Are You Being Held Hostage by Your Guitar?



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I know that feeling,THOUGH,I never had Super-Expensive CHERRY CLOSET CLASSICS,I Did have a few nice Les Pauls,Strats,and ESPECIALLY When they were New ,without a dent,Ding,or Scratch,I would ALWAYS be Afraid I was going to Scratch it,Dent it,DING it,Etc,... It was funny,I had these BEAUTIFUL Les Paul Custom,Standard model guitars In the Cases,Played about 15 minutes every 6 months,..BUT,I had a Fender Squire Strat I had bought before I had landed a Job that allowed me to Buy the "GOOD STUFF",,..I had taken it apart,sanded off the purple Paintjob that was already Crazing right out of the box,and Left it Natural Finish,Took out the Single Coil in the Bridge,Bought a Seymour Duncan "PEARLY GATES",Filed out the Pickguard to fit the Duncan ,Left the Body Natural Woodgrain,it was a multi piece,but,the woodgrain looked cool,Stained it medium Walnut,then,Clearcoated the body with Polyurethane,put it back together,filed the fret wire edges smooth,,threw on a set of SUPER SLINKIES,And I would PLAY THAT $150 Special Franken Fat Strat,CONSTANTLY,It played Well,Action was nice and Low,Tone was AWESOME,And yet,there,sitting idle in the cases were my $1600- $3000 Gibsons and USA FENDERS!! I was more comfortable playing that guitar,gigging with it,even though it still had SQUIRE on the Headstock,and the Neckplate,...It made NO SENSE,I Actually felt GUILTY about not playing my NICE Guitars,and then I couldn't work anymore,I'm a Gulf war Vet and have some Health Issues,after Money became very Tight,I had to SELL MY SHOWPIECES, didn't really matter,I NEVER PLAYED 'EM! Now,after being on Social security and Military Disability,I WISH I Still had Even ONE Les Paul Standard,BUT,I know how to mod the lower $ Guitars to play and Sound like the BIG BUCK Trophy Guitars,and,It's NOT the PRICE of the guitar that makes you sound good,...As MUCH as having a guitar that Plays/Sounds Good,You Make the BEST of what You Have,Especially after you get a little Older and Wiser,...and have LESS $ in your Pocket,lol! You can have a guitar that costs you under 500 bucks and STILL have something that LOOKS/PLAYS/SOUNDS As GOOD as some "MUSEUM PIECES",just takes a little research,some smart shopping,and,Reset Priorities :)


Stephen Quinn

Good first article with some important points.

I've seen that some hobbyist musicians generally keep their gear in a better state than the pros, because the pros' gear is in constant use and normal wear is expected. You can spend more time cleaning and servicing your guitar than playing it and making music, something to be careful of.



Hi William,

Some great points from you on "Being Held Hostage By Your Guitar."

I realize a working musician needs a high quality guitar on the road and for doing session work, but if you can grab a good used axe like a Strat, Telecaster or Les Paul for 500 or less, and tweak it with the right pickups and other hardware, I think you'll have a winner!!

I think even elite players don't necessarily want to have vintage guitars sitting around collecting dust until they get the right price. Seems like a waste.

Since I'm on here William, I have a "how to site" for musicians called Canadian Guitar I would be interested in interviewing you on this topic. A lot of players would gain knowledge from you on picking the right axe from you.

If you're interested please email me.

I'm going to put up a link to your article on my blog with a little blurb on what I thought about the piece.

Thanks William. Keep on playing and creating great music!!



I actually faced this very scenario this year with the reissue of the Trini Lopez. That had been on my dream list for some time and to have a limited release reissue was something I couldn't even consider passing up. Once I got it home.... I couldn't bring myself to play it. I had seen what had happened with other guitars of this nature and even though this one was still out in numbers right now I knew it would only be for e a short time. Only 125 released in the US and 250 world wide....I was the lucky owner of #29. The small "old school" local guitar shop owner (where I purchased it) asked me how I was liking it and I admitted I hadn't played it yet. He looked at me kinda funny and I told him why.

This guy knows me and knows me well. What I did not know is that he had anticipated this with me. He's a really good friend, knows my love of the instrument, and my passion for this model. He had a surprise for me.

In the back, waiting for me when I was ready... if I wanted it.... was the #1. He said "the one you have is your player... go play it". There was never any expectation I had to purchase the second. He just knew I loved the instrument so much that to have one I could play, and to have one.... the #1 in a limited run series as a show piece would give me the best of both worlds. And all at my option if I wanted.... he would make it work for me to have it happen.

There are not too many times you find someone to help you make your dream come true like that. Granted its not a vintage series guitar, but it did not need to be for me. It was the one one I wanted. And I was lucky enough to get one to play.... and to keep as a show piece. I'll never sell either. Some day they'll look pretty awesome hanging together.



Great article! I have a few guitars that would probably be considered "works of art", but I gotta play them. I guess I don't mind because I don't plan on selling them.
Keep up the great work!

