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by Walter Becker
(appeared originally in Guitar Player)
I have decided to break my long standing editorial silence to draw the attention of the musical community at large and guitar players and guitar owners in particular to a grave situation whose tragic dimension is constantly expanding and is in fact threatening to engulf us all. Picture this:
I am in the family room of a well appointed home in the North Hollywood area of the San Fernando Valley which is the neighborhood favored by many if not most of the top studios players in the L.A. basin. Every third house on this block belongs to a session player and contains a demo studio full of midi gear. This is the home of well known and endlessly talented picker of long acquaintance who for obvious reasons must remain nameless*. The gent in question is a devoted husband and a doting father, but right now there is no family in the family room; there's no room for the family in the family room. All horizontal surfaces are covered by guitars - acoustics, electrics, lap steels, old ones, new ones, weird little ukulelelike things with no proper names - and, as I sit strumming the last treasure to be produced for my delectation, my pal disappears out of the room asking if he'd ever showed me his Delvecchio which I gather is some sort of Brazilian rosewood dobro- and mind you this roomful of strings and frets are only the ones that he has sitting around the house and ALMOST NEVER USES AT THE GIG -
Or consider this:
I'm working at a studio in town with another well known session cat who has had roughly the same readily identifiable and winning sound for the last twelve years or so - but I've noticed that he never shows up for a call with the same guitar twice - true, they all sound about the same but for some reason these excellent sounding (and looking) axes are constantly falling out of favor and being replaced by sonically indistinguishable ones - and further probing reveals that each one of these guitars has been extensively modified and remodified using the latest space age (or is it now post space age) materials and techniques ("this bridge here is made of unobtanium - so rare you can't get any of it anywhere"), only to be rejected and discarded AFTER TWO WEEKS OR LESS-
What's up with these guys?
It's called G.A.S. - Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. You undoubtedly know someone who has it. Reading this rag, you probably have it yourself. Or will have it someday soon or would like to have it. You may think it's cool. But it's not cool. Not anymore.
How many Strats do you need to be happy? How many Strat copies, each extensively modified to be able to produce the variations in tone that once would have required maybe four different guitars? How many knobs and switches does that Strat need? Consider this:
I am settling up my account for yet another mod to my custom semi solid all Koa Strat clone with the rewound Fender low impedance hum canceling pickups and the Pau Ferro neck, at the shop of a well-known luthier-to-the-stars type guy who says to me, "Stick around, Buzzard should be through any time now - he comes in every Saturday about this time to drop off and pick up guitars -" word is out that Buzzard is going to be the Poster Boy for G.A.S. this year- and now it's Guitar Modification Syndrome, a dangerous complication to the original syndrome, that seems in more advanced cases to be doing most of the damage. In fact I am told by said luthier (one of several who work on Buzzard's and my guitars, since evidently no one luthier can create an ax that will satisfy our jaded sensibilities) that the Buzzard recently returned with a freshly modified guitar that he had impulsively hacked up with a butter knife or some other semiblunt instrument, in a crude and spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to Modify the Modifications - and this THE DAY AFTER HE GOT THE GUITAR OUT OF THE SHOP -
The horror stories could fill this whole magazine (not a bad idea) but what matters most at this time of crisis is, What can be done to stamp out this menace before it makes YOUR life a living hell? Here are a couple of ideas which should be reviewed by any sufferer on the brink of yet another G.A.S. attack:
1. Consider for a moment the karmic implications of owning all those guitars. Picture yourself dragging your ass through eternity with all those guitars strapped to your back. In hardshell cases, not gig bags.
2. Who's gonna tune those buggers? Who's gonna change the strings? (this won't work for guys who are buying and selling with great frequency, i.e., if you don't keep them long enough to change the strings)
3. Imagine that your wife finds out how many guitars you actually have ("Is that another new guitar?" "Oh, no, honey - this one's about twenty five years old!")
4. Pretend you are a clarinet player - how many clarinets do you own?
5. Ask yourself: would I like to be thought of and remembered as a guitar player or as a guitar owner?
6. Imagine that you are in whatever vintage guitar shop you visit frequently and are dealing with the owner of the shop. He is of course severely stricken with G.A.S. Now imagine that you are taking on his personality,with each new purchase you become more and more like him. This one exercise, done properly, will do more to stem the tide of new G.A.S. sufferers than anything else I can think of right now.
* Dean Parks
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