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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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Filed under Band, Gear

New Releases = More Tunes

My two favourite band are both releasing new albums this month. This makes me extremely happy, not only do I adore their music, but it also means I get to buy music that’s current and wasn’t released a decade ago.

As with most upcoming major releases, singles have been released prior to both album’s launches. This is what I wanted to talk about. Hearing either song inspires me to pick up my guitar and get writing again, they both overwhelm me with a crushing need to play music and perform in front of an audience again. After listening to both the other night on spotify, I sat down with my guitar until I wrote something. It’s not much at the moment, but it’s got enough ideas and potential to bring together an entire song.

Anyway, let’s look at the bands!

Rise Against – Help Is On The Way
Since I was given Revolutions Per Minute for my birthday by my best friend some 5 years ago, I have become obsessed with Rise Against, buying every album, EP and going to every show I can possibly get to.

Their new song is taken from the album Endgame, which is released on 14 March 2011(sounds like a trip to HMV during my lunch break on Monday!)

There’s something about the opening riff that captures my attention, but unfortunately the majority of the song sounds like rehashes and reused harmonics from songs off their previous album, Appeal To Reason. Not a bad thing, but it’s not as good as their early stuff. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the rest of the record is like.

Sum 41 – Screaming Bloody Murder
These guys were my favourite bands until I discovered Rise Against. Sum 41’s music was some of the first rock I listened to, and Motivation was probably the first song I learnt to play in it’s entirety. Needless to say, they hold a special place in my heart.

The album is out on 29 March 2011. The first single is also the title track.

In contrast to Rise Against’s single, this is very different to anything that I’ve heard from Sum 41 before. It makes me wonder in which direction the album will go in. Each record the band have put out changes their sound, often going from pop-punk to metal and back.

The song however, feels rather disjointed, almost as it it was written in a studio and riffs were attached to each on a computer, rather than by sitting down with a couple guitars and seeing what worked.

That’s not to say I don’t like the track, the solo was a particular highlight, but given that the album has been repeatedly delayed you have to wonder what the band were doing all that time. Let’s hope the rest of the album has more polish.

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Filed under Awesome Bands I Like, Band, Song Writing