I just recently wrote about a magical guitar and that was actually based on a few comments I’d had in reply, an email, and a private message. One thing led to another and you ended up with that article.
It’s what I do!
Anyhow, I have decided to write some more about that guitar company – but with a bit of history.
The ‘net is right full of sites that will give you free lessons with which to learn to play guitar. There’s even whole forums dedicated to mastering classical guitar. There’s speed metal, neo-classical metal, folk, hard rock, classic rock, and progressive rock forums – all dedicated to teaching you how to play guitar.
They do a pretty good job teaching and, frankly, you all seem to enjoy this sort of stuff more. Having had careers that meant performing, I’m acclimated to giving people what they want. It’s in my blood. It makes me happy to see your comments and to see the number of times y’all read these silly things.
So, surely I’ll continue to write and call them lessons – even if they don’t seem like things you need to know if you want to play Smoke On The Water.
I have no shame. None. I sold that, probably long before you were born. In the 1980s, I played a keytar – on stage. I didn’t just play it – I played it like a fucking rock star. I’ve played Madonna’s Material Girl, live and on stage.
I shouldn’t quite say I have no shame ’cause. if I had recordings from that period of my life, I wouldn’t share them with you. Wait… No, I have no shame ’cause I’d giggle like a little schoolgirl and share them with you. I’d even track the number of times they were listened to.
I’m not sure, now that I think about it. It may be that I have no shame – or that I’m incapable of being embarrassed. When it comes to music, I “sold out” long ago. When it comes to being embarrassed, I can (and will) tell corny jokes on stage. Not just corny jokes – but the kind of jokes you get from a Popsicle stick. Worse, if I’m inebriated, I may make bad puns – for the whole show.
Sort of related, I once had a drummer (everyone say hello to Wog) who knew me very well. He’d punctuate my bad jokes with the drum.
Because I have no shame, I seem to have recently taken the platform of my blog to write about any damned thing I want. That’s fine – but the shameless part is that I call them “lessons.”
I get a few questions and have developed some stock answers to them. One of the questions that I get is, “What kind of guitar should I get?”
My stock answer is, “Ibanez, any model.”
First, it’s their first guitar and, truthfully, it’s most likely to be used for a few months and then used as a decoration after a few months go by and people realize that it’s difficult to learn to play guitar.
Yes, yes it is difficult to learn to play guitar well. No, it’s not impossible and anyone can probably do it. It’s just a lot of work. For a small subset of people, it comes naturally. Don’t count on it. Count on it taking thousands and thousands of hours of practice.
So, if nothing else, an Ibanez looks good on the wall and is perfectly playable for those times when their buddy shows up and actually can play guitar. Which is a bonus…
There are so many models of guitar that I am not sure anyone can ever be an expert with regards to all of them. There are variations by year, custom orders, short-lived models, and more.
Well, the Gibson Les Paul (GLP) is no exception. If you ever decide you want to become a collector, then collecting the various GLP models is a stupid place to start.
That’s right, I just said it’s stupid. Why?
Because there’s tons of them. I have a pretty nice collection and not even I have them all. But, they come with so many variations that you’ll be a lifetime just getting half of the models.
Alright, for the purpose of this discussion, we’re going to have three different types of guitar body. We have a solid body, a semi-hollow body, and a hollow body. We’re also going to limit ourselves to discussing just electric guitars. Yes, you can get sound from an unamplified semi- or hollow body guitar. Skip it. I’m not writing a damned encyclopedia for you.
Alright, TheBuddha, now you’re just being confusing.
Well, sit down and take notes ’cause I’m only going to say this once.
Solid Body: This is a guitar body made out of a single piece of wood (typically) and will have no chambers designed to resonate.
It gets weird here, but trust me… A good thick solid body (like a GLP) will have oodles of sustain, is pretty easy to lay on effects, and is much easier to amplify louder with less feedback. Not that you can’t do that with the other models, but that requires skill and can be a bit of an art form learned over decades.
