Wednesday, January 24, 2007

An Explanation for GAS [Guitar Acquisition Syndrome]


* photo shows a collection of jazz archtops, seen through the locked grill door of GuitarsNJazz, a shop in Summit New Jersey, that sells only jazz archtops and jazz guitar amplifiers. If you are a jazz guitar player, I suggest you pay him a visit. He's a great guy and he gives great advice.


Fact: 95 % of guitar players own more than one guitar. This is because many guitarists suffer from a disease known in guitar-playing circles as GAS or Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. GAS manifests itself as an itch which can only be temporarily relieved by the purchase of a guitar. Severe cases of GAS can make the patient accumulate more than 100 guitars. GAS has been known to be the cause of broken marriages, financial bankruptcy and unemployment. Nevertheless, there are sound reasons why guitar players have more guitars than drummers have drums, piano players have pianos and sax players have saxaphones.

1. A Steinway sounds different from a Yamaha piano. But A Fender Stratocaster sounds even more different from a Gibson Les Paul. And a Gretsch Country Gentleman is a different kettle of fish altogether from a Rickenbacker 360. Guitar players think of different guitars as different tools for playing different styles of music. So a Country player finds the bridge pickup of a Telcaster irreplaceable, a Rocker identifies with the sound of a Les Paul through a Marshall amplifier, and true Jazzers won't play anything less than a hollowbody like a Gibson L-5 or a De Angelico. Unless a guitar player exclusively plays one genre of music, he is likely to want/need more than one guitar.

2. Playing a guitar is cool. In this age of MTV, guitars have become phallic symbols. This is helped along a little by their shape, and the way the bands on TV and concerts brandish them. So when we buy guitars, we are acting out some deep dark emotion in our psyche which we don't understand. Not to mention that playing the Blues on a Cherry Red ES-335 makes you look cool and attractive to the chicks.

3. Guitars are works of art. They come in a riot of colors from the staid Tobaco Sunburst of a Gibson jazz archtop, to the Shoreline Gold and Shell pink of Custom Shop Stratocasters, to the Butterscotch yellow of a classic Telecaster, or the black of a Metal guy's pointy-headed Ibanez. Scott Chinery [deceased], was a businessman who commissioned several luthiers to build a collection of blue guitars, and the Chinery collection was exhibited at the Smithsonian. Guitars like the Stratocaster and Les Paul have become cultural icons, instantly identifiable with certain attitudes and emotions.

4. Thanks to hedge fund managers, investment bankers, lawyers, doctors and rich baby boomers, vintage guitar prices have rocketed. So guitar players justify their GAS by calling their acquisition an 'investment'. Though in reality we know that unless our guitars are Les Pauls, Strats, 335s or Teles of the 50's and 60's we are only kidding ourselves about this investment thing. Nevertheless, guitars are fairly liquid assets compared to other collectibles such as antique clocks or Barbie dolls. When in need of money, you can always auction them off on eBAy, and unless it's a real dog, you probably wouldn't lose more than half of what you paid for it.

5. Every player is looking for that ONE guitar with the Mojo. The one that fuses him with the instrument and inspires him to play as if he exchanged his soul with the devil for the gift of music. In looking for the ultimate guitar, the player justifies his GAS, and each time he is quite sure he has found the right guitar, only to be wrong. So the search for the ultimate guitar continues....

Postscript:

I no longer suffer from GAS. I no longer break out into a cold sweat when I come across a particularly desirable guitar. When your collection reaches thirty guitars or so, and you realize that you only really use two or three guitars, and the rest lie in their cases, then you begin to feel pity for those neglected guitars. Eventually you sell them off, and focus your attention and care on the two or three that you like most. I believe three is the maximum number of guitars that you will ever need, enough to provide the variety of tones for your music. My ideal three:
1. Eastman 810CE archtop 2. Standard Fender Telecaster 3. Gibson Es-335 semi-solid.

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