Fewer Guitars

Perhaps it’s heresy to speak about reducing the number of guitars you own on a guitar-focused blog, but this year I’ve been very deliberate about reducing the number of guitars in my collection. While there has been a tinge of regret with selling a few of them, I’ve been happy about my decision to sell them off.

I started the year with 11 guitars, most of which I’ve accumulated over the past five years or so. Each purchase usually began with the idea of adding a new sound to my arsenal. For instance, I wanted a Telecaster to add some variety to my single coil tones. After 8 different Telecasters and two years of trying, I’ve realized I’m just not really a Telecaster guy.

What I was finding happening is that when I decided I wanted a new sound, I spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect guitar. So much time, in fact, that I wasn’t playing much guitar while I was searching for the next one. Repeat this several times over the course of a year, and I started to realize that I really wasn’t even playing much guitar at all. Buying and selling guitars was taking the place of actually playing the guitar.

Furthermore, I was spending more time just playing different guitars to hear them than trying to improve my playing. I’d grab one guitar and start playing for a few minutes. Then, I’d want to hear another guitar and grab that one and play the same riffs and licks that I was playing on the first guitar. Repeat for several more guitars, and I’d really accomplished nothing in my playing session other than hearing what each guitar sounded like.

I’ve sold six of my guitars so far this year, with at least one more on the block to go. I have one guitar that I’ll never sell for sentimental reasons, but the rest must prove to be useful to me in order to stay. That is, if I don’t play one for a while, then it’ll likely be put up for sale. My hope is that this will help me whittle my guitars down to just those guitars that actually inspire me to play.

I’ve realized that having multiple guitars that provide slightly different sounds is less important to me than having fewer guitars which are all comfortable and inspiring to play. If I want different sounds, I can add a few pedals or adjust my attack to alter the tone. And, buying less and playing more is going to help me improve my tone with the guitars I have.

I love guitars and I’m not willing to say that I won’t buy more guitars in the future, but right now I’m very happy with fewer guitars. It’s allowed me to put more focus on my playing than the tools I’m using.

Posted in: Essays, General

2 Responses to “Fewer Guitars”

I’m going to have to disagree – not with the sentiment about getting more play out of the guitars you keep around, but about reducing the options.

I like options and I like the ‘art’ of each different guitar I own. I tend to play one more than another at any given time. Each new guitar tends to inspire me to try new things and explore new directions. And so far, I haven’t been overly disappointed. I may spend a bit more time than I should researching different guitars and gear but that’s part of the fun. So far I only have 8 (plus a bass & a fiddle) but each is wholly unique and each is either fun to play or a challenge and each has it’s moment in the sun.

Live, I take a maximum of 3 guitars out with me since I don’t have a roadie doing setup but having those others around at home or in the studio tends to inspire me rather than distract.

October 8th, 2013 at 13:39

Big Joe, thanks for your comment and your perspective.

My intent wasn’t that having only one or two or even three guitars is the ideal, but that I’ve found that having a smaller set of guitars that inspire me has become more important than having a bunch of different guitars around, some of which I never played. I kept those around for those “just in case” moments when I specifically wanted that sound.

If having eight guitars inspires you to play more, then I think that’s great. For me, having more guitars proved to be more distracting than fun.

I love being surrounded by guitars. Just having them around gives me joy. My previous thinking went along the lines of “the more the merrier”, but I’m finding that my current thinking is more along the lines of “the better the merrier”, which has led me to get rid of the ones I wasn’t playing.

October 8th, 2013 at 13:47

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