change

The Times, They Are A Changin'

Opinion follows. That's always scary.  ;-) 

If there's one thing guaranteed to rile up the guitarists, it's the suggestion that something might change. Guitarists are one of the most conservative bunches of people on the planet. It's sort of weird really. The guitar, as we know it, isn't that old an instrument; the electric guitar, even less so. And, let's face it, when Leo Fender started throwing out Broadcasters, a lot of guitarists guffawed smugly at this stringed plank. It seems odd that we haven't really moved on from being immediately dismissive of things that are new or different.

Why does it have to change? Whyyyy?

Everybody has their opinions on the issues: set-neck vs. bolt-on, three saddles vs. six, ABR vs. Nashville… It goes on. You know this. 

And, I have my opinions on these subjects too. In some cases, they may match with yours. In some cases—possibly many—they won't. One of the great things about my job is that I get to play a LOT of guitars. Playing guitars of all sorts (especially ones that I might never have even picked up ordinarily) is a great way to learn that my biases and preconceptions aren't always right. 

So I try to keep an open mind about arguments against change, especially if that argument comes from a conservative, but-my-guitar's-always-had-this-thing-not-that-thing standpoint.  

What's sparked all of this waffling on my part?  

I spotted a video (embedded below) from Fender discussing their experimentation with 3D printed guitar bodies. I thought it was interesting. I'm interested in the technology and in unusual and novel ways of building instruments (or parts of them). Of course, reading the comments showed that most others didn't even think it was interesting. Most of the comments were immediate rejections—the usual, vocal, dismissal that you get at the bottom half of the internet.  

 Of course, as with so many topics, internet comment tends to provide a (slightly) polarised picture of things but I speak with a lot of guitarists and I think that this reluctance to change is pretty widespread. 

I've no idea if I'd actually like a 3D printed guitar but it's this immediate dismissal of a company even considering a change that's annoying. It's the cries of "that's shit," before anybody's ever played the damn thing. And, even if you try it and decide you don't like it, that still doesn't mean it's shit. It just means it might not be your cup of tea. 

Shut up and try the new thing. Properly try it. With an open mind. Cognitive biases are massively powerful and make all of us confirm our preconceptions if we don't fight back against our own brains. Blind A-B testing is a really interesting thing to do. I've done it a number of times before, with different things, and it's an eye (or ear) opener. 

And lastly, even if you don't like the 3D printed guitar; even if you think the Firebird X is ugly and overly-complicated; even if you think a Variax isn't true to the concept of a 'real' guitar;  remember, these companies aren't sending some heavies around to force you, at knife-point, to play these guitars as you weep uncontrollably. With companies like Fender making a few hundred thousand guitars every year, many things will have to change as wood supplies are impacted but the days when the only thing you'll be able to buy is a space-age, plastic guitar that's been grown in a pod are still some way off.

As for the things that are changing, here's my advice for guitarists:

Close your eyes, open your ears and mind.  

Now, a video of something that's different. Ooooh, feel the controversy…