guitar materials

Electric guitar—love at first sight. But hang on ... it's made of what?

Photo by Andy Ellis

High praise for low-tech materials.

Can you remember the first time you saw an electric guitar? Was it love at first sight, or did it reveal itself to you slowly, seducing you with its siren's song? I can recall the moment this happened to me, at age 10. Not long after, I became fascinated with the Mosrite Ventures Model. Like the surfboards and hot rods I associated with the Ventures' sound, Mosrite was swoopy and shiny with plenty of chrome. It was a crazy shape, had a zigzag headstock that looked like a cartoon, and came in dune-buggy colors like candy red and metallic blue. I begged my parents to buy one for me. We went to a store that stocked multiple brands. I approached the Mosrite display as if it were an altar. To my shock and horror I realized they were made of wood, not the fiberglass I'd imagined. How could such a forward-looking implement of modern sound be made of such a mundane and archaic material?

It took me a while to get over my disappointment, but move on I did. We couldn't afford the Mosrite, so I settled for a used Fender student model called a Duo-Sonic. At least it was painted white. Over time, I started to notice more interesting instruments with pretty woods and elaborate binding, inlays, and stains. I met musicians who let me try their Rickenbackers, Gibsons, and the occasional Gretsch. And I started to appreciate that all of these guitars, although cursed by being made of wood, sounded pretty great. I was learning and my taste in guitars was evolving.

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