Jake Old: It may be time to buy a new guitar

Jun. 28, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

If I go long enough without picking up my guitar, I start to get the itch. I feel the need to play one of my favorite songs, or just tinker around and play a few riffs aimlessly.

Lately, however, it has been a different kind of itch that I can feel creeping in: I’m starting to crave a new guitar.

This itch is not necessarily a new thing for me; I have owned several different guitars in my life. Right now in my apartment there are two electric guitars, two acoustic guitars, a bass guitar and a banjo, as well as an electric keyboard. I’ve traveled this road a time or two.

Those closest to me would argue that I have too many guitars already. That’s a fair point, but when it comes to this hobby, any semblance of rational thought is thrown out. When I feel like I need a new one, I can’t be talked out of it.

In 2008, I had a friend who built a guitar from scratch, and it really inspired me to do something similar. I’m not much for woodworking, so I got the parts and assembled them. Not quite as impressive, but still fun. That was the first time I really got the itch.

It’s a black Fender Stratocaster with a neck from a 1957 reissue Stratocaster, the body from a 2006 American Standard Stratocaster and electronics within the body featuring Texas Special pickups I soldered together.

That summer was special, because I imagine it being the guitar-obsessed version of working on a hot rod, and since I’m not a car person, I’ll probably never know that feeling. So this was as close as I’ll get. It was my baby, and I never foresaw needing anything else.

Then 2009 happened. Shortly after the year began, I craved a new acoustic guitar. Sure, I had this great electric guitar, perfect for playing with other musicians, but my acoustic guitar was old and cheap. I wanted something that could sound good when I wasn’t plugged into a 100 watt amp.

I went with an Alvarez acoustic-electric guitar, so I ended up with the best of both worlds anyway. It’s still my go-to acoustic guitar to this day, and when I put some phosphorus bronze strings on it, the tone is just beautiful.

In September of that year, I fell in love with a Gibson Les Paul Studio. I never had much of a desire to play Gibson guitars, simply because I did not enjoy the tone as much as that of my other electric guitars. But this guitar moved me, and I had to have it.

The itch came and was scratched just as suddenly as it had appeared. I’ve had other times when this feeling took over me. There was the Christmas that I got my then-girlfriend a banjo as a gift (and of course played it myself as well) and suddenly had the desire to own a banjo, and the time I played around on a bass guitar at the request of the bass player in a band I was in and then soon found myself shopping for a five-string bass.

I’ve even had the itch to get a new amplifier, although that was usually driven by need. My Fender Frontman 212 served me well in Middle Tennessee, and the tone still has the diversity that drew me in several years ago.

This time, I’m not sure what the itch is exactly. I know I want something new, but I don’t know exactly what I want, nor do I know the reason for wanting something.

Perhaps it’s because I’m no longer playing live music and I have more time to soak in the flaws in the time I have to spend with those instruments. Maybe I’m bored with the nice instruments I already own. Whatever the cause, I know the feeling very well. Every time I pick up one of my guitars — acoustic or electric — I can’t help but wonder what I could do if I could take the tone in different directions.

When I first received my last few guitars, I always thought that it would be the last, that there would be no reason to ever add to my collection, as the latest one was the best. And that point is particularly true of the Gibson I got in 2009.

But the itch is real, and it’s here now. Maybe the next guitar I get will be the last. Probably not.

Jake Old is a reporter for The Mountain Press. Call 428-0748, ext. 214, or email jold@themountainpress.com.