I don’t have much time today, and I like to share the articles when I have time to also sit and respond to any questions and comments about them. So, wherever I share an article, I also answer comments.
It’s a rule that I impose on myself. I need to keep this short to do that.
Another rule is that I write something – every day. I impose that obligation on myself. I’m pretty sure I’m eventually gonna miss some days, unless I go back to scheduling them.
After I finished my morning tasks, I went to write today’s article – but couldn’t think of what to write about. A little bit more herbal inspiration found me several pages deep on a dozen sites and pretty distracted.
Which was when I learned something not just new – but new enough to tell you about. Trust me, it’s awesome!
You might wish to sit down for this…
First Act, the company that sells guitars at Target, has a custom shop.
Oh, man… I giggled like a little schoolgirl when I read about that. It was pretty much the funniest thing I was going to read, all day. I knew it, and enjoyed the moment.
It was a very enjoyable giggle – and I hadn’t even read anything more than the title. When I stopped giggling, I decided that I’d read more about them and have more giggles.
And, I did that.
Eventually, I stopped chuckling and kind of got grumpy.
You know damned well that I’m gonna tell you why.
A number of professional performers, with quite some reputation, play First Act guitars from the custom shop.
Which, while laughable, is actually kind of scary.
When an artist of some fame goes on stage with a brand of guitar, they’re endorsing it – to some extent. By the time you get to the famous level, you’re pretty much just like a NASCAR driver – with sponsorship stamped all over you.
TIP: If you’re performing in public with some regularity, you can often ask the guitar manufacturer for “artist price.” They sell it to you at cost. It’s got their logo on it. Look at the amps. The artist probably paid a less than retail price for them.The logo is right on the front. They also probably used different gear in the studio.
The OEMs probably throw in some shirts and stuff with their logo on it, in hopes that you’ll wear it, or at least give it away.
Either way, the people who want to cover the original artist are going to be doing things like checking gear rundowns. When we see an artist playing a specific brand of guitar, we see that as them saying it was good enough for them.
Which is pretty minor. I can deal with that.
When someone starts getting interested in learning about a guitar, they’re going to see some guitars that are from First Act! Except, the guitars they’re going to see their favorite artists play were made in a custom shop and, quite obviously, don’t come off the production line!
That’s bullshit! These artists are endorsing that brand name and kids are going to think they can stomp down to Target and actually get an instrument worth the investment. They’re going to think they can achieve the same tones as their favorite artists.
Trust me… When that kid bought that guitar at Target, ’cause his favorite artist played ’em and they’re cheap, they have a dream.
And these artists just shit all over their dream.
You will never get the same quality sound from a production model at First Act as you will from their custom shop – obviously. In fact, they’re difficult to even make sound acceptable – but you can play at ’em. (I’m pretty sure that my saying “you can play at ’em” is about the least amount of endorsement I can give.)
When that kid bought that guitar, they dreamed of replicating the original artist’s sound. You’re not doing that with a production model First Act. Nope.
To put this into perspective, Slash has an endorsement for his signature model Epiphone. Yup, it’s an Epiphone. They’re not that bad and worth the price. It’s just one of their Les Paul models that they’ve dressed in black and thrown in some minor hardware.
In other words, the Slash signature Epiphone is playable.
And no… I can make a First Act guitar sound presentable. I’m pretty sure I can play a bitchin’ solo with it – and even adjust my playing to even match the instrument. Your kid can not.
Your kid will not have the skill or experience required to make good music from a horribly made instrument. They will not be that interested – because it’s going to sound like shit for a long ass time before they’re any good at it.
In other words, you’ve given them a disincentive to play. No matter how hard they try, they can’t make that sound good.
If you’re a beginner player, you’ll get more satisfaction and pleasure from a guitar that at least sounds good. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can get a playable signature Slash and it’s not all that expensive.
“I’ve been playing for 20 years and I can buy a guitar from Walmart and play it.” I’ve seen people say similar. Umm… Of course you can play it. You’ve been playing for 20 years. If you couldn’t play it, you should maybe be a little bit more diligent in your studies!
That doesn’t make a guitar playable.
