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Is Guitar A Dead End Instrument?

YYep, here we go. Another attention grabbing title. First what this article isn't is a bashing of guitar based music and the skill and creativity of those playing it. As I'm a guitar teacher and musician it would be madness to suggest such a thing. However after last week's blog post about amp modelling technology it got me thinking about what the aim of all of this is.

The sound of an electric guitar is to me one of the sweetest and most exciting sounds in the world. There are so many moments where a classic piece of music has been the end result of a superb bit of guitar playing with the unmistakable tone that they are far too numerous to mention here. What got me thinking was where the trend in technology is taking guitarists.

I remember when one of the first digital modelling amps came out. They became a huge deal because right away you had near-valve sounding amplifiers all wrapped up in a reliable, convenient, affordable package. Whilst they were still not and are still not 100% accurate they ticked many of the boxes a lot of guitar players were looking for. Many of the high end guitar processors today don't really offer anything new in the sense that they are changing the way that guitars sound. They just offer a more convenient way of being able to achieve the sound that you are after, whenever you need it.

With electric guitars there has not been a great deal of change to the design of the guitar. In the words of Jimmy Page, 'It's just a bit of wood with some strings on it'. There are of course some guitar manufacturers out there who have experimented and in some cases done well with guitars partly or wholly made from materials such as plexiglass, graphite or even aluminium. However there have been no revolutionary changes and there is a good reason why if you take a look at a guitar made in the 1950s it's not that different to many made today.

Why is this? Because people like the sound. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Anyone remember the 'dalek's handbag'? The Roland G-707.....

This beauty was released in the early 80s and was designed as a controller for the Roland GR 707 synthesiser. At it's time it was considered the cutting edge of guitar technology and had early adopters including Andy Summers and Jimmy Page amongst others. The only problem was that it didn't sound like a guitar. It wasn't meant to, at least in synthesiser mode it wasn't.

So how has the sound of the guitar itself changed over time? The truth is that it hasn't really because people don't want it to. So, in the same way that a violin or piano have become classic instruments is the guitar, electric or acoustic, with the former's wider pallet of sounds, destined to remain where it is?

What concerns me is guitar's place in the future of music. Whilst it will always be a very exciting instrument in the hands of the right musician has it had it's day and is slowly on the road to being a sound of the past? In the 80s and 90s guitar was huge because of a popular music scene that had some highly influential and inspirational players. Whether you are a fan of either, Kurt Cobain and Noel Gallagher had almost as much influence as Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen at getting people into guitar based music. There are some wonderful players around at the moment but I've yet to hear someone new who is taking guitar to people in the ways that the aforementioned people did. Strangely enough when I teach kids many are into the sounds of the past more and are into Oasis, Nirvana, AC/DC, Guns n Roses etc for the guitar playing more than modern music.

I could be wrong. I could be just teaching the wrong demographic and not have a clue about modern music. If I am missing the point please let me know. I'm all ears on this topic.

I sincerely hope that i'm wrong about everything here and maybe I'll get schooled as a result of this tirade. However, music has given me so much and playing and listening to guitar based music is a huge part of this. To me it will always be the ultimate vehicle of expression as well as a lifelong friend. It would just be nice to see it stay relevant in a world that seems to be moving away from it.

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