Neville’s Ad­vo­cAte

In his new monthly col­umn, Guitar Tech­niques edi­tor Nev asks what gui­tars we’d want on that desert is­land?

Guitarist - - Opinion -

Wel­come to my new col­umn, which ex­ists pri­mar­ily be­cause I’ve al­ways wanted to use that play on words, but also be­cause Jamie chal­lenged me to come up with a few ideas based on way too many years of do­ing this stuff. This first piece was ac­tu­ally in­spired by Nick Guppy’s Face­book page, where he asked friends which guitar – ei­ther Les Paul or Strat – they’d take to a desert is­land, given that elec­tric­ity and a suit­able amp were al­ready in place.

Of those par­tic­u­lar two in­stru­ments I said it would have to be the Strat, due to the range of tones it of­fered and the added ex­pres­sion from the whammy bar; you could there­fore find more to do with it dur­ing those years in the dol­drums drink­ing co­conut wa­ter and munch­ing on the oc­ca­sional washed-up squid.

Then I got to ex­trap­o­lat­ing.Are these re­ally the best choices? They’re the ob­vi­ous ones, but wouldn’t the Tele, the ba­sic but quin­tes­sen­tial solid­body elec­tric, be the more per­fect part­ner? You could learn ev­ery inch of its neck, dis­cover the mi­cro­scopic dif­fer­ences in ev­ery mil­lime­tre’s turn of the vol­ume and tone con­trols on ev­ery pickup and com­bi­na­tion thereof. Plus it would grace­fully age and craze in the sun – just like you!

Or how about the ES-335? It’s more ver­sa­tile than a Les Paul with a bit more of the old school about it – more like a‘proper’guitar. And if you wanted to get away from Man Friday (or Amanda Dono­hoe!) you could al­ways sneak down to the wa­ter’s edge for a bit of semi-acous­tic noodling.

But hang on a mo. Of­ten times I’ve stated that I’d never choose my favourite mu­sic to ac­com­pany me to such a wilder­ness par­adise. Much as I love The Bea­tles,The Beach Boys, Cream, Hen­drix,Al­bert, BB, Fred­die, Si­na­tra, Ella and all the usual sus­pects, I al­ready know those songs in­side out and I know I’d grow to loathe them. So no, I’d go for clas­si­cal, jazz, folk, prog and world mu­sic – gen­res with which I’m far less fa­mil­iar.Just as my ini­tially least liked song on a new Bea­tles al­bum al­ways ended up as my favourite, and I’d in­evitably be­come jaded with the in­stant ear-worm num­ber, I would grow to know and love these un­fa­mil­iar sounds and pro­vide my­self with years of en­joy­ment, cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion and dis­cov­ery. I’d ask knowl­edge­able friends who are more into these gen­res for their ad­vice, and sail away with mu­sic that would be fresh to these tired ears.

If that’s true of mu­sic it­self, might it not work too for the tool of its trade; that six-string you sal­vaged from your sink­ing schooner? With that in mind two dis­tinctly un­fa­mil­iar (to me) op­tions oc­cur. First, the beau­ti­ful Gib­son L-5.To make full use of that Deluxe Re­verb (re­mem­ber the is­land’s pre­vi­ous oc­cu­pants kindly left an amp and a so­lar-pow­ered gen­er­a­tor?) I’d opt for a mod­i­fied acous­tic one with a sin­gle Char­lie Chris­tian pickup at the neck. On this stun­ning cre­ation, us­ing the ‘jazz’sec­tion of my eight cho­sen discs I could learn new licks, chords and ar­range­ments so my days would be pro­duc­tively filled with amass­ing a new reper­toire.

But then – and maybe this is the per­fect so­lu­tion – the ul­ti­mate back-to-ba­sics six-string: a de­li­cious, hand-crafted, ny­lon­string, Ramirez clas­si­cal. Surely this is it. No amp needed and to­tally por­ta­ble, so for­ays to the other side of your golden-beached haven will be filled with your Jo­bim, Gil­berto, Bream and Wil­liams mus­ings; and what you al­ready know as a gui­tarist would pro­vide a great foun­da­tion for ex­plor­ing new styles and tech­niques.You could also work out those old favourites you left be­hind, giv­ing them fresh life and re­mind­ing you why they were once so im­por­tant in your life.

Come to think of it, sod the posh guitar.This is a desert is­land: it’s steam­ing hot, lash­ing down with rain or blow­ing a 100mph storm.An acous­tic made from solid tonewoods is go­ing to crack, warp and be un­playable in no time. Best stick with some­thing cheap and cheer­ful – maybe not quite as ba­sic as John Len­non’s £10“guar­an­teed not to split”Gal­lo­tone, but a good old lam­i­nated Span­ish box that would be­come your true best friend.

Ac­tu­ally I’m lik­ing this whole vibe. I don’t even own a ny­lon-string so, desert is­land or no desert is­land, per­haps I’ll get my­self a cheap­ish clas­si­cal, a book of Jo­bim bossa nova clas­sics and while away the com­ing win­ter nights learn­ing How In­sen­si­tive, Quiet Nights and De­sa­fi­nado. See you next time.

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