At a minimum, you should send detailed close-up pictures of the guitar to your repairman. But for the most accurate assessment you need to let him or her look it over in person so they can feel what’s loose, take measurements, etc. Allow time for your repairman to take the instrument to their workshop so they can examine it in detail without you staring over their shoulder.
Spending money on any guitar that requires substantial repairs before you can play it is a risky proposition, even more so when it’s a vintage example and its originality can be affected. But buying beat also gives you a chance to get a guitar you might not be able to afford otherwise. Part three will give you some specific questions to ask regarding the repair work, but here are general questions to consider about the guitar itself.
In this first of a three-part series, I’ll talk about the experience of buying a worn and battered vintage guitar and why you might ever consider it. Part two will list things to think about before buying a vintage guitar in need of major repairs. In part three, I’ll give you some questions to ask your guitar repairman if you decide to go this route.
Here’s how the average guitarist’s brain functions in response to being unhappy with tone … Problem: Weedy tone.
Guitarist’s brain says: “Buy a Les Paul.” Problem: Wooly tone. Guitarist’s brain says: “Buy a Strat. No — a Tele. No, wait…buy both. And a new amp, just in case.” One simple problem. One $2,500 solution.
Many guitarists, particularly those who love vintage instruments, believe everything affects the sound of those great old guitars we love so much. One longstanding claim in particular is that the finish affects the tone, with nitro finishes being at the top of the tone heap and poly finishes at the bottom because of their supposed blanketing effect.
It’s easy to test whether a 12-watt amp with an efficient speaker can be louder than a 20-watt amp with an inefficient one. Simply plug in both amps with their respective speakers, plug in your guitar, bang a chord and measure the results with an SPL (sound pressure level) meter. Debate over. The bantamweight wins.
Until I had to move to England, it was easy to justify having lots of guitar stuff as (A) I bought it years ago, (B) I didn’t spend that much buying it in the first place (my entire outlay was probably equivalent to a single nice vacation) and (C) storage wasn’t a problem, as I was a homeowner with a garage that managed to contain everything except the car it was intended for.
We are the storytelling species. It’s part of what creates and shapes our humanness. But it’s not just ourselves we surround with stories, it’s things as well. Stories enable us to humanize objects and thereby imbue them with greater personal value. When it comes to our guitars, the story behind each forms part of what we guitarists call its “mojo.”
I recently looked over all of the guitar gear I have, even though half of it I don’t even own anymore. It’s easy because I long ago started keeping a list that details each piece I ever bought, when I bought it and how much I paid. Besides being useful for insurance purposes and satisfying a neurotic compulsion to document my goods, the list provides a database of my gear history.
A pack of cigarettes ranges from about $5 to $15, depending on where you live. Let's take $10 as a nice median number. If you smoke even half a pack a day, that comes to a bit more than $1,800 a year. Cut back on your smoking and you can put that money toward a nice Les Paul.