Alex Flores

Great article, and great insight! I'm such a clutz when it comes to my guitar! I wish it wasn't the case but I'm always bumping it into things and with a Taylor 814-CE it cuts me deep EVERY time. I think the thing with gear is that there is a law of diminishing returns. The trick is to know when to you've got the best sound you're going to get for now, then get out of the game before you find yourself broke and able only to stare at the solution to your tone problems hanging there on the wall.



Reminds me of back in '81,when I was just DROOLING for a Les Paul, and would have had to finance it to own it. I didn't just want a standard, I wanted the "dream" Gibson. Thankfully, a very honest guy at my favourite music store let me try several, but before I made my decision, he put an Ibanez Artist AR300 in my hands.
He than went on to describe and demonstrate the versatility of the instrument as a result of the awesome variety of pickup combinations available with that great switching system, the sustain and tone resulting from the quality materials used in construction, and the beautiful finish.
Though I was really still stuck on owning a GIBSON, I gave it a go. I had already financed a 335 that I was still paying for, but wasn't happy with and wanted to trade. It was a guitar from the Norlin era (if any recall the abysmal decline in quality that came with it)
After only a few minutes, I was starting to see the light. That Artist had the wood and the goods! impeccable fit and finish, and really great tone and playability. The neck profile may not suit everyone, nor did perhaps the medium jumbo frets, but I defy anyone to prove that the Les Pauls I looked at were really worth 2 or 3 times (or more) the price of that Ibanez.
Bottom line: I bought the Ibanez and what I had already invested in that 335 I was still paying for covered the guitar, custom hard case, a Tube Screamer and some other gadget. That guitar got sold in the 90s to pay bills and buy diapers, but I still think about it.
Ironically, I have recently found myself once again mesmerized by the Gibson brand and history is repeating itself. I am bypassing the Les Paul (though a much better guitar than Norlin produced in the 80s)in favour of an AR325 at under $800.00 with case. I can now afford whatever guitar I want (almost), and have 8 hanging on my wall now. I don't have even one that cost me more than $400.00, mostly second hand. Don't be fooled by high prices or become a brand whore.
If you want your dream guitar, it should be the sound and feel of your dreams, and you don't need to spend $3000.00 or more to get it.


Right on! I don't get the whole "all-original-vintage" thing. Frets and hardware wear out over time. If you play it, it WILL get worn out.
I play so hard, I have to replace frets every few years.
Great blog!



Right on! (sorry I'm old) What is the purpose of owning a guitar if you don't rock it and beat the crap out of it. F investing, it is a sin not to have a beautiful guitar get banged as often as possible. I own guitars from mexican strats to a gretch black falcon and I beat the poop out of all of them strum-wise. Luckily, few dings over the years, but still, not making music is cursing that instrument to its version of hell, not fulfilling its only reason for being. Cruel.



Well I'm one of those guy's that will buy a $$$ guitar as a 'Work of Art' and not feel bad about not playing it. There are PLENTY of guitars, both pro and non pro quality that sound great and are designed for rugged everyday use. I have 'Practice', 'Working Class', 'Signature' and 'Work of Art' guitars and I'm cool with that.


Been there myself, after buying a new LP Standard a couple of years ago. I freaked out over the first few dings and scratches (#$%!@%& nitro finish...), but ultimately it's my guitar, and while I'm careful with it, the battle scars it collects will be ones that I earned and tell my story.



Man I was willing to kill at one point to get that big ass Gibson hollowbody that Steve Howe used live on Yessong's in 1973. It wasn't the ES-175 either. This beast was like an L-5 mutant/byrdlander is was Blonde maple with 3 count em! 3 PAF's and more switches than the space shuttle lol! But he made it scream. But dat chits way expensive nowadays its gotta be a 30,000-40,000 dollar geetar. I've got a Yamaha L-6 acoustic, Yamaha RGX A2,PRS Torero,Jackson SLQ2 Soloist.Pound for pound the Yamaha's are Kick butt and I can play em hard with no worries. The RGX-A2 is a sleeper of an electric its got tone for days. The PRS Torero is a fine axe but has EMG's. 9 volt batteries are the devils doing lol. The Jackson is almost too easy to play. But one thing for sure is our Asian brothers and sisters are getting much better at making instruments. Don't get me wrong I still prefer American made but cant afford it. I need a pimp or a sugar daddy like all these 14 year old prodigies lol


For this being your first article, you did an excellent job and I look forward to reading more of your work.

Cheers! \m/ \m/



Sounds like in this case the guitar was greater than the guitarist.

What I mean by that is that people will pay ridiculous $$$ for Jeff Beck's, Yngwie's, Van Halen's guitars, the ones that they beat down to death.

At the same time looks like this guy couldn't get the guitar to be bigger than itself by adding his fame to it.

My dream guitars get played, but maybe because I don't view them as "investments".



