This is going to sound paternalistic, but hopefully not patronizing. Some of my guitar goats (italics intentional), aren’t just guitar players and some of the recent conversation has been about performing. There’s actually a lot that goes on behind the scene and they’re things many people aren’t actually aware of.
On the other hand, some of us have been at this for decades and we’ve learned a few things. They’re not things that everyone knows and maybe you already know them?
These are going to be mostly short and I’ll push them out when I have time. I’m not going to include a whole bunch of things at once. I absolutely request that you other performers go ahead and share the lessons you’ve learned with us. Write ’em up as a comment, if you would be so kind. I’ll package the appropriate ones as new submissions.
I have a few free moments and figured I’d take that time to push something extra out this week. Why not? It’s not like I was doing anything better.
Today, I’m going to start with a story – of sorts – and then tell you about a company called Washburn. It’s not a very long story*, but it’s very unlike what most people seem to remember and it’s not even remotely like what Washburn would have you believe.
*I kid. It’s actually pretty long by most standards, but not that long by my standards. Still you’re going to want a cup of coffee.
By now, you should be well aware of what I’m doing. If you’re not, then maybe this link will help you out. That’s the complete list, so far, of guitarists who are better than Hendrix.
The short version is that Hendrix receives many accolades and much praise that, frankly, he doesn’t deserve. It is my believe that “best guitarist” should be based on technical prowess, above all else.
The best guitarist isn’t about who liked who and what was popular. It’s not even about who had more influence. It’s about the technical mastery of their instrument, knowledge of music theory, ability to compose, and consistency in quality.
In fact, there are guitarists on this list that I really don’t prefer to listen to. However, they are on this list because they’re fantastic. They have mastered their instrument and bent the sound to their will. They have understood the instrument better than the rest. They have used the instrument to create works that are legendary.
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…)
If you don’t know the drill, then see this link. My goal is to recognize guitarists who had (or have) greater technical mastery of their instrument than Jimi Hendrix had. The reality is that Jimi wasn’t actually a very good guitarist. So, when reading these, please keep in mind that the topic is technical ability – and not what we prefer.
Our next featured guitarist is actually one that I really enjoy covering. He had a background in folk and classical. His career lasted for just a decade but, in that short amount of time, he left a legacy that is astounding.
Without further introduction, let’s move on to our next guitarist.
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!”
If you’re not aware of what I’m doing with this list then I urge you to read this. Greatest guitarist of all time? I think not! Basically, Jimi Hendrix is frequently rated as the best guitarist to ever play. Pretty much everyone puts Hendrix at the top of their list of great guitarists.
They’re wrong. In fact, they couldn’t be all that much further from the truth. Jimi was a great artist, a wonderful showman, and not nearly the guitarist people make him out to be – speaking from a point of technical ability. He influenced many people and helped to change the history of rock, but he was not a great guitarist.
So, I’m compiling a list of guitarists better than he – and I’m sharing that list with you. It has been a fun ride, so far. I explain why the artists on my list are great and give you a reason to think critically about the claims made by absurd pundits at Rolling Stone Magazine. *spits*
It’s important to remember that, at this level, many of these guitarists could be swapped with other guitarist positions and the list still make sense. Frankly, they’re all very, very good.
Today’s artist may not be liked by all that many people, but people liking him is not a prerequisite for inclusion on this list. This list is for people who are masters of their instrument. Personally, I love his material but I don’t think anyone could argue that he should be excluded from this list.
Today, we continue our list of guitarists more deserving of accolades better than Hendrix. By now, you should know the reasons for this list. The short version is that folks give Hendrix credit for being the greatest guitarist ever – and they’re wrong. There’s no nice way to put it, they’re just wrong. In fact, they couldn’t possibly be more wrong – and I intend to prove it.
In guitar legend, there’s a story of a young person (usually a man) who wants to be a great guitarist. This young guitarist goes down to the crossroads, usually at midnight on the night of a full moon, and meets a man there. That man gives them the ability to play guitar like a legend but the price is the soul of the young guitarist.
This next guitarist has been to those crossroads – except he wasn’t there to learn to play guitar. He was there collecting souls and making guitar legends. This next guitarist is as much a legend as any other guitarist on this list and belongs on many lists, including this one.
Without further ado, I introduce our seventh greatest guitarist.
First, I need you to do me a favor. I want you to click play on this and close your eyes. I promise, I won’t try to touch you when your eyes are closed. Seriously, I won’t. (No, I won’t do it when they’re open, either.)
Go on, close your eyes (but click play first):
Alright, you can open your eyes again. Now, this time, take a more careful look at his fingers and you’ll see why he’s on the list and in this position. I shall tell you the story.
Django, his friends probably called him The Big D, was a gypsy. Being a gypsy, he picked himself up a nice gypsy lass. (Is ‘gypsy’ PC? I don’t actually know. Romani, I suppose.) They got married, as young people are wont to do.
He’d been playing music since he was like 12 and he actually played a banjo-guitar. He was starting to get a little famous and he’d even been recorded and had drawn a bit of international attention. Some dude meandered across the Channel to France and listened to him play. He liked his playing so much, he hired Django on the spot.
That went pretty poorly actually.
See, The Big D and his wife were gypsies and they still tooled around in wagons back then. Wagons are made of wood. They also had cellulose crap in there, ’cause I’m pretty sure plastic hadn’t really been invented yet. They also had candles.
Cellulose and fire don’t go together well and The Big D and his missus managed to knock a candle over and set their caravan on fire. I’m spitballing here, but I suspect it was due to the wild sex they were having. Even if it wasn’t, I’m just going to assume it was.
So, he never actually got to play on that recording.
Why not? Well, see… That’s kinda why he’s on this list. He set his ass on fire – and burned himself pretty well. They were going to amputate a leg and he lost the use of two of his fingers on his left hand.
So, when you hear Django play – realize he’s doing that with two useless fingers kind of in the way and a thumb looped over the top.
That’s right… I just said a motherfucker with two fingers (and a thumb) played guitar better than Hendrix.
Now, I admit that it’s entirely possible you don’t like jazz. I’m pretty sure the only time I like jazz is when I’m being a pretentious douche.
Not convinced? Listen to this:
He did that back before dirt was invented and with just two fingers (and a thumb). Hendrix couldn’t do that with all his fingers and a sheet of acid.
You can read all about him here, but we’ve already figured out Wikipedia is a pack of liars. They don’t even call Les Paul a guitar god. Heathens, the lot of ’em.
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.