Playing an unfamiliar guitar can help you chart a course into new musical waters.
One of the best ways to get inspired is to pick up a guitar you don’t regularly use and let it determine the way you play. Making guitar demo videos for Musician’s Friend Private Reserve has given me an even keener appreciation for how different types of guitars thrive in different musical contexts.
During demo shoots the first thing I do when I pick up a new guitar is decide what song or style it would like to play. This same mindset is a great way to expand your stylistic toolbox. Let’s take a look at some different guitar models and the styles they naturally help bring out in your playing.
Playing distinctly different guitars can launch your playing into new spaces.
The three pickups and five-way switch on a Strat make it incredibly versatile and inspiring. Try using the neck pickup to bring out your bluesy side. The neck and middle position, also known as position 4, gives you a very inspiring blues tone—think Stevie Ray Vaughan. The bridge and middle setting, also known as position 2, gives you that great Clapton/Mark Knopfler clean tone that’s also perfect for country licks. I tend to use a stronger pick attack and more left hand vibrato when I play Strats.
This Fender Custom Shop 1957 Stratocaster Heavy Relic produces all of the legendary and instantly recognizable Strat tones that have inspired generations of musicians.
That Gretsch sound! Gretsch hollowbodies combine a distinctive twang plus trademark mellowness that’s unlike any other guitar. Playing clean chords on the neck pickup with the Bigsby can give you that mellow Chet sound. The bridge pickup when used with the Bigbsy can handle clean Duane Eddy twang to full-on rockabilly with a little dirt. Using tremolo or slapback delay is often good fun with a Gretsch too.
The Gretsch hollowbody’s ability to get mellow or twangy coupled with the Bigsby vibrato give it a unique voice in the world of electric guitars.
Gibson ES 175 and Gibson Custom L5
If you’re looking for a jazzier tone, try a Gibson hollowbody. The neck pickup is where that tone is at. Because these guitars usually come with heavier strings (such as .012s), you’ll find yourself playing with less vibrato and sliding into notes as opposed to bending them. I love the sound of a light pick attack on the neck pickup of an ES 175. You can use the tone knob to get a little darker timbre as well. Playing with just your thumb on the Gibson L5 mellows out the spruce top’s natural snap, producing an inspiring jazz tone in the manner of Wes Montgomery.
This Gibson ES-175D VOS Hollowbody absolutely nails that classic neck pickup jazz tone.
Another truly original tone! The bridge pickup on a Tele is unique due to its mounting in the metal bridge plate. This generates that extra bite that will bring out the chicken-pickin’ country licks in all of us. I also really like the bridge position with the tone knob rolled off a bit and a good overdrive. The neck position is bluesy and funky while the middle setting can produce great rhythm tones and good, clean county leads. Like the Strat, I tend to pick harder and use more left hand vibrato when I play Teles.
Fender Custom Shop Telecasters deliver that Tele twang beloved by surf and country pickers.
Tired of playing those same old licks on your Strat or Tele? Try a Jazzmaster! I’m in love with these guitars right now. They don’t want Strat licks. The Jazzmaster likes surf licks, punk riffs and ambient guitar stuff. The Jazzmaster is a guaranteed way to get any guitarist thinking outside the box. Try a Jazzmaster with some ambient delay and possibly a Loop Station and see where it takes you!
The Fender Custom Shop Jazzmaster is a refreshing island among a sea of Strats and Teles.
12-fret small body acoustics
A 12-fret acoustic’s neck joins the body at the 12th fret versus the 14th fret on most modern acoustic guitars. In order to keep the scale length intact, the bridge is moved back to where it is almost centered in the lower bout of the guitar body. This creates a tone that is perfect for fingerpicking. Little 12-fret guitars are not really strummers; they excel at fingerpicking blues and other such styles. If you’d like to up your fingerpicking game, try a little 12-fret instrument.
Notice how the neck meets the body at the 12th fret on this beautiful Martin Custom Century Series. The bridge is moved away from the soundhole towards the middle of the guitar’s belly.
So there you have it; different guitars can lead us in different and new directions. Consider branching out on your next guitar purchase to expand your musicianship stylistically and even technically. And don’t forget to listen to the masters who played them for even more inspiration. Also check out our Musician’s Friend Youtube channel to see and hear these guitars in action. Until next time, keep playing!
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Visit www.privatereserveguitars.com or contact Derek White directly at 866-926-1923. He can get you the absolute lowest price on your dream guitar. Connect with Private Reserve Guitars on Facebook and Instagram.
Brian Baggett is Video Presenter for Musician’s Friend Private Reserve Guitars. He curates the Private Reserve guitar collection on video, visits guitar factories and works closely with luthiers and signature artists to gain insight into the greatest guitars being built today. He is also a professional guitarist playing several nights a week in the legendary Kansas City jazz scene. A former jazz guitar professor, Brian continues to teach and has a book and DVD titled Keys To Unlocking the Fretboard. Find Brian on Facebook and twitter.