There’s a popular saying that clothes make the man (or woman!), and it’s equally true about the guitar. Whatever model you choose to strap around your shoulders while you’re rocking out represents what kind of musician you are. But unfortunately, the guitar you bought second hand from your cousin is broadcasting the wrong message. It wasn’t custom-bought with your playing style in mind; it was merely what was convenient and cheap at the time you first decided you wanted to play the guitar. Now that you’ve got some experience to your name and you can shred with the best of them, it’s time to invest in the model that’s perfect for you.
Regardless of how many guitars your heroes might own, each and every one of them will have that special model they love. For Willie Nelson, it’s his beat up Martin N-20 classical acoustic nicknamed Trigger. Since 1969, this nylon-string guitar has been his mainstay and it shows. Between the gaping hole nearly spanning the space between the bridge and the sound hole, the multiple scratch marks from Nelson’s strumming, and the 100+ signatures of Willie’s friends on the sound board, Trigger is looking a little worse for wear.
Most other musicians keep their favourite guitar in better shape. Neil Young has had his Old Black (a ’53 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop) for as long as Nelson, but with customized modifications over the years, he’s kept it looking good as new. Meanwhile, musicians like Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead isn’t so much known for one particular guitar (as he switches from Telecasters to Starcasters to Les Pauls) but for the heavy use of effects like phasing, feedback, and delays.
Whatever guitar (and gear) you choose will be a determining factor in creating your personal style. It will affect your sound and your image, so don’t make this decision lightly. Do you want the heavy weight of a Gibson Les Paul to let you produce a killer tone of aggression, or would you prefer the lighter and brighter sound of pop-rock that a Fender Strat can make? You’ve got to think about scale length, pickup configuration, and size – all of which will affect your style and sound.
If you can head bang with Zakk Wylde and then switch to picking through a Bob Dylan song, then you might not have one particular brand or model in mind. In which case versatility of sound is your most valued characteristic and you won’t know anything about that unless you try out each guitar yourself. That’s where your local guitar shop will come in handy. They should have a huge selection of the top brands, like Ibanez and Epiphone in addition to the aforementioned Fender and Gibson, so you can get a feel for what each of these premium guitars can offer. You won’t know the difference between models of the Fender family until you try out the Telecaster, Stratocaster, and Squier and compare them to the Gibson and Taylor families. So spend an afternoon or more getting familiar with these brands until you can find the one with the look and tone that’s ‘you’.
It being the holiday season, you might think that a guitar is outside of your budget. You don’t have to drop multiple thousands of dollars on a guitar. You can still get a great sounding and looking guitar from the top brands within a reasonable range of $300 and $600. When you consider how often you play and the enjoyment you get from practicing, the money is well worth it. Just consider it a practical present that will help you score out a distinctive style of playing. So give a guitar these holidays to the most important person in your life – yourself!