What do a pre-war Martin, a blackface Deluxe Reverb and Jimi Hendrix’s Flying V have in common?
They're all on my guitar bucket list.
Everyone…well, every guitarist…well, every guitarist who reads Guitar World seems to be motivated by lists, be it “Five Monster Licks You Must Master,” “100 Killer Latvian Slide Tunings” or “Our 10 Favorite Fingers.”
My own list came about long ago, the result of reading two articles in a guitar magazine in the Eighties. The first was called “The 20 Most Beautiful Guitars Ever Made.”
The second was a description of the author’s personal “desert island” amps. Maybe it was the breathless writing or the boudoir-style guitar photography, but those articles inspired me to track down and play the guitars and amps detailed in the stories.
That little experiment showed me that some instruments were truly memorable, while others just didn’t do anything special for me. More importantly, it motivated me to create my own list of guitars, pedals and amps I wanted to someday own, along with some I just wanted to play. My eventual list included pre-CBS Fenders and a 1920s Martin—specific years and models from that original article. On the amp side I ended up listing the blackface Deluxe Reverb and original Super Champ name-checked among the desert island amps.
That really focused my search, and in the years that followed I tried out nearly all the gear on my wish list. Now I own a dozen of them, including a ’66 Deluxe Reverb I eventually bought from the proverbial trunk of a car.* But not all the items were about ownership. Some were simply about experiencing a particular piece of gear.
And speaking of getting experienced…one item on my list was to try a famous musician’s personal guitar just to see what that felt like. I finally got my opportunity 10 years ago at the Hard Rock Café in London. In the basement of the café is a vault containing a fortune in rock memorabilia. At the time (though sadly, no longer) visitors could not only view the guitars in the vault but play them as well. That’s how I got a chance to run off a few licks on Jeff Beck’s 1954 Esquire, Duane Allman’s 1954 Strat and Jimi Hendrix’s Flying V (which wasn’t that easy to play as it was strung lefty, while I’m strung righty). And yeah, all three were full of guitar awesomeness.
So back to my original point: Why make a list? Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I find it helps to get things out of my head and onto a piece of paper. Your list might be the top 10 guitars you dream about or the things you want to accomplish musically. Perhaps it’s the steps needed to play in a band or even start one yourself. But a list is more than simply an inventory of things you want. It represents concrete goals, something measurable.
A well-thought out list can keep you from frittering time and money on things that aren’t as important in the long run. For instance, maybe buying an amp because it’s on sale isn’t the best use of your cash and energy if you could save towards the acoustic you’ve really wanted instead. It’s a caution against impulse purchases that you might soon regret and flip at a loss. Simply put, it gives you focus.
Moreover, a list gives you a tangible reference you can show your significant other, your parents, your business manager—whomever—and indicates you have clear objectives. In this sense a list can become more than just a contract with yourself, it can document your plans and build respect for them by showing people you take your goals seriously.
*Just to be clear, the amp was in the trunk, not me.