Monday, 27 July 2009

Guitar playing

Joan Armatrading is presenting a program, well five this week, on her favorite guitar players. Which makes me think about my relationship with the instrument which has been long and varied.
I first started playing guitar when I was about ten, when I was given a nice enough dreadnaught acoustic for Christmas. However it was on my thirteenth birthday that I was taken to Music Village in Essex and was bought a Hondo Les Paul copy. This guitar was a lot better than you might think, and it lasted a long time as my main guitar. It was also this guitar which started my fascination with not just playing the thing but everything that goes with it as well, while most of my peers were becoming experts in the world of Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario I was becoming an expert in guitars. I can even today tell at a glance the age of a guitar. I also learned all sorts of other nerdy things about them. I even went on to study music technology so I could learn how to build the things myself.
But eventually I stopped being so nerdy and stated to be more of a player. I never owned that many guitars at one time, I am not the sort of person who owns twenty or thirty. Although I used that original guitar up until the mid 1990s in 97 I had the money to buy a really good guitar. I ended up with a Godin LG a which is an understated guitar made by a small Canadian company. Godins are the guitar of choice for session players and they have a lot of sounds in them. At the flick of a switch I can go from full on Death Metal to delicate Jazz sounds. I was also given a Fender Duo Sonic for my 21st Birthday which I set up as a slide guitar. I spent the rest of the 90's and into the early 00's playing regularly and working on more than few sessions. I never earned that much money doing this but it was always fun and challenging. However at that time I was using a lot of effects and the sound was processed to a point that you couldn't really tell what it was. In about 2001 I was writing more songs and decided to do a few nights at a song writers forum. This meant just using an acoustic guitar and no tricks. It was at this time I started to play finger style and I liked the freedom of not having to spend half an hour setting up all my equipment. Things changed for and for a while I wasn't playing music much at all. I had started to fall out of love with the guitar. For some reason I got interested in Fender Telecasters, especially the very early models. I couldn't afford one of these or a reissue but I could put one together myself. I could also make an attempt at merging new and old. Fix the little things that were not right in 1950. This experiment worked and my home built Nocaster, nicknamed Debbie and she is blonde and Debbie Harry and I share a birthday, has become my main instrument. I have got back into the habit of practicing for at least an hour a day and working on some new music. I've scraped the toys and effects and now just use my fingers to change the sounds. Of course as a compulsive tweaker I do have plans to build a more modern guitar with active pickups but that is for another time. I have now after almost two decades of guitar playing found that the best thing to do is just shut up and play.