Esoterica Electrica

Though not the first, the Charlie Christian pickup was at the vanguard of the shift to electric guitars.

It’s easy to gripe about change, but us guitarists have always had to embrace new technology.

California has always been the place of dreams for young Americans: Hollywood, surf music, pop music, psychedelia, hot rods, biker culture, and glam metal. The Golden State’s only real pop-culture competition has traditionally been New York City, and we know that the beaches and forests are better on the Pacific side. Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring that, starting in 2035, all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the state must be zero-emissions vehicles. Once again, Cali leads by example, and what once was unthinkable becomes reality. Strangely, this EV revolution reminds me of the emergence of the electric guitar.

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Gain is fun in all its forms, from overdrive to fuzz, but let’s talk about a great clean tone.


We’re all here for one thing. It’s the singular sound and magic of the stringed instrument called the guitar—and its various offshoots, including the bass. Okay, so maybe it’s more than one thing, but the sentiment remains. Even as I write this, my thoughts fan out and recognize how many incarnations of “guitar” there must be. It’s almost incomprehensible. Gut-string, nylon-string, steel-string, 12-string, 8-string, 10-string, flatwound, brown sound, fuzztone…. It’s almost impossible to catalog completely, so I’ll stop here and let you add your favorites. Still, there’s one thing that I keep coming back to: clean tone.

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Sanding blocks are just one of the many things you should probably be keeping organized.

The stereotype of the messy artist is a tired old meme. Get it together and get organized.

It’s hard to admit that you’re a slob. Lack of organization is pretty much looked down upon in most professional arenas. It’s also hard to imagine successful people waking up on stained futons and stumbling through a minefield of snack wrappers while looking for their cleanest dirty shirt. That is unless that wealthy schlump is a famous rock star. Is it the artist’s way, or letting go of the illusion of control? Either way I think it’s a stereotype—and one that cuts both ways.

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All artists copy, but reinterpretation is where the magic lies.

While I have a special place in my heart for the classics, I yearn for reinterpretation that wears its reverence for the past on its sleeve but doesn’t just feel like an imposter. In my own instruments, I try to pay homage to the vintage guitars that inspired me to play, design, and build. That will never change. But it also doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate and even adore new things. This sentiment is true for both guitars and the music they make. Hybrid mashups have existed forever, and a lot of what people think of as original musical examples are in fact reinterpretations of something they just didn’t know previously existed.

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