I'm taking up guitar again but it'll be different this time

For a start, I'm selling most of my gear. That isn't really it, though.

Regular readers of this blog, if any of you have survived my sporadic posting schedule, will know that I used to play guitar and that in late 2019 I stopped due to an injury -- lateral epicondylitis, aka tennis elbow, although I usually referred to it as "tendonitis" since that's more widely-understood in musician circles.

I haven't touched a guitar since except occasionally to move one out of the way. All the reasons I gave for that here still apply, and perhaps even more so since at that point I thought I'd continue playing guitar on and off when in fact I haven't. A bit after this I even changed the image on the blog from my 335 to my Peak as a sort of statement of intent.

In that post I mentioned that I wanted the guitar to be a tool for solving musical problems, a function it wasn't really performing for me. Over the last two or three years my setup and approach to music-making have changed quite a bit; new problems have emerged, and the guitar might just be a solution to one or two of them.

The main one is that I miss making sounds with an instrument and my body. Playing keyboards is great, and nobody would say it can't be "expressive" or nuanced, but I'm too used to having my flesh on the vibrating parts -- well, maybe that came out wrong, but you know what I mean. The guitar, like most acoustic instruments, allows for an infinite range of tonal variation just by the way you strike or pluck the string, the way your fretting hand moves and so on.

The other is that I've always enjoyed bringing external sounds into my electronic music, but I haven't done much of that lately. On "4-1 Mira" from Centaur I played a cardboard sheet through a tape delay, and on a track from my forthcoming album I use a chopped and granulated recording of my own voice, but most of my sounds have come from "in the box" of late. I think that might enrich my music, too.

I don't need to try to make my guitar sound like a piano or a synthesizer any more, though. So the collection of weird boutique pedals is going on eBay. So is my unfashionable Marshall Valvestate, which has done good service but is taking up too much space. The money will go towards something else that I haven't completely committed to yet, so I'm going to give in to superstition and avoid speaking its name.

My approach, for now, will be:

  • Emphasis on melody, not harmony
  • See how far I can get playing the tunings I enjoy with a slide
  • Lots of textural detail; this is a return to a very old relationship I have with avant garde guitar techniques, but I expect to use it in a different way.
  • All effects processing, including amp modelling, done in software (for now)

On the last point I've tried both BIAS and Amplitube in the past; I don't make very great demands of an amp, though. I mostly want a just-off-clean Marshall-voiced sound with plenty of bite and a bit of boxiness from the cab, which both can do very nicely. I'll probably get BIAS.

In terms of this blog, this might not mean much. I might do some gear- or setup-related posts, which I've resisted in the past because I don't enjoy the consumerism of a lot of music content online. I might do a "Feed Your Ears" post or two with inspirational listening. And -- who knows -- I might make a record with guitars on it. That won't be the next one, though: that's getting very close to the mastering stage and should be out before the end of March.