When your brand-new fumble fingers are still acting retarded, you’ll eventually manage to play a clean G chord. Letting that ring out and sound good is satisfying to the ears – as well as satisfaction for your sense of accomplishment.
If you have a First Act guitar, your sustain is probably best measured in milliseconds. This is a First Act guitar from the box store:
The intonation is horrible.
The action is deplorable.
The neck is abysmal.
The strings are barely qualified to hold that title.
The tuning hardware is gelatinous.
The frets are uneven and poorly shaped.
The the nut is pretty much a bar of soap.
The bridge is never going to withstand passionate playing.
The optimal tuning to adjust for this is witchcraft.
The list goes on and on and on.
And, these artists are endorsing that.
That’s not okay.
It made me giggle again, and I’m pretty much okay with it.
I’m okay with it, so long as First Act eventually makes guitars you can expect to play as a new player and sells them at reasonable costs.
They do not do that today. Today, they’re pretty much two completely separate divisions within the company. Each guitar from their custom shop is made by luthiers and not stamped out in some factory and assembled by robots.
Guitar companies often have a history of some shit, so I’m willing to grant First Act a little leeway – assuming they someday achieve that milestone.
It sure does mean a whole lot of shattered dreams until that milestone is reached. Meh… I’m kinda okay with that in a would-you-kill-a-million-people-to-save-the-world-kind-of-way.
Why? I’d love it if kids got an affordable and playable First Act guitar. They’re just going to have to slaughter a lot of dreams along the way.
But, I have a solution!
When ever you see a kid with a First Act guitar, encourage them. Give them some motivation to keep working for their dream.
Then, help ’em find a way to buy a better beginner guitar.
We can weather this storm and come out better on the other end – maybe. We can deal with deluge of shitty guitars and broken dreams. It’s not the first time. No… The list of shitty guitar makers is long and storied.
When the kid gets something like an Epiphone Les Paul, that’s probably a good time for you two to bond. You should both get shitfaced and throw their First Act into a bonfire!
While the guitar burns, you can talk about how great it will be when that kid plays their first bitchin’ solo! After that, you just need to talk that kid out of finishing high school so that they can move to city and start a band! It’s probably also a good time to introduce ’em to cocaine! They might as well start building their tolerance up early!
(Do I need to say, “Don’t actually do that.”?)
Come to think of it, I strongly suspect that Epiphone does not actually want me endorsing their guitars. No… They don’t want me to speak on their behalf.
That’s the new thing I’ve learned and that’s what my current thoughts are on the subject. It’s pretty hard for me to give First Act the benefit of doubt, but I’m gonna be hopeful.
It’s going to be funnier than hell if, in 50 years, First Act is a premier name and people scour yard sales and estate sales in search of early First Act models. I’ll be dead, but I’m positive it’d make me giggle.
I just can’t get outraged and stay there.
Allow me to quote from an article:
The duo [the First Act custom shop people], along with their team of builders, have constructed pieces for artists as varied as The Cure, Maroon 5, Paul McCartney, Drive-By Truckers, Mastodon, Ministry, Aerosmith, and Bon Jovi.
Those people are endorsing First Act, from my perspective. Except they’re not actually playing production models, they’re playing something from the custom shop – which are seemingly nice guitars, including one that’s a 9 string electric guitar.
They’re playing good guitars, while the guitars at Target are best set on fire to celebrate getting a guitar you can actually enjoy! That seems a bit deceptive to me – and kids aren’t going to know the difference, nor will their parents.
Some poor kid is mowing lawns so he can buy a First Act guitar to sound like Aerosmith! That’s horrible – but we can work through this. For a few dollars more, there are many playable guitar models – not just Epiphone. It’s also a good time for the kid to learn they’ll never have spare money again!
Anyhow, here’s a pretty good article about their custom shop guitars.
I’m telling you, it’s going to be funnier than hell if someday there’s a bunch of people trying to collect every First Act model guitar for their prized collection.
Hmm… Reading what I’ve written, it may seem like I’m naively hopeful or really fucking jaded by the guitar industry. I’ll leave it up to you to decide. Either way, I’ve got stuff to do, so this is all I’m writing. Until next time…
Shut up and play us a song!