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.
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).
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?