There’s a lot more to buying a guitar than just slapping down cash

I walk through the doors and my senses are instantly bombarded. I see a wall of strings, frets, pickups, and every shape and color of wood imaginable. The aroma of wood-varnish and leather straps fills my nostrils, and then I see it.

There is noise and people all around me, but my vision narrows like a horse with blinders. My feet start to guide me through the crowd towards my one and only objective, and then I am standing right in front of it.

My first guitar.

It was a Denelectro Dead on ’67, in a color called “Agent Orange.” I was instantly pulled towards it; everything about it appealed to me. The off-set, super thin body, dark rose-wood fret board, the silver pick guard, the floating bridge and tremolo bar, and the curved butt-end that made it look like a skewed version of the Fender Jaguar.

All of its features rendered me speechless, but at the time, the orange finish My Danelectro “Agent Orange” guitar complete with Foo Fighters logo.

Photo by Clayton Goodwin really did me in. I was obsessed with Jack White’s famous Airline guitar that has a plastic body. The orange finish on this guitar made it look like it was made out of plastic. Seeing as how plastic bodies are rare to find, I thought this was a great compromise, and the fact it was in my price range helped out as well.

For those of you who don’t play the guitar, my opening description of entering the guitar store might have seemed like a little much. But that is exactly how it happened.

Buying a guitar is unlike buying anything else in your life.

The documentary It Might Get Loud exemplifies my previous statement. It follows three guitar legends and tells their stories and thoughts regarding the electric guitar. The three musicians in the movie are: Jack White from The White Stripes, The Edge from U2, and Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin.

The genius of the film is that even though all three men have extremely different styles, when they are brought together to discuss the instrument, they all relate to the general theme of buying and playing the guitar is a very personal experience.

The Edge talks about his first experience buying his iconic Gibson Explorer guitar. He says that after going into the guitar store, his Explorer was just calling out to him. Upon first playing it he said he knew, “There are songs in this guitar.”
Jack White’s most well known guitar is his red and white Airline, but his first guitar was actually a used Kay arch-top.

Photo by Clayton GoodwinIn the documentary, White explains that he got his guitar by helping his brother move a fridge into a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store and received the guitar as payment.

Even though it wasn’t the same experience as going into a store and buying a guitar, White continues on to profess his immediate love for the instrument upon seeing it, which is what you should go through no matter where you see a guitar.

When you go to buy a guitar there is a feeling you have to search for.

It’s like when you see a certain girl and you get that innate feeling in your stomach and you’re thinking, “Oh my God, she’s the one.” That is the feeling you need to experience with a guitar. The only difference is that a guitar won’t reject you.

When I first saw my Danelectro guitar, I knew I was going to get it. I knew it was an oddball guitar that tons of people have never heard of, but that was also another factor that attracted me to it.

It may not be the best, but upon playing it in the store, I knew it was for me Photo by Clayton Goodwinand I knew I would be able to create sounds out of it that no one else could.

I still play my guitar almost everyday. Since first entering my life five years ago it has gained a few different visual aspects. I stenciled the logo of one of my favorite bands, the Foo Fighters, onto its body. I also wrote my favorite lyric of all time, “I’m still alive,” by Pearl Jam, on it as well.

Those features along with the significant number of scratches and dents it has gained over the years has just made it more unique and more my own. I like to think that with these specific features, it has become the only guitar of its kind in the world.

If you ever find yourself looking for your first guitar, remember there is more to it than just cash. It needs to speak to you, and you have to keep your musical beliefs in your mind. But most importantly, just look for that feeling.

cgoodwin@cjournal.ca