In defense of the gear junkie
Browse any guitar forum and you’ll quickly find 2 groups. 1st are those who obsess over gear down to the tiniest detail. They never tire of examining even the smallest bit of guitar gear minutia. Everything merits examination, no questions are left un-answered, no corks are left un-sniffed.
They wait anxiously twice a year for the latest and greatest at NAMM and have their Sweetwater sales rep on speed dial. They can and will explain the advantages of germanium vs silicon whether you like it or not. And at times they’ve even called in sick on a Friday to be there in-person for a Phil McKnight live Q&A. (Check em out, they’re the best)
I lovingly call this group to which I proudly belong, “the gear junkies”.
We populate forums by the thousands. Wanna nerd out over whether or not the chemical makeup of a certain paint color could possibly effect the way a guitar body resonates? Game on.
The other group are guys in the forum who love nothing more than to tell the junkies to “quit worrying about the details and just play the guitar”. These guys know that “tone is in the fingers”, and that money is better spent on lessons than boutique pedals.
They understand that no one in the audience will hear the difference between stock groove tubes and your $350.00 NOS Amperex Bugle Boy 12AX7s.
And lastly they know that SRV could play a guitar made from wet cardboard and he’d still sound better than half of us. (that one might be true)
Here’s what’s kinda funny though about the second group. They assume that we gear junkies are obsessing over gear instead of actually playing the guitar. They imagine that we avoid practicing and just keep buying more gear with the idea that more and better gear will make us a better player.
2 problems with this assumption:
First, how do you know that just because I spent 3 hours last night researching expensive picks, I didn’t also spend an equal amount of time practicing my guitar?
I didn’t by the way, but that brings me to problem number 2: What is wrong with obsessing over gear?
Gear is fun! It’s interesting! I love learning about different kinds of pedals, tubes, strings, or speakers. I love the details and I’m fully aware that none of it will make me play like Julian Lage, but it’s fun so who cares? I love obsessing over things like setting my string action just right so the strings are easy to play but not too easy. I need them to fight a little with just enough resistance so my playing has the “right feel”... I don’t even know what that last sentence means but half of you nerds just nodded in agreement with me.
I love shopping for guitars that I’ll probably never buy. I love reading 25 different opinions about nickel vs stainless frets. And I’m currently loving my quest to find a pick that I love as much as my bluechip but doesn’t cost 35 dollars a pop. (more on that next time)
My point is, it’s just one big hobby. And if researching, talking about, or buying gear makes someone happy, who cares if they play their guitar at all?
I mean, what if back in 1950 Leo Fender had taken the advice to quit tinkering and just practice the guitar?
(It would mean I’d probably own a single Les Paul instead of my wall of Telecasters, and I’d probably spend more time playing and less time modding cause who freaking mods a Les Paul, are you crazy?)
My latest project:
The neck is a Warmoth roasted maple with a compound radius rosewood fretboard, a boatneck carve, and narrow tall frets. The body is a 2 tone burst from a Fender Vintera 50s tele with a nice cream colored 3 ply pickguard. I upgraded to a set of Lollar Vintage T pickups, and of course it has a set of aged Bensonite compensated saddles. I plan on replacing the pots and maybe installing a 4 way switch as well. To say the least, I’m totally loving it.
But with aftermarket pickups, neck, electronics, and hardware, is it now by definition a partscaster?
I don’t care for that term. Partscaster has a negative connotation. When I hear “partscaster” I think of an ugly guitar, Jerry-rigged together with tape and bandaids by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and later listed for double its value on Reverb.
I refuse to call my guitar a partscaster. My guitar is a custom tele. I selected the components, finished the neck, crowned and leveled the frets (I’m an amateur but it turned out pretty good), put it together and set it up and it’s GREAT. It’s not perfect, but it’s mine and I love it.
My friend Chris has a custom thinline tele that he put together a couple years ago. It’s beautiful. Roasted maple neck with a compensated nut and stainless steel frets (pleked). Tastefully aged blue body with a pearloid pickguard, a set of Seymour Duncan antiquity II pickups, and perfectly set up with a set of aged brass Bensonite Saddles. It is probably the best tele I’ve ever played. The action is low with zero buzz, the frets are incredibly smooth, it weighs like 6 lbs, and it sounds amazing. It’s a work of art, and the thought of calling his custom thinline a “partscaster” is straight up ridiculous.
So who is with me? Let’s get rid of this stupid word. Your guitar that you customized and designed to your exact specs is awesome and belongs in a category that doesn’t imply being lessor than.
Anyway, happy Saturday y’all. Keep on rockin in the free world.
Kendall, owner of Bensonite, average guitarist