Mark Lucas | Guitarist | Live | Session | Arranger

VINTAGE/MODERN GUITARS

Ever since SRV became a household word, there has been a huge resurgence in all things 'vintage', in the guitar/amp/pedal market. What I want to talk about in this blog post are my thoughts on this, practically, as a player, and aesthetically as a guitarist who likes certain vintage ideas.

Marketing has played a huge role in this resurgence. The public has certainly had an appetite for this. I've seen people playing who even try to look like Stevie Ray Vaughn, which I find to be absurd. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but that usually occurs with people who don't have anything original to offer.

As a player, vintage guitars do not  play well. The 7.25" neck radius is problematic to set up correctly; the low output pickups, particularly on a strat can cause the guitar to sound like its out of tune if they're adjusted too close to the strings; the 6 point them and 3 barrel saddles do not intonate very well; vintage type tuners are hit or miss; thin frets are not my favorite type of fretwire. The only real exception to this is a Gibson, which has a wider fretboard radius.What I do like about a vintage type guitar is the feel; worn in; the wood has had a chance to dry, which allows the resins to crystallize and open up. In the past 10 or so years, a number of companies, like Suhr, Tom Anderson, John Page have addressed these fundamental issues successfully, marrying the best of old and new. However, there are still a large number of guitarists who would still play a Fender or a Gibson. It's like being married to an ideology, which happens in many areas of life in general. Most people are reluctant to change, and change is a hard thing to learn and do.

At the other end of the spectrum are the modern guitars. Companies like Ibanez, Schecter, ESP, Ernie Ball-Music Man. A company like Ibanez started out improving the older designs, and as time went on, came up with their own. The most prominent example being the RG guitar. A 24 fret masterpiece of design and engineering, that plays like a sports car. Big frets, wide radius, high output pickups, stable bridges and tuners; the RG is able to cover almost any type of music, even though its been associated mostly with rock and metal. One of my favorite guitarists, Scott Henderson, played an Ibanez for quite some time, before going over to Suhr. Players like Tom Quayle and Martin Miller are now playing their own Ibanez signature guitars. And of course, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani have been Ibanez devotees for over 30 years.

Some people argue that a modern guitar doesn't have the 'soul' of a vintage-type axe. I appreciate that, and its true, in some sense.What I would like to put forward in that regard is this; each player has their own thing, their own way of playing and getting a guitar to talk. In essence, one's own soul gets infused in a guitar, not the other way around. As I've said many times over, for me, playing music is hard enough. Not only do I not want to fight with an instrument, ideally, I want the guitar to almost disappear; I don't want to think about it. I want to focus on the music. So whether it's an updated older design, or a modern design, the music has to take precedence. I've seen players like Frank Gambale, the late Allan Holdsworth, Mick Goodrick, the late John Abercrombie play extremely complex music on Steinberger, Ibanez, Klein instruments; I didn't miss the vintage aesthetic at all.Because the music was the focus.

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