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Aesthetics/Playability "morality" question


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Semi-Hypothetical situation:


Let's say you're noodling around at your local guitar store and you grab a guitar that's REALLY REALLY not your style visually. You hold it up so your drummer buddy can say "dude, no way" and chuckle as you plug it in to see what it's going to sound like and feel like.


Your sneer/smile get's wiped off your face as you strum your first chord. The neck feels like luthier-gnomes snuck into your house late at night and took detailed measurements and plaster castings of your hand specifically for this model. The action is simply perfect for the way you play. The sound contains something undefinable, which is why you could never describe what your tone was missing...until this very moment. The axe almost plays itself.


Would you buy it?


By aesthetically different, I mean you are a pure delta blues guy playing juke joints every other day of the week in bars where the tables haven't felt a clean dishcloth since Neil Armstrong took his famous step, and the "magic axe" you found that plays like butter and sounds like the crying of a widow in a New Orleans funeral procession happens to look like:




By aesthetically different, I mean you are a jazz cat that, while a pretty good player, still has to pay his dues at jam sessions all over Manhattan looking for a house gig, but you're a good enough guy and a disciple of Scofield. And out of your case, as your are sitting in at a bebop tribute night, comes:




Obviously, I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I'm also trying to make a point. We all talk about the music being EVERYTHING, and I completely respect and agree with that point of view. But sometimes, I think we forget that there are segments of the music industry, at all levels, where "entertainment" and presentation are a major factor in the appeal. Of course, there are bands that utilize irony, but the very fact that looking a certain way or using a cheesy drum machine is ironic in the first place kind of reinforces my point. How a guitar looks, not just plays or feels or sounds, is a factor for many people, and it shouldn't be considered the privilege of people ordering customized instruments, nor should it be ridiculed as indicating less integrity on the part of the musician.


Back in college, I did a research paper on aesthetics in music. I auditioned for 30 rock bands in Chicago (this took 6 months) as a keyboard player wearing a sportcoat, white turtleneck and wool pants. I played the exact same 4 pieces of music to audition, except when asked to prepare something specific. My research partner (who now plays with Filter off and on) went to the exact same auditions, played the exact same music, except he dressed specifically for each bands "genre". I got no call backs at all. None. He got a 75% success rate. It was a bit more scientific than it sounds, but I hope you get my point.


So I ask you, would you show up for a blues audition with a modeled amp, a BC Rich acrylic guitar, dressed as Goth as you could dress? I mean, it's all about the music right?


I'm not in any way trying to be combative...I'm truly curious. And just to prove that, let me just say that I personally think looks DO matter, and I don't think that there's anything wrong with that in this context because looks are a tangible part of the presentation, and isn't that what it's all about? Presenting your music to the audience? Hell even Tool and Daft Punk (two bands that do not crave celebrity) get all freaky on stage.


I don't think that there's a right or wrong answer...I'm just curious.



Edited for fat-fingered UBB code.

"For instance" is not proof.


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Nugent played a hollowbody...


I can think of at least two well known jazzers who played Teles...


There's just a couple of examples... I think a lot of people might scoff or laugh at first when they first see your guitar, but if you have the chops and the tone to back it up, they probably won't be laughing for very long. :)

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What a great post zero. On the "would you buy a guitar that looks like your worst nightmare if it played great" issue, yeah I would. And I think you could prove your point and actually turn the "nightmare" in your favor if you were really a great player. If a badass blues player showed up with a flower shaped guitar and played the hell out of it, all of a sudden that flower shaped guitar would look awfully cool, or at least prove the player's security about his actual playing which would win him respect.


No I wouldn't show up at a blues audition with a POD, because I know that the SOUND of a POD doesn't cut it, for me, musically. If it did, I don't imagine it would have such a stigma. But a blues player dressed in goth attire and playing a BC Rich, yeah I admit I'd have to wonder how much they really knew about blues. If they really could play blues though, hey, once again it could turn into an inadvertant selling point.


That said, people do certainly care about image. Given a choice between hiring two people who are equally good players, but one has the visual thing going on and the other doesn't, I would pick the person with the image - not because *I* care, but because I know a good percentage of audiences care. It SUCKS (don't even get me started :mad: ), and there are exceptions, but it's the truth.


However if the not so great looking player clearly smoked the great looking one, musically, I would still hire them. Some people wouldn't - quite a lot will hire a pretty and appropriately dressed face who doesn't even necessarily have much talent - because they KNOW they can sell it. This is particularly true with singers of course.


Once again... it sucks. But many people really do make important judgements based on aesthetics whether it makes any sense or not. :( Same goes for dating, unfortunately. :D

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I think that in our little community we realize that its the tunes that count, and watever axe helps you get them out is what you should go with.


But as soon as you start play live in bars and stuff, the general uneducated public doesn't understand that. They expect that if you are going to play the blues, you need to fit that mold. Same with all the other types of music.


As soon as you play out, you become an entertainer, not just a musician, and fitting the mold to please the uneducated is better IMO. Even if means that you wont play your absolute best, but then again, the uneducated probably wouldnt be able to tell the difference in your sound between the two guitars, even tho they are very noticable to you.


Just my thoughts.

The forumite formerly known as Cooper.


"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." John Lennon


"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will finally know peace." Jimi Hendrix


"Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens." Jimi Hendrix

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Hell, it's tough enough to get players and would-bes to even consider Carvins versus Fenders, etc etc etc. There is so much bigotry and hearing with the eyes and not the ears (and feeling with eyes instead of with the hands) IN the suppusedly open-minded rank of musicians - generally speaking - as to make one wonder where innovators even come from.


Audiences? My experience in bars leads me to believe that many care only about the most obvious of purist infractions. They just listen to what the music feels like emotionally and whether it is going to give them a good time one way or another. Many of them don't even know the difference between a bass and a guitar other than one looks slightly larger and the guy holding it may be treated a little like a wallflower by the rest of the band.


There are other music listeners however - including critics - who are exceedingly fashion conscious; many of them also are incredible snobs and "hear with eyes" types. They think they are safeguards of styles, and may have been unable to find what it is inside of music or any other art that we may term creativity within themselves. Therefore, they have chips on shoulders, and also, great needs to belong to that which they think is most "cool". Since they can't tell musically, they must focus on external elements.


So as a group, generally, I'd have to go with the drunks ; }

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I didn't like the surf foam green on my strat when I bought it. I ain't no sruf punk! It is a cool color to me now. It is because of the quality of the pups and the playablity and the trem stay in tune unless i am truely careless with it. The gold hardware on my epi LP was a turn off too. It sounded so good I couldn't pass it up.
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I think the sound and feel of a guitar are really important and for looks, well I'd rather look at pretty women in the audience than the pretty guitar in my lap. For some sytles of music the kind of guitar is kind of "important" guess from a stage persona point of view but I mean if you really love the guitar and it is a well made instrument from a reputable manufacture/luthier then .... well at least that gives you a reason to see if a more stylistically appropriate axe is made by the same guy/company.

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