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Don’t Fret over Your Feelings (or Freaky Fans)—Starting Out on the Electric Guitar

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It’s a rock and roll stereotype that the guitar player (and lead singer) get all of the love from fans. Does that love occasionally get strange? We got the scoop on wild fan encounters from those guitar players, along with their personal instrument picks and advice for those beginning to play the electric guitar.

More Than A Feeling (Or Not)

Kevin Gullickson

Minneapolis-based alt pop singer-songwriter Kevin Gullickson recommends that you let your senses be your guide when choosing an electric guitar— and don’t just use your ears.

First, I check out how it feels. It has to feel right when I play it. Some guitars are just easier for me to play than others. Second is the sound. I like a heavier thicker sound, like the crunch of a double coil pickup. Lastly, the look. I so appreciate the aesthetics of a beautiful guitar.

Jonathan Segel

Composer and performer Jonathan Segel now lives in Sweden, though he spent many years in California performing with multiple bands, including Camper Van Beethoven. He agrees that your subjective physical sensations will help you make the right choice. He says that you must first consider…

...Feel. Especially the feel of the neck, how you are able to glide along it, how the wood feels to touch, how the frets feel when you finger notes as swell as chords. Similarly, the feel of the body of the guitar against your body.

 

Leah Marie King

Singer, songwriter, and blues rock musician Leah Marie King knows that a hands-on inspection and a gut reaction help her choose electric guitars.

The first thing I look for when buying an electric guitar is how it feels in my hands. The guitar will speak to me and be effortless to play if it is a good fit for me. I bought my favourite electric guitar without even plugging it in!

 

Jason de Cordoba

When choosing a new guitar, international melodic rock guitarist Jason de Cordoba concentrates on finding a special sound.

For me personally it depends what it's for, looking for a particular sound, look, setup, there are a lot of instruments for many different purposes, usually I'm more interested in the sound, the more unique the better.

 

Are You Experienced?

For those beginning to play the electric guitar, there have never been more options for (or schools of thought on) how to learn. Teachers, online lessons, books, and plain old time spent building your calluses can all help you improve your playing. Here are some specifics on where to focus your hours and energy.

Jefferson Rogers of Herrick

Jefferson Rogers first played in a family bluegrass band, before moving to Nashville (with a few rock and metal pit stops along the way) and joining Herrick. He advises that new guitarists take an equally diverse journey to finding what they want.

For guitarists just starting out, find guitars and sounds that are the same as your favorite bands. For example, if you like metal, don't get an acoustic, get an electric and an amp. Whatever music you like, follow that.

Practice makes perfect - Segel knows that beginners need to put in the time if you want to perform well. However, don’t get too bogged down with technical terms right away.

Learn some theory—on your own. Play enough so that you understand the relationships of the notes and strings, where equivalent intervals lie on the fretboard, how chords and scales might fit together. When you think you have a pretty good grasp, then maybe look at some music books, I’ll bet you will just be learning names for things you already understand!

Gullickson wants to remind beginning guitar players that their unique talent is as important as practice and technical skills.

As you learn chords, scales, and solos, keep in mind the element that brings life to your playing. Playing guitar and especially guitar solos is more than just technical skills and speed. It’s an expression of something inside you. The best guitar solos I’ve ever heard have combined amazing technique with expression that brings their playing to life. Those are the solos that you never forget.

De Cordoba reminds novices struggling through learning to keep their heart in the right place, and don’t be afraid to follow your own unique desires. “Practice is different than Playing, Technique should be in the service of Art, go directly for what you want to do, expect no one to understand.”

You’re My Favorite Thing

It is said that you never forget your first time, how about your first electric guitar? Will your taste change as you mature and play in different situations, seeking new sounds? Guitarists respond with their past and present loves.

Max Ross

New York based Max Ross plays in multiple bands, while teaching music both publicly and privately. He still has his first electric guitar, “an ESP LTD Viper... it's been collecting dust for the past few years.” Today, he gets the most use out of his 2003 Gibson Les Paul:

I find it to be a very versatile guitar, whether I'm playing R&B, hard rock, or jazz fusion, and nothing fills a room quite like an LP. Especially when you're playing with a distorted sound.

Segel’s first guitar was “a mid-70s Memphis brand Strat copy”. Today, his go-to is a legitimate version of that same classic American design, the Fender Stratocaster.

The Stratocaster in general, a slab board rosewood-fingerboarded one in particular. (Wish I had a real vintage one!) I love the versatility of the Strat, clean to dirty, good pickups that interact with pedals and amps, the whammy bar. I love the curvature of the body as well, and the deeper cutaways on the older ones, feels nice to hold and to play. The scale length feels right to me.

King’s first guitar was “a Yamaha acoustic guitar I bought for $200”. Today, she shares the soft spot for a the Strat, but a version with historical significance to its design - a special one for a performer often called “the female Jimi Hendrix”.

My favourite guitar is a 1984 MIJ '68 Reissue Fender Stratocaster. This guitar is based on the guitar that Hendrix played at Woodstock, and it my #1 guitar. I named it Oldie as it seems to have an old soul. Great tone, and the neck is perfect for my hands.

Dancing, Hair-pulling, and Love Lost in Translation

Without fans, where would any musician be? Playing in your bedroom can be fun, but music becomes much more satisfying when you get to share it with the world. The responses of those you get to perform for are a great reward - the love and support of true fans is invaluable. However, sometimes things can get a little wild. Rogers remembers one way that a fan earned his attention, but perhaps not in a way that he wants repeated, “a fan ran onstage and grabbed me by the hair!” Here are some other entertaining and unique fan stories:

Fans can have strange ways of expressing their admiration and desires. Segel recalls a fan that “placed a note on the monitor that said ‘I want to bear your children. No, really.’” Max Ross’ wild fans at least want to have some fun before starting a family, “I'm always amused by drunk fans that try to dance with me mid-song. ‘I'm kind of in the middle of something right now…’”

King remembers a more subtle and sweet gesture from a fan.

I have amazing fans, they are truly wonderful people. I had a fan from Italy send me a book of poetry that he wrote, but it was all Italian so I couldn't read a thing! I was very touched though, a lovely gesture.

Work Hard in Order to Play Hard

Even if your only current fan is your dog, keep practicing! Remember to try different makes and models in your experimentations. Finding the unique sound that expresses your vision with the electric guitar can be a long journey, but you will have a lot of fun along the way.

Comments  

# FuzzyShreds 2014-06-06 18:09
Totally get it. My 1st electric came in a Squier Strat pack and even though I like how warm the sounds are, nothing feels more right in my hands like an Ibanez. Only been learning for 2 yrs, and I have 4 of them.
Reply
# andrea 2014-06-06 13:32
I loved the whole article now I have to check out the female musician-KING-y ou sed she's called th female jimi hendrix you got me going
Reply
# Dave AKA Bluewater 2014-06-05 18:17
As Leah Marie King said. ".... how it feels in my hands. The guitar will speak to me and be effortless to play." also how it rings, resonates and vibrates you'll know before you even plug it in.
Reply

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