s encouraging that you have stretched yourself to go from Bass to Electric, but in your development and respectfully I challenge you to step up to a mandolin, ukelele, and perhaps even a 5 string banjo for those unique “bluegrass moments” during worship that no other instrument can truly enhance. : )

    As always my best regards.

    • I agree Brewster. Both these guitars that you mentioned, Matt, are solid bodies. Perhaps you should consider braching out into some hollow body electrics, such as a ‘Gretsch’, or acoustic guitars… the ‘Ovation Adamas Series’ is something quite different… however I imagine you probably have tried some of these.

      I can’t say I really like playing either of the guitars you mentioned. Although, I do confess, I love the sounds that some musicians can make from both of those instruments (Jimi Hendrix is a particular favourite). So, it is not so much that I dislike the ‘strat’, ‘tele’ or the ‘Les Paul’, but I do not find they suit my style of playing and hence would not fork out for them.

      I must admit to being a bit of a ‘Maton’ fan, particularly of the hallow body electrics and slim line jazz type models, such as the new ‘BB1200 series’ (http://www.maton.com.au/electrics/bb1200-dlx.html).

      Although my ability does not nearly match the quality of the instrument (or any of the aformentioned axes), I happen to be the proud owner of a Maton passed down to me from my Father – a 1969 Maton DC545 in sunburst green which he bought in 1971…. beautiful!

  2. Hey Matt,

    I think the sparkling finish on yours and the deep purple of my bass says a lot more about the person then the type of guitar…

  3. Awesome and insightful post…You describe the guitars and their personalities so perfectly.

    The guitar someone choose to play does say heaps about a person (at first glance at least)…

    When I first made the move to electric, the guy at the store said that I should get a strat… I was immediately against this… I don’t know why… I suppose it was due to the fact that I didn’t really like the shape. I ended up with a tele because of how it felt. I loved the versatile sound and discovered that it’s a great guitar if you’re something of a pedal whore. Big Muff EHX pedal helps to bring out more of a strat/gibson sound. That fat, punchy, attitude that you speak of.

    I love the look, sound and feel of the tele… I commented on another dudes post about guitar selection and I made reference to Harry Potter and how “the wand chooses the wizard” (hahah, yeah, I know)…

    I’m pretty sure that the guitar chooses the guitarist and not the other way around.

    It is true what you say about the strat being an untamed beast of sound. It is amazing the variety and depth of tones you can coax out of it once you learn how to make it squeal…

    Sorry for rambling.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Can I just jump in and say (as a bit of a Harry Potter fan) I reckon that’s just about right! “The wand/guitar choses the wizard/guitarist”… brilliant!

  4. Haha, love the responses so far.

    As for Bruce’s comments and the follow-ons – i should note that my Strat has become my go-to, I own other guitars: a Rickenbacker 330 and a Duesenberg (similar in many ways to a Gretsch) (both of these are semi-hollows). I also have a more recently acquired acoustic (a Martin 000-16GTE).

    The acoustic may actually say something about me too – I never owned an acoustic until recently, though for years I had wanted a Taylor, with its very clean and pristine sound. In recent times i fell in love with the more earthy Martin. Wonder what that says.

    Also Daz – you’ll have to remind me of which sparkly guitar I own…

  5. So I take it thats a definite no for the 5 string banjo?

  6. This is what I’m talking about.

    • John Mayer… hmmm, too bad he is a bit of a pratt with ‘foot-in-mouth’…. still he can handle a guitar and mic way better than I could even dream of… love this & Neon (among others).

  7. My guitar these days is a 3/4 length beginners nylon acoustic. It was rescued from a kerbside rubbish collection. It has “THIS IS A WEAPON” stencilled on it.

    I think we can all agree my guitar says a lot about me 🙂

  8. i have an lp with coil taps and let me tell you it is NOT a one trick pony. lol but i also have other guitars i have a very very expensive concert guitar from aria and a beautiful resonator from jay turser. my next guitar will probably be a screamer as they call them in the metal style of playing though ive yet to do more research as to which exactly would be right for me in that style. hm, i think you are letting your guitar define your identity. see as a guitar player, a person will often fall into that “if i play this style of music and own this guitar then that makes me, (insert your favorite stereotype here.)” but the thing is, in order to grow musically you must develop in all areas of the instrument rather than limiting yourself to a certain generality. with the right combination of amplifier/ guitar you should be able to generate limitless amount of tones probably more than you will play through in the span of a few years, even if you dedicate yourself to it. so, personally i believe a guitar says nothing about you other than whether or not you have patience and the ability to commit to something long term. a change in tone is not symbolic of growth, sorry my friend. ps the only guitar brands i hate more than dust bunnies are takamine, taylor, cordoba. theyre just over glorified first acts in disguise. p.s enjoyed your post. its nice to hear guitar talk.

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