These are guitars like the Fender Stratocaster, Gibson SG, or the Fender Telecaster. This is what one might look like:
Hollow Body: This guitar will have lots of resonating space – it’s usually pretty much like an acoustic in regards to the fact that it’s mostly empty. I really shouldn’t have to explain this, but I feel compelled to.
This bad boy is lovely for jazz or even amplification of classical music. You get deep, rich, vibrant tones – and lots of clear bass. And, you get feedback if you go too loud, effects may sound muddied, and (believe it or not) they’ll often get less sustain.
It takes some work to truly master the sound from a hollow body electric guitar. I do not recommend folks start with one. They might look something like this:
Semi-Hollow Body: Somewhere between the hollow and solid lies the middle. There are so many different kinds that I am not even going to bother trying to list them all.
You’ll get a wonderful blend of tone, sustain, and ease of play. There’s a bunch of models but the one for this topic is the GLP ES. It looks like this:
And that, folks, is the holy grail. Oh, there are many other fine GLP models. There’s the Studio, the Junior, and countless other models. But, that one right there is the perfect blend of sustain, ideal weight (though a little light for my taste), ease of adding effects, warmth of tone, durability, and value for price.
If you’ve already got a GLP and want to plunk a few more bucks down, then the ES model is a very, very fine choice.
Now, to my point! (I typed all that just so that I could type this.)
Most folks are only familiar with the solid-body GLP but there are a number of different models that span many, many years and have many variations. It’ll take a lifetime to collect all of them, but I’ve never met a GLP I didn’t like. I have a great fondness for the ES model, but not many musicians play them. So, as I typically do covers, I seldom get the chance to play them for other people.
Either way, there’s some history/lesson/gibberish stuff for you. I’m not sure if this will help you understand anything, nor am I sure what I’ll write about next, but it’s something and something is often better than nothing.
Now, shut up and play us a song! (And until next time…)
I know there are plenty of resources on the web for guitar lessons. Yet, I still keep feeling the need to add more to the list. The problem is, I can never really think of things to write about. So, today, I was playing a Gibson SG and I decided that’d be a fine thing to write about. Continue reading “Let’s talk about the Gibson SG!”
There are some misconceptions about the origins of the electric guitar. Many people credit Les Paul with the invention – but that’s not true. He just helped make it perfect. No, the story is stranger than that. It’s so strange that we’re going to ignore the various attempts and stick with the first viable electric guitar.
Way back before any of us was hatched, a fella by the name of George Beauchamp used to play in a Hawaiian band. Never mind that he wasn’t actually from Hawaii, that’s not important. What matters is that he was a steel guitar player.
Now, a steel guitar (not to be confused with a pedal steel guitar) is played by putting the guitar, top up, across your lap as though you’re Jeff Healey. Then, you use a piece of steel to slide and fret your guitar. This, of course, is absolutely retarded.
I’m going to assume you know how a guitar works. By putting the guitar perpendicular across their lap and pointing the sound hole up, that means the sound goes into the ceiling and not into the audience. Like I said, it’s fucking retarded.
I will take a brief moment to point out that Country and Western music has steel guitar in it ’cause these same bands would play both genres and they’d play them with the same musical instruments. So, you ended up with steel guitar in country music and, eventually, pedal steel in country music. Most musicians don’t make much money. You play with what you’ve got – and they had a steel guitar. So, goat roping music has steel guitar in it.
Where was I? Oh, yes…
George Beauchamp didn’t like this very much and realized it was retarded. He was unable to get the volume out of the guitar that he needed to be heard along with the other instruments. (Important side note: It’d be a bit longer before the guitar moved to the front of the band.)
So, using magnets and coils, Beauchamp set about making himself an electrified guitar. Well, it pretty much sucked – but he was pretty pleased with himself. I’d like to think the first thing he played was a bitchin’ solo, but that’s unlikely because the bitchin’ solo hadn’t yet been invented. This was still the 1920s, after all.
