In the KNOW

February 7, 2019

So you’ve always dreamt of owning an electric guitar.

   

Then one day you decide it’s time. The axeman cometh.

   

What awaits you is the most bewildering category you could possibly imagine.

   

Guitar Guitar, the on-line and in-store retailer, sell over 4,000 guitars, 2,760 of which are electric.

   

On their website, they list 64 brands. By ‘brand’ I mean Fender, Gibson, Gretch, Rickenbacker, PRS and so on. They have one guitar currently made by a French company called Vigier. It has seven strings.

 

So let’s say you want a Fender. Could have been a Gibson but you prefer Fender, for some reason.

 

Now you’re down to 401. But which Fender do you want? Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jaguar, Jazzmaster, Mustang?

 

Images come into your head. Hendrix played a Strat. And Clapton, Beck, Blackmore, Gilmour, Holly, Vaughan, Gallagher, Cray, Guy, Knopfler, Rodgers and Marvin.

 

Telecasters, though, that’s Richards, Springsteen, Greenwood, Coxon, Sommers and Strummer.

 

Then again, Jaguars are Johnny Marr. Jazzmasters are Robert Smith.

 

And Mustangs are Kurt Cobain.

 

But for you it has to be a Strat.

 

292 different models. From £249 to £7,750.

 

Bit of a cheat, the £249 one is a Squire. So it’s made by Fender but it’s not a Fender. Still, it was £307, so you save £58. Only problem is it’s out of stock.

 

The £7,750 is a 1963 thing of beauty. According to legend, it was gigged regularly until 1982 before being retired by its owner. 20 years ago the body was refinished by the ‘legendary’ Clive Brown with a nitro 3-tone Sunburst paint job which was ‘relic’d to an 8/10 wear’. That means it isn’t authentic but it looks it.

 

In between you have Strats made in Mexico, Japan, China and, of course, America. Everyone says the Mexican ones, called Players, are really good and they are half the price of their American compadres.

 

But you’ve come this far. You want the real thing. America it is. Scottsdale, Arizona.

 

Now you’re down to sub-sub-brand. Original vs. Professional vs. Elite vs. Special vs. Deluxe vs. Performer. Well done, naming team.

 

Or you could go crazy, go to the Custom Shop, the “Dream Factory”. You’ll need at least £3k in there. But you’ll get a guitar where you’ll know the name of the Master Builder, the ‘luthier’, who designed it.

 

Who knows? Go Professional. The one that used to be called the Standard. £1,379, reduced from £1,499. Eek!

 

Right, pick-ups. Most Strats have three single coils, but you can have Humbuckers. Or you can have a mix - HSS, HSH, HH.

 

Single coils.

 

And then the neck. Maple or Rosewood? Eric Clapton used maple because he reckoned you could feel the resistance of the grain with Rosewood, whereas Maple is like marble.

 

Maple it is.

 

Finally, the killer. Colour.

 

3-colour Sunburst, Antique Olive, Black, Candy Apple Red, Natural, Olympic White, Sienna Sunburst, Sonic Gray.

 

Everyone you ask has a different point of view, but what’s yours?

 

You don’t know. Maybe you could buy two. That’s how the addiction starts.

 

Then, when all the information you’ve absorbed, the videos you’ve watched, the shop assistants you’ve pretended to understand, it’s all about to explode into an actual decision, one person brings you crashing back down to earth.

 

A friend in the know. A guitar Yoda.

 

“I wouldn’t buy a new one if I were you. Takes 10 years for the wood to dry out.”

 

That’s the thing with Discernment. No point having all that knowledge if you don’t pass it on.

 

So sorry, Guitar Guitar, I found myself a 2007 American Strat on eBay in Gough & Davy, a music shop in Hull. Maple neck, Sunburst finish.

 

Single coil pick-ups, too, although not the standard ones. They’re called Lace Sensors. The Red, Silver and Blue set. I think I prefer them.

 

It plays beautifully but what would I know?

 

And £799.

 

Can't wait to tell people about it.

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