By: William Swanson
It’s not old, it’s vintage, that’s the right answer to that question. For many guitar players the search for that 1962 Fender Stratocaster or that 1959 Les Paul Standard is a lifelong quest, but why?
There is a certain special feel to an ancient instrument. It tells tales, it’s been there to help create great music, it has that vibe and that street cred as it were…but does it really? Is it worth the cost?
An instrument with a special past such as Stevie Ray Vaughn’s #1 will lead into a seven figure purchase price and most likely will never get played again. A vintage instrument in useable shape can sell for what a nice new car would, sometimes they are as much as a house and might get played but they aren’t going to be out there in a bar getting infused with some live crowds energy, studio only.
For these elite it’s no big deal, that’s just the cost of owning one, the money and the protection bestowed upon you. For those of us getting by and setting aside a few bucks here and there for an instrument this is just a dream but that doesn’t mean we can’t find our own mojo with that special instrument.
Vintage reissue guitars are an option but we’re still talking a couple months worth of mortgage or rent, still out of reach of many. Then we have the made in America models, still pricey, then there are Asian or Mexican made ones, now we’re talking but a college student or a family raising a few kids and getting by, still a bit out of reach. We end up at the budget guitars and this is where most people go.
The guitar looks like the other thirty hanging right next to it at the store, nothing special, hard to feel special about it but under that copied look is the same wood, it’s same size, the guitar plays the same notes as any of these out of reach ones – but it still looks the same and its still a little rough, finished by machines, not by hand. It hasn’t been worn through the years, its hasn’t created any great music at the hands of a master but put in the hands of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page and it would be capable of doing it.
So what happens if that guitar is given that polish, that attention to detail and that look?
It makes all the difference! An opened up alder body strat with alnico single coils sounds like a vintage instrument, warm and full. A hand done neck; frets leveled, polished and crowned plays beautifully, a satin finish on the back makes it feel played, you can all of a sudden find that mojo, you feel the history of the instrument as a design without the cost of the stigma.
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