No new guitar for now

31st March 2008 – 11.19 am

I have been toying with the idea of buying a new guitar, a Les Paul replica most likely. I am hoping this would spur me in to playing more regularly again and trying to learn more theory rather than just ape songs, and not just leave the guitar standing in a corner of my home looking questionably cool. I saw a cheap Les Paul replica on sale in a local shop for a reasonable amount and this led me to check on-line dealers to see how much an Epiphone Les Paul would cost, Epiphone being owned by Gibson and thus offering genuine Les Paul guitars but of lower quality than their Gibson versions. It seems that an Epiphone would be affordable, given the right deal, and I would consider the Epiphone version preferable to an unknown brand.

Taking a trip in to London at the weekend I took the opportunity to wander down to Denmark Street, a 50 metre stretch of road that is almost entirely populated by musical instrument shops. I was hoping to get a better idea of the choices available and, if something caught my fancy, to rashly buy a new guitar to reignite my interest. I popped in to one of the guitar shops and was greeted with walls of guitars, and a good many arranged on the floor as well. This first shop was a relatively good choice to have made, as most of the guitars were Gibsons, with some other brands scattered around. However, I soon came to the conclusion that I was a little out of my depth, as it became apparent that all the guitars were main brands, no Epiphones or similar in here. I was also presented with knowledge that I hadn't really absorbed before, that guitars are expensive. I knew that they were more expensive than I would generally want to spend with my limited ability, but after seeing racks of guitars ranging from £3,000 to over £5,000 I was enlightened. I was initially taken aback, wondering who would spend so much on what might be a hobby item, but soon realised that it is quite affordable for a high-quality instrument that one might spend hours a day using intricately. Even so, and however good the guitars were there, I could do little but move on after browsing in that shop.

I tried another shop, but again there were no cheap knock-offs available for sale, just genuine articles. I was a little surprised, somehow thinking I had seen Epiphones for sale at some point in the past down there, but it wasn't really a problem. At least I wasn't presented with a good looking Epiphone Les Paul that I might have been thoroughly tempted in to buying. It's not so much that I didn't have the money to spend, although it couldn't be called an impulse purchase either, but more that I was spared the perceived embarrassment of trying the guitar before buying. Guitar shops are generally friendly places, and are happy to let customers try the instruments before making a purchase. Indeed, they encourage this practice, and for good reason. Different styles have different feels, as do different brands, and it's always good to buy an instrument that feels good for you when played.

I note that the embarrassment is 'perceived' because it likely is mostly in my head, despite how well or poorly I manage to play. We all start somewhere, and you need to buy an instrument in order to improve. But there is a good chance that if you walk in to a music shop there will be some undiscovered talent sitting in a corner in front of an amp, guitar in his lap, noodling away in a manner that makes you wonder if someone has put a 33 LP of Slash on at 78 by accident. It can be a little intimidating, particularly if, like me, you have the talent of Dave Lister but not the ego. Sure, I can bash some chords out and know my scales, but playing cold in public is still unnerving. Still, it's a nice hurdle to get across when buying a new guitar. It's like you deserve something nice for yourself if you can manage to throw out a few decent licks in a guitar shop.

Mind you, if I can't find an Epiphone in a shop without too much effort I may just end up buying mail-order anyway. That is, if I decide to get a new guitar. I remain undecided for now.

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