Sunday, November 25, 2007

Everything you know is wrong

Behold the accompanying image of your humble narrator captured at our recent Radlett show; in my hot little hands is the Fender Telecaster that I've used for the majority of our show for the past 4 or 5 years. It's a '60's classic model- which basically means it's modelled on the type of guitar that Fender were making back in the 1960's. Popular opinion has it that the best Fender guitars were made in the '50's and '60's, in the era often termed 'pre-C.B.S.'- i.e. before Leo Fender sold his company to the C.B.S. corporation who introduced different production methods which for many resulted in a perceived drop in standards- this accounts for the inflated prices these guitars often command, although there's a huge market for 'vintage' guitars of all types. It's actually quite a 'cheap' guitar- it's made in Mexico rather than the U.S. and is part of their budget range that includes '50's and '70's classic guitars (echoing the above point there are many who dismiss '70's Fenders as anything but 'classic', although these have been re-evaluated in recent years- well, they have judging by the prices people are now asking for them). I bought it for a number of reasons- I like the look of it (very important- you're not going to play an instrument much if you think that you look an idiot playing it!), I like the feel of it (more about that in a minute) and the price was right. Also I wanted an instrument that was replaceable i.e. one that I wouldn't be worried about if I was taking it on a plane, or loading it in and out of vehicles and venues all the time. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't be concerned if it got damaged or even broken- it just means that I could get another one if this happened whereas my old Telecaster that allegedly used to belong to Wilko Johnson (that's what the guy I bought it off told me anyway!) is pretty much priceless to me. Also, it's got a rosewood fingerboard. I like rosewood fingerboards; I don't mind some maple fingerboards but I prefer rosewood. Well, I thought I did anyway- but first, for those of you wondering what on Earth I'm going on about, let me explain-

On a guitar the fingerboard is, literally, the board where your fingers go; it's the bit on the 'front' of the neck that the frets are fitted into. Fender guitars mostly use either rosewood or maple fingerboards and they're easy to tell apart- put simply, rosewood's dark and maple's light. A good example of a guitar with a maple fingerboard is the Eric Clapton signature Stratocaster (that's what E.C.'s playing in the 'Clapton shreds' footage that I talk of in my previous posting) whereas the Jeff Beck signature Strat has a rosewood fingerboard. They feel different- maple feels a bit smoother, not least because it's varnished- and they also effect the sound of the guitar- maple sounds 'brighter', rosewood's 'darker'. I've always preferred rosewood, but that's just me; after all, playing a maple necked guitar doesn't seem to have adversely effected Eric Clapton's career...

So- why am I telling you all of this? Well- because my Telecaster's literally wearing out. As I said earlier it's actually a budget instrument, not necessarily designed for playing hundreds of gigs; one of the pick-ups went wrong earlier this year (on stage in Maidstone), and now not only are the machineheads starting to work loose (this is not good for tuning stability!) but the frets are starting to develop dents in them at the parts of the neck where I play the most, resulting in buzzing on certain notes especially when I bend strings. It's all fixable- the guitar's in the trusty hands of Stuart the guitar repair man even as we speak- but it's made me realise that I need a spare guitar for Blues Brothers gigs, hence my recent purchase of a Baja Telecaster. But, since it's modelled on the guitars that Fender were making back in the 1950's, it's got a maple fingerboard. And I don't like maple fingerboards- remember? But I like this one. That's strange. No it is, really. I used it last night in Hexham (great night, sold out crowd all going mad, band playing well- what more can you ask for?) and enjoyed every minute of my time playing it.

What's happened? You're talking about someone who's so neurotically consumed by guitars that that can even tell you what song they're playing in the above photo by the position of their left hand (since you've asked, I'm playing the riff to 'Green Onions'- that's the only time in our show that I stretch my little finger like that on the bottom E string. Honest!) and who, if ever asked 'what do you prefer, maple or rosewood necks?' would always say something like 'rosewood- I don't really get on with maple'. But now I do. I kept looking down at my guitar last night and thinking 'that's weird, it's got a maple neck, and I don't like maple necks. But I like this one. Help!'

Hmm- I wonder what else I've always been wrong about?!?

1 comment:

Drums said...

Nothing wrong with being able to tell what song you're playing just from a photo; I was watching a dvd of last week's gig with the sound off knowing which song I was playing most of the time. We're a special breed, you know - we're nerds...

Now, back to trainspotting.