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Good Looks VS. Good Sound


Jim Wilson

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When asked, most serious guitar players will say that how a guitar sounds trumps how it looks. However, very few of us can pass up checking out a cool looking guitar (whatever your definition of "cool looking" is). It helps me to remind myself about the time I was working on an album and met Carey Banks for the first time. Carey uncased a doggy looking Guild dreadnought...I mean doggy looking! You would have walked right by it in your search for a good guitar. But, lordy, that guitar sure had a good sound to it. All of which makes me wonder how many good sounding guitars I have passed up in my life because, in my view, they didn't "look" good.

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You could be missing some great guitars buy passing up some that look a little "hard-rode". Honest play wear (as opposed to abuse) is often the sign of a great-sounding guitar, which should be at the top of your list of concerns.

 

Sure, looks are important in life. But at the end of the day, how a guitar sounds and plays are even more important.

 

When I got my hard-rode 1948 J-45 back in 1966, I was pretty embarrassed by how it looked. Most of my friends were playing new Martins and Gibsons. My old J-45 had top wear, board and fret wear, loose braces that rattled, and a jack hole in the side. I spent a lot of money over the years bring it back to more pristine condition. Now I wish I had it back just the way it was when I got it 50 years ago. It took me decades to figure out what was really important in life.

 

Of course, I wish I had myself back the way I was 50 years ago, now that I think about it. Especially when I try to get out of bed in the morning.

 

 

Nickmediumres001cropped.jpg

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I like guitars that look good. Unless I'm shopping for a particular guitar, then the looks are what first catch my eye. I'll play it for a while. If I don't like the sound and playability, I move on. Sometimes the guitar just doesn't fit my hands and even the best of setups won't work for me. I've had several great-looking guitars that didn't pass the "sound test" and playability test. I returned or sold them. For me, the sound and playability are what I'm really looking for. If the guitar also has the looks of a Hummingbird, etc., then that's just gravy. And of course, I've got to believe the guitar is worth the price.

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Hey J45nick - Nice legs! You do look every inch the folkie. So why did we not cut the strings off at the tuning posts back then? I remember myself and most everyone I knew didn't.

 

 

We thought it looked cool. Probably saw some "real" folkie do it and copied it. Usually left a bit of a tail poking out of the D string coil, so you could impale your cigarette on it while you played, particularly if you were doing a gig.

 

I also didn't own a pair of diagonal cutters back for trimming strings back then. I could barely afford to buy strings.

 

We were definitely too cool for school. Or at least we thought we were.

 

Edit: this guy was so cool he not only didn't cut them, he didn't even bother to coil them up.

 

BOB-DYLAN-J-50_zpsfnchumcg.jpg

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Hey J45nick - Nice legs! You do look every inch the folkie. So why did we not cut the strings off at the tuning posts back then? I remember myself and most everyone I knew didn't.

 

So you could tie them back together when they broke of course. You must remember that. Never replace a whole set -- only the ones that broke.[rolleyes]

 

Here is a picture from a 2014 festival on a hot day in Georgia -- with a guitar to match.

 

Bell2.jpg

 

Here it is being played.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQffT5z4bPE&feature=youtu.be

 

Remember, beauty is in the ear of the beholder and in the eye of the beer holder -- words to live by.

 

Let's pick,

 

-Tom

 

####Video fixed now.

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So you could tie them back together when they broke of course. You must remember that. Never replace a whole set -- only the ones that broke.[rolleyes]

 

Let's pick,

 

-Tom

 

Too true that! I'd buy spare B and E strings, and always save the old ones. It's a lot easier to re-use a string that hasn't been cut. Once you've cut it, it's really too short to re-install.

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So you could tie them back together when they broke of course. You must remember that. Never replace a whole set -- only the ones that broke.[rolleyes]

 

 

That's right. It was a way of life with Black Diamond strings. I remember those Black Diamond G strings had a habit of the winding coming detached so it would slide up and down on the core.

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J45 Nick! Or Phil Ochs? You be the judge.

 

 

Aside from the shorts and sandals, the touseled look was a pretty common one back then. Look at Ochs, Tom Rush, Snaker Ray, Spider John Koerner. Guitar cases with names, venue stickers and peace symbols. Worn jeans and denim shirts. And almost always a cigarette in hand, even though I was more fond of my pipe.

 

We all took a page from the Woody Guthrie book. Ask Bobby Zimmerman. The only thing I had in common with these guys was a guitar: almost always a Gibson slope-J at some point. "A workhorse for the working man".

 

Phil:

phil%20ochs_zpszvll4k2m.jpg

 

And the daddy of us all:

WoodyGuthrie3_zps6ce240d0.jpg

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Many good pics in this thread - still really like the early Nick-shot and had that one in the archive for years. So authentic and, , , , simply YOUNG. .

 

Have to say Tpbiii's shell-shock-burst is tempting too.

 

Regarding looks, it's okay to rate that rather high, if you ask me.

 

Nobody wants to play an extraordinary cool looking awful sounding guitar, but the opposite is almost even worse.

 

So the challenge is - as we know and accept it - to find 2 in 1.

 

You gotta be tempted to reach out when you pass the sweetheart - and then feel that feel and hear that sound.

 

Irresistible is keyword here - takes 2 sides to make a coin. Don't go for less.

 

 

 

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Seems we went through the same time together, but in different locations; honest play wear never hurts a good guitar in my humble but strong opinion. I just can't and have never understood the "furniture buyer" mentality. Always have cut my excess strings, though. And always used to wonder how my J-45 would sound with a completely fresh set instead of one recently replaced lively one among five older dead ones! My replacements always came from the corner drug store, as I recall. It was sure an interesting time to be young.

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