Cheap Instruments & What Fate Hands You

I have this strange fatalism regarding instruments.

I think a lot of the musical changes in history have come from circumstance as much as anything else. We should consciously cultivate this. That’s why I think there’s a lack of imagination and a soul-starvation to people in bands spending stupid money on expensive American guitars.

Really obvious and unimaginative example:

A lot of indie/alt/rock bands play Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters, because they have a great and unique sound, and all their favourite bands use them.

All their idols played them in the 80s, mostly because they were dirt cheap. No one wanted them back in the era of post-Van Halen pointy guitars. That’s the only way Sonic Youth could afford to have thousands of them, the same reason why My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr, Nirvana, etc etc used them.

Now however, people spend loads of money on them. But to me it’s completely counter to the spirit they were used in the first place.

Is it really necessary to spend stupid amounts of money on some crazy thing when there might well be something just as great but different lurking in the dusty, forgotten corner of some tucked-away junk shop?

This goes for everything. If bands aren’t willing to be creative and spontaneous about how they outfit and equip themselves, how likely are they to be creative or unique in other areas?

Billy Corgan said he wrote most of the songs on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness on an old electric he got for $60 in a junk shop.

Josh Homme bought his Ovation GP from a record store that had just a banjo, an acoustic guitar, and the electric that he bought.

Nearly all my guitars are secondhand, old and Japanese – All under £300 except for one. They sound great, and what’s more – they sound unique. No one else is playing them.

You can probably tell I’m in thrall to the romantic notion of finding lost treasure in forgotten places….

I wholeheartedly advocate junk shops, car boot sales, ebay, gumtree, craigslist etc, or my favourite – charity shops. Just keep an eye out.

I like the fact that I don’t know where my next musical fling is going to come from, and it leaves you with some interesting stories about each of your toys.

Here’s how I see it: The era will provide whether it’s in a way you like or not. But there will be ample equipment that has been thrown out that is ripe for re-use.

Find out what type of gear is really good but unpopular, and go get yourself some great gear for cheap.

Happy hunting.

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One Response to “Cheap Instruments & What Fate Hands You”

  1. […] They always go on about it in the book, and I’ve always had some sort of sense of it. It directly relates to my philosophy about buying instruments. […]

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