Friday, September 21, 2007


Normally on Friday I like to put up a post that is some kind of summary or conclusion or final statement of topics for that week. Today, however, I don’t have any of that. Today I just have a story about something weird that happened yesterday afternoon.

I was sitting around flipping through the new issue of Guitar World magazine (Dec. 2007). As usual when reading a rock magazine, my thoughts were getting kind of grumpy.

I was thinking all the dorky looking guys in the magazine have seen the movie Spinal Tap a dozen times, but all the guys still dress up like women who have been pithed.

I was thinking generation after generation of musicians have learned to read music, but Guitar World thinks the current generation of guitar players is too stupid to learn to decipher lines and dots so they print their music in tablature.

And mostly I was thinking about the guitars.

All modern guitars seem to have more electronics than were contained in the Apollo command module that went to the moon. Guitars have pre-amps and equalizers and active pick-ups and processing modules . . . And guitars have dozens of buttons and switches and knobs.

There are certainly a lot of cosmetic differences among modern guitars, but more and more guitar bodies and necks seem to be just platforms for electronics rather than frameworks for strings and a sound hole.

One ad even featured a old rocker saying he’d spent his life ‘chasing tone.’ (It was an ad for an amp. It was Eddie Van Halen.)

Chasing tone. Good grief. Chasing tone. With electronics!

The average classical guitarist gets a wider variety of tones from his guitar than the average rock guitarist could ever dream of and a classical guitarist plays an instrument with no buttons, switches or knobs of any kind. (Lately I’ve been listening to an old CD of Eliot Fisk playing Vivaldi.)

Someone, I thought, should build an electric guitar with just one simple pickup and that’s it. Maybe as a concession to its electric nature there could be one volume knob.

That would be cool.

So I was thinking stuff like that and sighing and flipping pages.

And just about only two or three pages after I had that thought about a guitar with one pickup and one knob, I flipped a page and arrived at a full page ad for a new Paul Reed Smith guitar. The PRS SE One.

It was beautiful. And it had just one pickup and just one volume knob.

Cool guitar. And kind of a freaky moment.

He hadn’t realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones until it now said something it had never said to him before, which was “yes.”

Douglas Adams

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