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Alan Ratcliffe
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« on: June 01, 2012, 04:15:10 pm »

Are we spoiled?
Alan Ratcliffe
Newsletter #22. 1 June 2012

We are truly blessed to live in an age where guitars are plentiful, generally good quality and relatively inexpensive, but has that turned us all into guitar gadflies?

In the '50's and '60s guitars were relatively expensive luxury rather than a plentiful commodity as they are today. Players had few choices between brands and even less between models. Features… well, if you wanted a Gibson, Martin or a Fender you were stuck with whatever features were standard at the time.

At one end of the spectrum were the “entry level” mail order or chain store instruments (still a fairly big chunk of money by the standards of the time), which were notoriously badly made and difficult to play. At the other end there were the brands like Fender, Gibson and Martin - good instruments but horribly expensive (particularly in countries still reeling from the after-effects of WWII). There was little to nothing in the middle ground between these two extremes. Owning more than one quality instrument was a luxury few could afford.

This meant that choosing your first professional instrument was a serious affair; it was something you had worked towards, scrimped and saved towards for months if not years. Thanks to the price, the chances were good it would be your only pro-level instrument and one you would stick with for years – if not the rest of your life.

The upside to this is that players learned everything there was to know about their guitar (and amp), all the ins and outs, and to a large degree, we bonded with them. We knew every annoying idiosyncrasy, every ding had a story and, most importantly, players learned how to make the most of what they had. You had to learn how to get your guitar sounding its best in any situation. If your bridge pickup too bright, you turned down the tone when you switched pickups. If you needed both clean and drive sounds in a song, you would use your guitar’s volume control, alter your playing dynamics or right hand position. Above all, you had to listen and adjust accordingly. I’m firmly convinced that this generally made for better players.

In these halcyon days of conspicuous consumption, when great guitars are available for a relatively slender slice of your paycheck, it’s commonplace for us to have a range of different instruments. We refer to them with collective phrases like “the herd”, “the collection” or “the stable”. If there is something we don’t quite like in a guitar, we sell it and move on to one of another thousand similar (but different) guitars and try that instead. But do we spend the time getting to know any of our instruments in a way that would make us much better players? Do we bond the same with them?

More importantly, do we learn that we have to listen to our playing and tonality? The staggering number of YouTube gear “demonstrators” who seem to blissfully unaware that the room they are playing in sounds like a tin can, their mic is distorting or the simple fact that they are not even in tune begs to differ.
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« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2012, 04:27:03 pm »

Indeed we are , not only with the instruments but also the tutoring thats available on the net or things like guitar pro....the advent of these prolly makes us poorer in the long run.

realtively easier these days i reckon.

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Vic
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« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2012, 04:54:31 pm »

Alan's article is spot-on.....

Yip...it was unheard of to have owned more than one electric guitar or even one amp in the 60's. I played a Carlton solid electric through a President 1x12"and later an AC10....the intonation and action of that guitar left much to be desired....Luthier? Tabs ?...what is that ?....ha ha....no such things around where I grew up  Tongue  Later in the decade I upgraded to a Hofner double cutaway semi-acoustic...had to stuff it with some spunge to curb feedback....THEN one evening I played a Gibson SG....absolute heaven compared to the ol' Hofner.....

Agree....even todays cheapies are better players than those lesser brands way back....just about every town has a Luthier......PUP's can be bought and exchanged, chords and lyrics can be drawn for the Net...etc.... So yes, I think we're spoiled...... beyond repair  Cheesy
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PeteM
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« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2012, 05:41:30 pm »

No, we're not spoiled... we were deprived back then.
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Vic
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« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2012, 06:02:43 pm »

No, we're not spoiled... we were deprived back then.

+1  another way of looking at it   Roll Eyes
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« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2012, 08:16:09 pm »

Ja, certainly puts our era into perspective hey.
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Alan Ratcliffe
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« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2012, 08:31:58 pm »

No, we're not spoiled... we were deprived back then.
Cheesy Deprived... yes, you can look at it that way. But aren't you the better for it? Adversity breeding character and all that?
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« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2012, 08:41:32 pm »

Yes we may have budget gear that is playable on most live gigs and a  wide variety , but we forget  today theres more distractions to prevent young guitarists from spending time working on guitar , back in the day guitar was the distraction , now theres 24 hr satelite tv , sport matchs televised 24/7 so with so many channels , video games , social networks , ect ect , guitar or lets say serious guitar is left to a very few ,  and then digital technology has led to bands being a thing of the past and live musos are being replaced by backtracks , imagine with backtracks how hard it is to find work as a bassist / drummer / synthplayer as those rolls are replaced by backtracks , even guitar is on tracks and a lot of paying gigs are a mediocre singer strumming chords badly over backtracks that carry the show, you couldn't hide behind technology pre ' 85  ,   so yes win and lose ,  
.
And for me , at heart i'm still a jazz dinasour and i'd easily go back to owning one guitar and relying on live musicians , than have the choice in more gear but with it comes technology and the backtrack issue which i despise ,


anyway i reckon if you have just one of the list here of vintage design guitars ,  either a strat / tele / les paul / es 175 / martin ,  which ever one suits your sound that you winning cos apart from some styles that need the metal pointy guitars,

 they were the guitars of the 60 's and even today we all want our new guitars to sound like that ,

the jury is definitely still out on this  


but thats just me ,  
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singemonkey
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« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2012, 10:50:27 pm »

No, we're not spoiled... we were deprived back then.
+2

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« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2012, 10:51:40 pm »

No, we're not spoiled... we were deprived back then.
Cheesy Deprived... yes, you can look at it that way. But aren't you the better for it? Adversity breeding character and all that?

