Guitar players, like everyone else, are set in their beliefs. Some of these beliefs and opinions come from experience, but many come from something they’ve heard or read somewhere. In conversations and online posts, some spew dogma completely ignoring many examples of notable contradictions. So, here are some I’ve seen and heard regularly over the years.
1. “Real” guitar players use thick strings
They say: You should use a string gauge at least .11 and above. You can only get a great, thick tone with heavier strings. Stevie Ray Vaughan used real thick strings, so there.
Reality check: Billy Gibbons, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Carlos Santana and a bunch of other “real” guitar players have been known to use much lighter strings (.08 and .09), and nobody would dare question their tone.
2. American made is the best
They say: American Made Fenders are far superior to Mexican, Japanese, or other. If you don’t play American, you’re not the real deal.
Reality check: Another guitar player once blew me off as a hack based on the fact that I was playing a Mexican Strat. Well, buddy, my Mexican strat was sounding a million times better than your American strat that cost you 5 times as much. I’ve also been hearing a lot of great things about the quality of some of the Japanese Fenders. They’re priced less than American ones, but sound and play incredible. Even Epiphone guitars, which are mostly made in Asia, are turning up some quality products at affordable prices. It helps that they’re owned by Gibson and have invested in beefing up their quality assurance overseas. And of course, Ibanez is Japanese and they make kick ass guitars.
3. Tube amps are the only way to go
They say: If it ain’t tube, it’s garbage.
Reality check: Yes, tube amps sound pretty amazing, especially if you get a good one and are able to discover its sweet spot. But, that’s only if you want that particular tone. Some metal players use solid state amps, and their tone works for that style of music. The Rolland Jazz amps have been pretty widely used by many and sound great. I use the Eleven Rack in most recording projects, and love the tones it has. It uses profiles of real amps, but feels and sounds just like the real deal. I’ve also tried the Kemper profiling amp and was blown away at how it felt and sounded. And many famous players swear by the Axe FX.
4. Real guitar players shouldn’t need pedals
They say: Give me a good guitar, a good amp and one cable. That’s it! Angus Young from AC/DC plugs directly into his Marshall stack. This or that blues player plugs into their old Fender amp and cranks it. You don’t need all that garbage messing with your tone.
Reality check: Most guitar players use something between their guitar and amp, or through their effects loop. It should not be seen as a sign of weakness or insecurity, but a way to expand their tone choices. David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and countless others use or used some kind of effects to enhance their sound or to give them variety.
5. The best guitar player in the world is (insert name), no question
They say: There is no better guitar player than (some famous guitar player). He can blow away (some other famous guitar player)
Reality check: Everyone has their opinions about the best guitar players in the world. But, definitions of “best” vary. There is no best guitar player in the world. There is only your favorite. With all the genres of musical styles, it’s impossible to be able to crown someone “the best”. How can you compare Al Di Meola to Eddie Van Halen? Or, Jimi Hendrix to Django Reinhardt. Or, Steve Vai to Eric Clapton. Guitar players are revered based on many attributes, not just technical ability. I bet most people have never heard of the top 5 technically proficient guitar players (if there’s a way to determine that).
So, let’s stop with the ignorant, judgmental, high horse bullshit and just enjoy the guitar. There are no hard rules, especially in rock and roll. If it feels and sounds good, then it’s good. Period.