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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Sometimes a little microtonal content can make music interesting.

Who doesn't love Yoko Ono? As one of the champions of microtonal music, she was pushing the boundaries of vocal gymnastics long before Auto-Tune was invented and subsequently abused. But it has come to my attention that there are haters as well. What does this have to do with guitars? I understand the raised eyebrows, but allow me to get into the weeds a bit and eventually I'll get to that.

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This Maserati 250 F, shown at the 1957 Paris Motor Show, is a contemporary of Gibson's Flying V.

Photo by Alexander Migi/Courtesy of Wiki Commons

Now-classic designs such as Gibson's Flying V and Explorer originally bombed with the public—and chances are you would've turned up your nose at their debut, too.

Over the years, I've vacillated between my love of classic instruments and looking to the future. The same goes for automobiles. I was an F1 fan who always looked to the future. I drooled over carbon fiber wings and thought manual shifters were as antiquated as the crank starter and roll-up windows. Then I was stopped dead in my tracks in the paddock at a vintage sports car race by the sight of a beautifully crafted 1950s Maserati Grand Prix car. As Seinfeld might have said, worlds collided. As I stood before this piece of rolling artwork, it cast a spell on me that I haven't been able to shake.

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