Hell no... I love progression... new toys offer new ways of doing things. I didn't know I was deprived or suffering adversity back then... every instrument starting with my Ukelele, Trek and Bellini guitars and my bugle was pure magic. I experimented back then in the 60's with my toys and I'm still doing so now - no difference really - just more options.

As for character-building, the current 20 year olds on the forum might be saying the same thing to the 20 year olds in 40 years time. Oh, and, since I haven't grown up yet, I'm still battling to get to grips with what character-building means.  Cheesy
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« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2012, 09:50:58 am »

Advances in technologies and in factory production automation techniques are certainly to our advantage today. That's why guitars and amps are more affordable and more abundant than ever before (in SA at least). And most of these are good ito action and playability. Today's player has access to cheaper guitars that'll give any electric Fender or Gibson a good run for their money. With this came electronic Fx and lately also guitar-and vocal harmonizers.
But something changed for the worse...and that is the number of venues where live music is performed......So (at amateur level) you have all these nice instruments and Fx in the hands of mainly bedroom players practising scales and so forth but are unable to further their skills by performing to live audiences. I can't remember when last I was at sports club social, or a wedding, or an end-of-year function, where live music was provided.....
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« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2012, 11:05:14 am »

Yes we may have budget gear that is playable on most live gigs and a  wide variety , but we forget  today theres more distractions to prevent young guitarists from spending time working on guitar , back in the day guitar was the distraction , now theres 24 hr satelite tv , sport matchs televised 24/7 so with so many channels , video games , social networks , ect ect , guitar or lets say serious guitar is left to a very few ,  and then digital technology has led to bands being a thing of the past and live musos are being replaced by backtracks...

+1.

A few years back I made a conscious decision to give up all forms computer gaming for playing more guitar, went back to lessons - which meant plugging straight into the amp - no FX allowed and work on the fingers/technique getting the tone (ala Hubert Sumlin/Victor Wooten). Frustrating , but rewarding.

I am still a bit dismayed at myself, in this information age I am a habitual collector (over 60GB of music related information in the que for watching) - aside from going for weekly lessons - sigh Embarrassed

I often debate with friends about the role of an instrument in one's personal growth - From my parents stories, it was common for families in pre-TV times to gather around a piano and 'jam' than sit on the couch and get sit'conned Tongue.  Guitar and music in general have always been a major tonic for me - to the degree that I will not travel without a guitar (once was stuck in A'dam airport for 5days w/o a visa, ala 'The Terminal' - would have gone banana's w/o something to play!).

Spoilt...Oh Yeah. In the spirit of 'Everything is a Remix', hopefully some day someone may benefit from my attempts of imitating, combining and remixing.




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« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2012, 03:31:28 pm »

In light of Alan's comments about not having much equipment and having to know how to get the most out of it, this video of Fairport Convention in 1968 might be of interest. They have a pretty minimalist setup by modern standards - Richard Thompson has a volume pedal  Shocked, Simon Nicol (rhythm guitar) and Ashley Hutchings (bass) just go straight into the amp.



Early on the Beatles were also making a pretty satisfactory noise with not particularly sophisticated equipment.

I think Alan's onto something. IMO the less sophisticated gear - on stage and on the studio - meant that players had to lean more on their own resourcefulness.

Fairport were a London band, and UK bands had it harder than their counterparts in the USA in those days. Nicol and Thompson still tell tales of how you didn't have many choices of strings, and if you wanted to bend a lot you had to buy the lightest set you could get. Only it wasn't very light, so you threw the 6th string away, moved the others down one and put a banjo string on as the first string. Roadies used to carry bags of guitar bits with them, and they'd swop pieces. Fairport's roady used to get on well with Hendrix's roady and they'd help each other out with bits to keep amps and guitars running.

I recall seeing a picture of Pink Floyd playing in the early 70s, and Gilmour had only 2 or 3 pedals on stage.
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« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2012, 05:15:35 pm »

Is RT playing a Duesenberg in the last song?  Huh?  I had no idea they were around in the '60s.  Man he looked gormless back then.

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« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2012, 05:31:46 pm »

Is RT playing a Duesenberg in the last song?  Huh?  I had no idea they were around in the '60s.  Man he looked gormless back then.

I know that he had a thing called a "Grimshaw". I just googled that and it turns out it was a Grimshaw GS30. It was a Les Paul imitation, but actually cost more than a Les Paul. They only made about 400 of them.

I think he was trying to look serious. Serious was important back then. He was only 18 or 19, and in a famously nerdy and earnest band.
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