Esoterica Electrica

The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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Take it from Judas Priest and follow your dreams. Even if that includes golfing.

Times have changed: Is becoming an artist now a reasonable career path?

If you play guitar, you’re a musician. And if you also write your own music, you’re an artist. It doesn’t have anything to do with how much money you make or how famous you are. We live in a time that honors that title, which is a huge leap for our society. Since I was a kid, I’d heard tales of handwringing parents who, when confronted with their child’s desire to become an artist of any kind, advised against it—pleading with their children to get a “proper” education, or at least have a backup plan. Painters, poets, sculptors, and writers were often portrayed as starving, wretched outcasts who died penniless. The exceptions who succeeded financially were few, and not usually musicians.

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Straight from the builder’s bench: Here are some tools that might just make your life a little easier.

Straight from the builder’s bench—these are the cool tools you need to keep your workflow moving along smoothly.

Guitar gear, by nature, regularly requires a bit of maintenance. So whether you’re a guitarist, builder, or both, having good tools makes it easier to stay on top of seasonal or technical changes. Any endeavor that requires mechanical or electrical maintenance is subject to what I call the 80/20 rule. This axiom refers to how we can spend 80 percent of our time fixing and 20 percent enjoying the fruits of our labor. You probably have a screwdriver or some wrenches, but there are a few neat little bits that make life on the workbench more pleasant and maybe shift the percentages of that rule.

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Cracked finishes? Buzzy frets? Don’t let it happen to you!

Wherever you live and whatever the climate, don’t forget to keep your humidity levels in check. Your guitars will thank you!

For guitarists, things get a little crazy twice each year. I’m not talking about the NAMM convention—it’s bigger than that. Both summer and winter bring temperature and humidity extremes to bear on wooden instruments, and if you’re not prepared, things can get ugly. Dry air shrinks wood and splits guitar parts. Humid air swells tops and fretboards, wreaking havoc on setups and finishes. It’s important to know that damage caused by failure to anticipate this natural occurrence is not a defect in the instrument. Many times, trips to the repair shop can be avoided by simple climate control.

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