When I bought my fist guitar back in 2000 I chose it because my favorite color is green. It was an ugly Washburn with dual humbuckers and a rosewood neck. It sounded terrible. Not because it was a bad guitar but because I’m not a fan of humbuckers on a solid body. But that was the guitar I did most of my learning on. The foundation of my current skill set was forged by playing Smashing Pumpkins songs over and over on that ugly dissonant sounding guitar.
When I became a decent musician and knew just a tad more about guitars I went out and bought a Squier Stratocaster. This was a downgrade from my Washburn but it had two single coil pickups and came pretty close that trebbly Fender sound I loved. Eventually I became knowledgeable enough to know exactly what sound I wanted my guitar to make and I upgraded to another green guitar - a Fender Standard Strat with a maple neck.
Had I not known how to play guitar in the first place not one of those guitars would ever have sounded good. There were many times when I swore that if I had a better guitar I would be a better player. I had this crazy idea that as soon as I got that Fender I would be on stage playing for adoring crowds. But that never happened because its all about skill.
I’ve been playing guitar for almost a decade now and I finally see this issue clearly. Great songs aren’t hashed out on brand name expensive guitars, they’re created in your heart first. You can hand me a cheap beat up guitar and I’ll write a beautiful song people love on it while someone who needs their Fender 1950’s Buddy Holly Reissue to write a song will churn out crap.
In fact just recently I was over at my friend Joe’s and he had this seriously old Epiphone with a gaping hole in the back of it. The strings were rusted, the action was awful, and the neck had indentations in the exact same places I like to play which combined with the action on the guitar made it even more difficult to play. But I picked this guitar up (be warned: if I come over and you have a guitar lying around, I’m going to play it), gave it love and played beautiful music on it. If I went out and played in public with this thing people would think I lived in a box. But I fell in love with that guitar despite its shortcomings because at the moment I played it the focus was on the music and it was as if the guitar didn’t exist. Like it was just me and my fingers and you could have substituted any guitar for the one I already had in my hands.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate expensive brand name guitars. I’m not saying this because I own a crappy guitar and long for a nice one. Right now I’m writing on an Epiphone Dot Studio. I had been listening to Pete Yorn a lot and always wanted to play a Dot like him. All I’m saying is that the important thing is the music. I’m talking the notes coming out of the guitar and the feelings conveyed by them. I think the measure of a great song is when it moves people no matter what combination of gear its played out of. Every instrument is going to have its tonal differences but when your music transcends those you know you’ve done something right.