I've always dreamed of getting a custom built archtop, a jazzbox the gods would want to play, one that would actually glow in its magnificent fat tone radiance, a guitar that would inspire the masses to procreate by the issuance of one gently appeggiated diminished chord...when the time came for me to seek out that long dreamed about glorious tone machine, I was toutured with thoughts of my nearly empty bank account, my impending mortgage payment following the few/several that have already been missed, my TV and internet, gas and electric, sewer, and other utilities teetering on the edge of being turned off, the lone bowl of "mystery casserole" in the fridge and the empty ramen box in the cupboard right next to the emergency can of Spam (you know, the one that, if still unused, means that things can't be all *that* bad...I've had one for 19 years that has remained undisurbed, assuring me that my financial state is still better than it could be)! After reality bit me in the ass *hard*, I "settled" for my 2010 Ibanez Artcore AG75TDG, which is a wonderful playing guitar, has a great, warm-and-fairly-full yet bright-and-articulate acoustic tone, and offers me the versatility of having a Bigsby along with its pair of moderate output humbuckers for clean, thick and juicy amplified tone...and, with its creme white with gold hardware enhanced asthetics set off with an ebony fretboard and ivory-look tuner buttons, my $450 "compromise" is beautiful too! Granted, it ain't that hand crafted $30,000 D'Angelico I've always dreamed about, but for the investment, (which came to less than $600 *with* the HSC and sales tax included) I have a beautiful, extremely playable guitar that my wife DIDN'T want to kill me for buying, and one that I'm NOT terrified to bring to an open mic night!

Now, for that dream solidbody I always wanted/needed to sooth the raging beast that is my rock and roll soul...ahh, this almost terminal case of G.A.S. I suffer from is never ending, lmao!



I play all Squire Standards, I really like the one that is daphne blue, plays as well as any american made, set it up, those Seymore Duncans are the beezkneez! I even bought 1 more just like it for a backup. But then again I also own 2 Ibanez RG2ex1's, these guitars are Ibanez's moonshine riders, they look like a normal cheap guitar, but are built with top quality specs! Bought mine both at a pawn shop fpr about $100 each, got some upgraded pickups, made a change to a polyester capacitor and you have a Paul Gilbert, dream machine!
These guitars make me want to play, and they all look damn good and turn heads, they just don't drain your wallet!



Right now, my "dream guitar" is a PRS Custom 24 Artist Package with several customizations, & it would be a daily player. In fact, it would probably become my most played guitar.

Guitar's aren't paintings, they are meant to be seen AND heard. If I'm going to invest, it'll be in gold, silver, platinum &/or an IRA. I would never own a guitar that I would be afraid to play daily, doesn't matter if it's worth $100 or $100,000.

If a guitar is worth a lot of money, it's probably because it's unique, has exceptional play & sound characteristics, and/or there aren't a lot of them left. I've seen decades old Martin's in unplayable condition after decades of neglect & miss-handling that needed serious repairs go for several grand. Even beat up, as long as it's in playable condition, that '50's Tele is still going to be a very valuable guitar.

To look at it another way, a large number of Antonio Stradivari's stringed instruments are still played today, despite being worth millions of dollars each.



Last month i turned 40, time to buy your dream guitar. My wife told me she would pay for it.
I always wanted a Gibson les Paul, so I went to the store. In the guitar store I played several les Paul's and i liked the idea to own one. But The guitar sounded ok, but not that great so I couldn't spend the cash. In the end I bought a cheaper Eddie van Halen guitar.

I would probably be the guy with the tele. Now I like to bang the shit out of my evh-guitar.



I AM the guy with the Tele--the one in my headshot is a 1952. But the thing is, back when I bought it, it cost about the same as a Fender Custom Shop '52 Relic did at the time.


I don't think the price should ever stop you from playing it.Each dent, ding,scratch,chip,burn mark,or what ever(as long as it is not broken)just adds too its own guitar mojo(sound,tone, ect.)I own 2 Les Pauls (a 79 km and a 97 classic)and 1 American fender strat.They are all high end guitars.These are my stage instruments,I bought them to play them they were designed to play on.they play better they sound better.As a artist,why would you want too sound crappy



Yeah, i bought a Warwick Music man limited edition a few years back. I paid £1500 for it. If i had paid any more i think that i would have been too afraid to gig with it incase of damaging the guitar.

If you want to buy a guitar to show of, buy it in a case and put it on your wall. If ya want play it. £1500 it my tops for a playable guitar.



billkropp, I trust it has a pointy headstock.

bear_it, thanks for the positive comments. I'm the same way, either play 'em or sell 'em to someone who will!



Hope this isn't the last column inch you scrape together. I read it and I hear ya.

All of the guitars I own (which is absurd, you can only play one at a time) make my fingers tingle. The ones that have passed thru' my hands that didn't, get sold.

You're spot on


My guitar wants to kill your mama!

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