Even though it sucked, George thought it was the best thing ever. He meandered all over California with his band and guitar. This would have been awesome, but did I mention it kind of sucked? Well, it did.
Eventually, and I’m not actually sure how, he met a fella by the name of Adolph Rickenbacker at Dopyera Brothers in Los Angeles, CA. It turns out, Adolf was a bit of an electrical engineer and was really interested in new technology. Working together, they fashioned themselves some pickups and probably worked on playing bitchin’ solos together.
It’s sort of important to note that they weren’t actually the first to amplify a guitar. No, the first amplified guitars were probably from the jazz guitarists and they weren’t actually commercially available.
It was about this time when they started making guitars out of metal. George and Adolf said, “Sweet.” Then, they put their pickups into these metal guitars. These guitars were shaped like long-handled frying pans and the “Frying Pan” electric guitar, and amplification, were born.
That was in 1931.
Strangely, there’s no story of misdeeds and intrigue. The Rickenbacker guitars are known as such ’cause Beauchamp is fucking hard for people to pronounce.
And those were the first commercially viable electric guitars. They weren’t invented to make bitchin’ solos. Nobody would leap around with ’em for years to come. They woudn’t move to the front of the band until the 1950s. They were invented so that they could play Hawaiian music at volumes loud enough to be heard with the rest of the band.
Don’t get me wrong, Hendrix was a good guitarist. He took things from other artists, put them together in a package all his own, and did things with the guitar (in totality) that other guitarists simply weren’t doing at the time.
But, listen to his live stuff. He couldn’t stay in key, couldn’t play the same thing twice, knew maybe a dozen basic progressions and scales, and was remarkably sloppy.
I won’t deny that he was influential. I can even say that he’s influenced me. I can also say, with some absolute certainty, that I can play everything Hendrix played and I can play it better than he did. It’s not hard. If you want something difficult, try Leyenda (Asturias).
Rolling Stone Magazine rated Jimi Hendrix as Greatest Guitarist of All Time. This has, for a variety of reasons, bothered me. I don’t mean it’s bothered me just a little, I mean it’s driven me to make passionate rants in front of otherwise nice people.
The truth of the matter is that Jimi was not the great guitarist that people seem to credit him as being. Don’t get me wrong. Jimi was a great artist and his contribution to music isn’t to be taken lightly. He’s just not even remotely the Greatest Guitarist of All Time. He wasn’t even the greatest guitarist of his era.
It’s from this that I ended up having a conversation with a fella named @cynicaloldfart and they were pretty smart about it. They asked me who I felt was the best guitarist – and I had an immediate answer. (That answer is Les Paul, by the way. Without him, we’d still be banging proverbial rocks together and strumming on fig leaves.)
This led to a second question – who else? Then, it led to the idea that I should compile a list of guitarists who are better than Hendrix. This seemed remarkably cathartic and I’ve now decided to begin publishing this list. Suffice to say, I’ve quite a few folks on that list – all of whom are better than Hendrix ever dreamed of being.
Running with his question, I’ve decided to compile a list of guitarists that are really very good and deserving of accolades. I’ve taken a scholastic approach to this, though it’s not so refined as to ever be suitable for publication in an academic journal. Instead, it’s meant to give us a moment of healing, a time when we can feel better about the injustices that have been done to us – like naming Hendrix as the greatest guitarist of all time.
I present the very first in what’s a fairly long list of guitarists who are greater than Hendrix. I will attempt to quantify the unquantifiable and to justify each selection. I highly encourage people to respond and let me know if you’d like a new guitarist featured, one that you think is better than Hendrix ever was. I, of course, will decide if you’re suggestion has merit and will consider it for inclusion on the list.
There is no guarantee about the length of the list (I currently have a dozen to get us started) or the regularity with which I’ll post. I’ll aim to get a new guitarist added to the list, one each week, and we’ll see where it goes from there.
Without further ado, I present to you the start of the list and our first guitarist greater than Hendrix ever thought of being: