It's NXNE time again. The city is crawling with rock star dreamers and groupie wannabes. But there was a long-ago time when you wanted to buy your first guitar and your only clue was "I don't know, the black one? So I look hardcore?"
For all you novice Jimis and Jimettes in the making, we talked to Ring Music's (90 Harbord, 416-924-3571) resident guitar nerd, Derek Volling, to get a quick how-to on your first rocking out instrument. And for all you experts, stop reading and just go back to the Rehearsal Hall and call us when your CD comes out, 'K? Happy NXNE!
An electric guitar can run you anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars, depending on its quality and collectibility. You also need to factor in the amp, which can cost less than $100 or several thousand. The amp is just as important as the guitar in terms of the sound quality you'll get, but we don't got room for that here, so ask your salesperson what he/she recommends. Other hot spots for guitars in T.O. are Capsule Music (921 Queen West, 416-203-0202), Steve's Music Store (415 Queen West, 416-593-8888) and, of course, Long and McQuade (925 Bloor West, 416-588-7886).
OUR LOVELY MODEL
Our hot lady here is the Teisco Del Ray K-56. She's made of alder, with a solid body, a bolt-on neck, three pickups, a whammy bar and a double cutaway for easy access to the upper register. She also comes in blue, red, black and pewter ($699, Ring Music).
The kind of body a guitar has affects the sound it puts out. There are three types to choose from: solid, hollow (arch-top) and semi-acoustic, a hollow-type guitar with a solid piece of wood down the middle. Solid guitars are usually the most affordable, and are common in the rock, blues, alt-rock and country genres. Hollow is hot for jazz, and semi-acoustic is popular for rock, blues and jazz.
Guitars are made of different kinds of wood that produce varying tones. A wood like alder will give a balanced sound with crisp highs and warm lows. Ash gives brighter, bell-like tones, and mahogany is richer and warmer. Poplar and maple are used, too.
The type of wood the neck is made of matters, but the most important thing about a guitar neck, says Derek, is that it's comfortable in your hand. Things that affect comfort are the size of the neck, the finish on the back of the neck and the curvature of the fingerboard. Gee. Sounds like sex.
The first thing to look at when you're assessing if a pickup (and no, not "Hey, baby, want to hear me play Stairway To Heaven?") will suit your needs is its type. There are two main types: humbucking and single-coil. Humbuckers produce a rich, fat tone with lots of power. Single-coils produce a crisp, bright tone with lively detail. The placement and number of pickups is also important. A pickup near the fingerboard has a darker, warmer tone than a pickup near the bridge, which has a brighter tone. The more choices you have, the merrier your basement band will be.
Derek says controls are fairly standard, i.e. volume, tone, pickup selector. Placement of controls like the volume knob means some guitars lend themselves to tricks -- such as volume swells -- more easily than others.
Not all electrics have these, but they're fun for creating special effects. Whammy bars can give a shimmering effect by bending the pitch of notes slightly, or a gut-wrenching dive-bomb effect with extreme use. However, they can also make tuning your guitar harder, because the strings are always being stretched.so you wanna be a rock star