This is my first column for GuitarWorld.com. So let me risk it being my last one by offering a suggestion that goes against one of the deepest desires of guitarists and a basic premise of this magazine: Maybe you should rethink your dream guitar, because owning one can be a nightmare.
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.
The Peter Green/Gary Moore 1959 Les Paul is perhaps the most famous example of bad pickups gone good. This is the guitar Green bought when he replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and which he later sold to blues great Gary Moore. Its tone is unique, and hence has been sought after for decades.
So there I was, working alphabetically through my pedals, eventually making my way to “O” for “overdrive.” I resignedly popped the back plate off my Blackstone Appliances MOSFET Overdrive pedal, giving it my usual quick glance at the exposed circuit board—just long enough to think how much it resembles the London tube map and makes about as much sense.
I know they’ll never put it in the “How to Play Like…” column of a music magazine, but along with a “difficulty” level, there really ought to be a “fun” level. I once took a class from Keola Beamer, the master Hawaiian slack key guitarist. The most important thing he taught me that day was that if I wasn’t smiling, I wasn’t playing Hawaiian music right.
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.