Thursday, October 9, 2008

How To Not Suck, Chapter 11: Drop Your Bucket Where You Are

Duesenberg Ron Wood Signature

We all love guitar porn, pictures of beautiful guitars made by master builders from the finest woods, with wonderful mother-of-pearl inlays. Guitars that will make your ears cry from the beautiful tones they produce.

Or guitars that have been played regularly for the last half-century, lovingly handled in the harsh conditions of smoke-filled bars. Guitars with a patina of mojo that you think, you hope, you almost pray will rub off on you.

And there's nothing wrong with that, as long as you don't really believe it.

Eddie Van Halen's Frankenstein was put together from Warmoth parts.

Eric Clapton went to Gruhn's in Nashville and bought a half-dozen Stratocasters. At that time, due in part to his playing on Les Pauls and SGs, Stratocasters were at a low point in value. He took them apart, found the best-sounding neck and body, and made Blackie, his signature Strat.

Slash's #1 Les Paul was a factory second, rejected by the quality inspectors.

Brian May's main guitar was built by him and his father out of, in part, motorcycle parts and a fireplace mantle.

You have no excuse. That flame-top Les Paul or that koa Taylor on the guitar shop wall is beautiful and will likely sound wonderful, but if you're not ready for it, it will not make beautiful music. You work, you learn, you make your fingers make great sounds on whatever plank-with-strings you have right now. Don't stare at the screen and say "If I only had that, I could be good." The time to start is now.


Stratocat said...

Great posts this week!!

Ever hear Miles Davis talk about being able to tell how good a musician is by the way he picks up and handles his instrument?

Check the 60 Minutes Interview on Youtube.

Dave Jacoby said...

Thanks. Part of it is my frustration with the rest of the guitar blogs. I remember when I could check every few hours and find something interesting, either in the comments or in the main body, but these days, the good comments are few and far between.

C'mon! Keep me distracted from working!

I haven't seen that Miles interview, but I am not surprised. Can't look up on YouTube at work, but I'll do so tonight.

Patrick said...

Learn to play what you have, but also learn to recognize when what you have is limiting what you can do. Furthermore, learn to make what you have better for now, until you can get what you need to get where you want to go. Does that make sense?
The first guitar I played, I did not own. It was my sister's Teisco, which had junk tuners, a single junk pickup, and frets that had been ground down almost all the way to the fingerboard. It was not pleasant to play. It didn't stop me from playing until I saved enough money mowing lawns to buy my first.
The first guitar I owned was a cheap, cheap, cheap (did I mention cheap?) Strat-o-copy, in that it was vaguely Strat-shaped. It had two single coil pickups and really big, uneven frets. It was gray. It cost $75, and I rode my bicycle home from the music shop with the guitar hanging off my back on a strap. The frets hung off the side of the fingerboard enough to cut fingers on your way by, the action was almost unusable, and the manufacturer saved cost by only supplying two springs for the tremolo bridge. (That was enough to balance the .009's it came shipped with, as long as you tuned it flat a half-step.) It didn't come with a case. I had to learn how to adjust the action, the intonation, the truss rod, the pickup height, and I had to buy $4 worth of new springs just to make it playable. Then I had to file down the loose ends of the frets. By the end of all that, I had something vaguely playable. It still held me back.
It's important not to get caught up in gear, I grant, but equally important not to get stuck under your gear.

Dave Jacoby said...

That is right, Patrick. And I have a similar story.

Sounds like the next HTNS waiting to be written.

Kenski said...

"patina of mojo"? Good stuff!

(though I tend to find if you gently buff your guitar with a soft cloth after playing the mojo will come right off.)

For years I actually felt that I was hampered by having a guitar that was too good for me! I'd splurged on a 40th Anniversary Strat whilst on a trip to the US and felt so unworthy of playing it that it spent most of the time hidden away under my bed!

After quitting, selling up my last guitar then starting again roughly 4 years ago (time flies!) I started off with a LP copy which played better than it should have for the price, but not well. Actually, it played well enough, but it wouldn't stay in tune. A few frets were dodgy and it didn't 'feel' nice, but it was good enough to get me excited again. I still have it, though it's now modded with the hottest pickups on the planet. It's not a patch on the 'real' LP I have now, but it was essentially the 'first car' that I learnt to really drive on.