I'm in the market for a new amplifier.
I've had this old Marshall practice amp for years. Here's how long it's been -- I was still married when I got it. It's too small to be useful at jams, it's fairly beat up, doesn't have a ton of sonic range, and to be perfectly honest -- I'm just kinda tired of it.
Guitarists are finicky bitches. We crave new equipment but then we hate what we buy. It's just sort of part of the territory. But the real problem is that guitar manufacturers know it, and they ply that shit against us. For example, I kinda knew this amp was too small when I got it, but it said Marshall on the front -- so that kinda tipped the scales when it came to making the decision.
Of course there were other factors involved (I had sold a bunch of my old gear when my son was born, so at that point any amp at all was preferable to nothing) -- but I look at it now and it's hard to escape the fact that I got wooed by the name-brandiness of it all, and now that I'm over the way it sounds I feel like a sucker.
Musician shopping is sort of like ladies buying purses or fancy shoes. Sure that Coach bag might not match any of your outfits or that Kate Spade number is waaay small to be useful, and those Louboutin shoes might pinch your feet and hurt like hell -- but are you reeallly gonna give those back and trade 'em in for some Payless just because they fit better?
Yeah, me neither.
We want what we want, and until we truly have a chance to ride those unicorns and find out how we truly feel about them, you can't tell us nothin'.
Plus, there's nothing more guitar-player-ish than to be able to say things like, "Marshall's are soo overrated."
Anyways, I'm in the market for a new amp. And there are all these amazing options out there to choose from. Mesa Boogie half-stacks and Roland JC-120s, and Fractal System Axe Effect Modeling systems --
So naturally I've been looking at guitars instead.
Keep in mind that this is all kinda pointless, because I need a new car and I'm living check to check as it is -- but such is the mind of a boy with expensive hobbies. Besides, guitar shopping is free as long as you don't actually buy anything, and like I said I've had that amp a looooong time.
Anyways, I've been looking at guitars -- because while a boy might truly need a ride-or-die amplifier with the power and versatility that he can trust, he's always gonna look at something with perky new pickups and shiny strings.
Sometimes I just look, and sometimes I'll pull stuff off the wall and try it out. Jacksonville only has so many stores that will let you do that, and they only carry so many brands -- but lately I've gotten a little enamored with the feel and sound of Jackson guitars. They're a California-based shop that used to do only custom stuff, but they have a knack for making guitars that stand up to punishment and the necks on the ones I've tried out are really smooth.
I came seriously close to buying a used Jackson strat a few years back, but I was worried about money and didn't pull the trigger fast enough. But I must have gone to guitar center and played that thing a dozen times -- the fit was exactly what I was looking for, and I still kick myself for letting that one go.
But the one guitar they make that I really really want is pissing me off.
Behold, the Chris Broderick signature model Seven String. Quilted maple top, mahogany body, coil taps, kill switches, floating Floyd Rose -- this is a serious axe.
Which is supposedly why it needs to cost $3000.
Three thousand goddamn dollars. Even in the world of nice guitars, that's a LOT of cash. Put it this way -- I own four guitars and a bass, and altogether what I paid for them doesn't even come close to that. This thing costs more than most production Les Paul's do -- and for what?
Unlike some materials out there -- Maple and Mahoghany do grow on trees, and companies make all kinds of guitars out of that shit. The combination of electronics on it are seriously nice, but it's not like they're super unique or rare parts. It's not like the raw material cost is excessive here and the Jackson company needs to cover expenses. No, this is all about the name attached, and it's a name most people haven't even heard of.
Not that Chris Broderick is a bad guitar player -- far from it (dude shreds). But dude's not exactly a household name. Not like say, former Janes Addiction/Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Dave Navarro, who's signature model Paul Reed Smith model guitar originally sold for just under $6000.
Seriously. Six effing thousand dollars for that thing. I'm sure it's a nice guitar and all (it damn well better be for all that cake) -- but there's no way in hell it's worth that much.
Quality costs. I get that. My two best guitars cost around $700 - $800, which is indeed a lot of money. It's the kind of cost you can justify if you're saying you demand a certain amount of quality and need durability -- but to me once you get past like $1,200 for a friggin guitar it better go down on you every morning and then make breakfast from scratch before I consider something like that worth it.
But then you go on YouTube for 5 seconds and it seems like every snot-nosed teenager mangling his way through Stairway to Heaven has all the latest and greatest gear, and you just shake your head.
Because the honest truth is that Jackson and Gibson and PRS and Ibanez and all the rest price guitars like this because when Dave Navarro or Slash or John Mayer or Steve Vai go shopping for guitars, those are reasonable prices for them to pay (even though they usually get their endorsement instruments for free). So any rich asshole who buys his teenage kid a $6000 guitar is just gravy for those companies.
And let's be clear here -- there are lots of $300 guitars that are amazing. And above all that in the hands of the right player even a pawn shop piece of trash is going to sound good -- But if we're being real and not all soul-surfer about things here, when it comes to new electric guitars in this day and age (let's leave vintage gear out of the discussion for the moment) you truly do get what you pay for. Anything less than $300 isn't going to be a quality instrument and the closer you get to $1000 the more you can trust in the materials, construction, and care that went into building it.
But once you get over that line, that's just paying for a name and it's annoying as fuck.
The answer of course is to find that more affordable production model that has all the features and playability without the endorsement name on the label, but sometimes it's frustrating to see a list of features match your desires exactly and realize that some bean counter in LA has decided sight unseen that you'll never ever qualify for something like that.
But then again sometimes that's a lesson in itself.
My champange tastes may never match my beer budget, but it's not like it ever has. I learned to play and developed my skills on cheapo guitars, learned to surf on hand-me-down boards, and do most of my writing on computers without an apple logo or pricetag attached.
In the end, it's not the surboard that rides the wave. It is and always has been the surfer.
But still -- screw you, Broderick.
[Now Playing: Protest the Hero - "Bloodmeat" ]