Pictured to the left is my beloved 1958 Historic Reissue Les Paul Standard, aptly named “Amber” partly for her Honey Burst finish, plus “she” just felt like an Amber. Simply gorgeous to hold and behold. She can be as sweet and smooth as 30 year old Sauterne, or she can be a barking bitch that will make you kneel in submission.
Sorry for waxing philosophically… Amber is simply a GREAT guitar. But onto my question: Does a good guitar make you a better player?
Yes, but not just because you pick it up. Since I’ve had Amber, I’ve become a much better player mainly because I play her so much. That’s the thing about a great guitar. When you have one, you don’t want to put it down. You want to play it. All. The. Time.
So really, it’s the time you put on the guitar that makes you better, not necessarily the guitar itself, but that doesn’t mean the guitar doesn’t play a huge role. For me, once I got Amber, I found my sound, and that was a Les Paul plugged into a cranked up Marshall. Granted, I got Ox (my ’59 Replica) before I got Amber, and Ox got me real close to what I considered to be my sound, but Amber was so much bigger sounding than Ox. Ox’s tone is all about nuance. It’s bright and jangly, and for clean to slightly overdriven stuff, it’s amazing. But Amber just did it for me when I got her. And when she drives an amp, she makes it absolutely wail, and it’s that sound that I just never tire of, so I play her. All. The. Time.
As such, since I’ve gotten Amber, I’ve become a much better player. For one thing, she was so easy to play that she was hard to play, if you catch my drift. With that kind of ease, I made a lot of mistakes; essentially, she taught me to play correctly, to have good hand position. It was if she was telling me, “You play me right, and I’ll reward you with more you can imagine.” And of course, I have a hard time putting her down. I’ll just absentmindedly pick her up, not even plugged in, and just play. She even sounds great unplugged!
Now don’t go mistaking that I’m somehow endorsing buying a totally expensive guitar. I have a philosophy that good is good no matter what the price. You might find a guitar that rocks your world that is a few hundred bucks. I haven’t come across too many of those in my lifetime, but my Squier Classic Vibe Tele that I got for under $300 falls into that category. That’s another guitar that gets a lot of mileage, though I don’t play “Blondie” near as much as Amber. The point here is getting a well-crafted guitar. With a well-crafted guitar that speaks to your soul, you will get better, simply by virtue of playing it all the time. But remember, as I mentioned in previous article, you get better by practicing. But I will submit that a great guitar makes practice a joy.