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Cool Guitars – A retrospective

I’ve just read an interesting post on musical instrument stereotyping, by Canadian Bassist and blogger Adam McKay-Allen Jarvis. Check it out here!

In his post Adam talks about guitars that are cool, and in vogue. This got my thinking about my choice of instrument (guitar) and reminiscing over my choice of guitar (Mexican Fender Stratocaster in a wine red colour).

I was inspired to play the guitar because when I was fourteen I wanted to emulate the bands I saw on television (in particular The Offspring and Sum 41). I chose guitar because I knew my parents would never let me have a drum kit in the house, and at the time I didn’t know what a bass guitar was.

In retrospect I often wish I had taken up bass. Because there are so few bassists around it may have been easier to slot into bands, and maybe any tuition I had would have focused more on timing rather than chords.

But I asked for a guitar for Christmas and that’s what I got.

My current guitars I obtained around this time. My first was a cheap Encore acoustic which my parents bought me for Christmas. I hated it! It was heavy, slow, painful to play and moreover, boring. The thing is now that I’m ten years older, I love this guitar! For a cheap first guitar the tone is brilliant and has really become my main guitar.

Because I hated the acoustic so much, I saved up for an electric. I was 17 and had a weekend job washing dishes in a local restaurant. Anyone who has worked in catering will know how difficult it is. It’s hot, hard work, you stand on your feet for the entire shift, you rarely get breaks (let alone food) and the working hours are quite unsociable.

I worked all summer saving for a guitar. When I reached the three hundred pounds mark in my bank account I quit, and headed up to London’s West End after school one evening with a friend.

My intention was to buy a Gibson or Epiphone SG (you know, like Angus Young from AC/DC). This was because I was really into metal and hardcore at the time and just wanted to fit into the demographic.

In and out of each of Denmark Street’s shops we went, trying them all out. To my disappointment I found that I didn’t like Gibsons! The fretboard was flat, and the body unbalanced.

Thankfully, we ended up in a second hand shop, where I asked to play a Fender Stratocaster. I knew from the moment that I slipped it into my lap and strummed an E Major chord that this was the one for me! The body was perfectly balanced, solid but not heavy. And the fretboard! Rounded. Perfectly rounded. It fit my hand perfectly. I told my at-the-time girlfriend that it compared to holding her hand (she was quite flattered by this compliment). I haggled the price (twenty five pound discount!), and walked away very happy.

I still love my Strat. Her colour may not be punk, or even rock and roll, but I like that even more. I don’t fit in with everyone else on stage, it makes me stand out. I love the strat’s versatility, I can play virtually any form of music with her.

Despite the fact that I can afford a much more expensive guitar now, I have absolutely no intention of replacing the Stratocaster. Maybe this goes to show, when looking to buy any kind of instrument, don’t think for the short term and try lots, try them all.

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Acoustic Jams

I’ve been playing a lot of acoustic guitar lately. This is for a few reasons:

i) it’s a lot easier just to pick up an acoustic and strum away than it is to set up a strat and plug everything in.
ii) I’ve been listening to a lot more acoustic guitar based music lately, like the ever fantastic Frank Turner, and Alkaline Trio’s amazing reworking of old songs on their album Damnesia.
iii) I’ve brought my acoustic guitar from my parents house to my flat.

The main driving factor in all of this is that I realised that I’m unlikely to ever be in a punk band again. Most people in their twenties just are to focused on their careers and watching telly with their girlfriends to harbour any ambitions to play in a band. And let’s be honest, punk-rock is a little childish.

I thought it would be much easier to get somewhere with writing songs and playing them to people if I wrote them all myself as cut down singer-songwriter tunes.

It would seem that my good friend Jacko has had similar ideas. He text me out of the blue a week or so ago and said about giving the music one more go. We did. Just two guys playing acoustic guitars. It was great! We came to the conclusion that less is more and we really should refrain from over complicating songs. Maybe if I learn to sing the two of us will be enough to complete a band after all.

Here is a nice video of Frank Turner

No songs from Damnesia are available of YouTube, however Dan Adriano (Alkaline Trio bassist) has his own solo album, Hollow Sounds, which is brilliant. Here’s a track from there.

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