I just finished cooking my lunch of Potatoes O’Brien which consists of diced potato, onions and red and green peppers. You fry up the mixture in hot pan with a bit of oil, seasoning to taste until the potatoes turn golden brown. When they’re done, I like to sprinkle a bit of shredded cheese, and I also like to add some chopped bacon for a nice contrast. Very tasty indeed!
If you’ve ever cooked with potatoes in a regular frying pan (not the non-stick kind), it can be a painful process because potatoes have a proclivity to stick. But I have a great cast iron skillet that has been seasoned from years of frequent use, and sticking is not part of its modus operandi. It has taken years of care and cooking, and keeping the pan lubricated to where the oils and the fats from the food have worked into the pores of the metal. It is now a masterpiece of cooking utility, and I’d be heartbroken if it got ruined.
The same thing can be said of a guitar. When you first get it, it’s all shiny and new – though I suppose that doesn’t count for relicked guitars, as they’re supposed to already be broken in… But even if they’re vintage-ized, out of the box, they’re still new, the new gear “feels” new, and thus needs time to season through use. Woods take time to settle. Oils have to work into the neck and fretboard, etc., etc..
Especially with a fretboard, it takes time to work the oils from your fingers into the pores of the wood and fret metal. Ever wonder why new fretboards feel “sticky?” They need lubrication. I read in an interview with Neal Schon of Journey fame that he actually rubs a piece of salami on a fretboard to help break it in! Now THAT’S about seasoning! Ha!
Moreover, I just don’t feel a guitar will actually sound right until it has really broken in through regular use and exposure to all sorts of environments. When I first got my MIM Strat, “Pearl,” I loved her tone, but after playing her for over five years now, her tone to me is so much more mellow than when I first got her, and the frets and neck are nicely broken in from regular use. She’s just a dream to play.
One of my kids once asked me why I get so attached to my guitars that I give them names. I told them that I give my guitars names because I’ve spent so much time seasoning them, like I do with my “special” pan. They all know that my cast iron skillet is “Daddy’s special pan” so when I gave them the reason, they immediately understood.
It doesn’t end with just a guitar, though I focused on that. Amps – and especially speakers – take a long time to truly season. But that’s another discussion altogether.