David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
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location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: amplifiers, attitude, guitars, opinion, preferences, @musings info

The importance of guitars vs. amps

I see a lot of discussions regarding the relative importance of one's guitar vs. amplifier. Common topics include "How much money do you put into each as a percentage of your total expenditure?" and "Would you rather play an unfamiliar amp or an unfamiliar guitar?"

I think that one's perspective on this topic has a lot to do with how you approach the instrument. There's no "right" answer. However, if you view the amp as your primary "tone generator" you'll (correctly) place your emphasis upon the importance of the amp. And if you view the sound as coming from the guitar... then your choice to invest the bulk of your money in a guitar is completely logical.

I'm firmly in the "guitar camp". I play a custom-made guitar through a modeler.

The modeler is a recent change - I swapped out a very nice Fender Vibro-King for reasons having to do with transportation. Is the modeler "as good as" the hand-wired tube amp? I don't think I could find anyone, myself included, who would say that it is. However, it is quite "good enough". And frankly it is obviously better than some tube amps I've played.

It's very easy for me to learn the subtleties of the modeler and play to its strengths and weaknesses. It's exactly the same process I go through when I am faced with any different amp. It might take a minute to sort out the tonality, and a few trial phrases to get a feel for how the amp responds to playing dynamics... and then I'm ready to go. I leave the amp alone and play the guitar, adjusting my technique as necessary to get the response I want from the amp.

I personally find it more jarring to have to play someone else's guitar. Differences in string gauge, action, intonation, and overall ergonomics can affect how I play in a way that's more difficult for me to compensate than the difference due to an amplifier. I've been through quite a few amps over the years, but a relatively small number of guitars. And the guitar I've "settled down with" fits my needs very well because it was built from the ground up to do exactly that.

I've had the pleasure to play a lot of high-end amps (some of them my own, many more owned by friends) and have had the strange experience of not really caring which amp I end up playing at the end of the day - they're all, in a sense, usable. But when sharing guitars I find that my reaction is more along the lines of "yah, that's nice... but I'd really rather play mine."

April 08 2007 20:35:11 GMT