Embracing the Simple

My first guitar was a strat. Simple. Lake placid blue, white pickguard, three single coils and a tremolo system with a locking system behind the nut.

I still have this axe. It was handed down to me by my father and has drifted in and out of regular play for years now. It’s a bit beat up in some areas, and that tremolo, while it has its advantageous, sometimes makes me wish it was a straightforward Fender unit–even one of the old ones with six screws.

It currently hangs around, tuned in DADGAD tuning. I break it out every now and fall in love with the sound every time I do; I’m constantly on the fence about dedicating an entire project to just this guitar. (Guess what’s likely to happen?)

But as wonderful as it sounds, and as much as I’ve grown to love open, sus4 tunings, the reality is that it’s a very limited guitar–even more so given this tuning.

Nothing sounds like a strat–and that’s part of the problem. It immediately draws attention as the “strat sound,” almost regardless of what I do to it in terms of effects and processing. The open tuning also locks me into a specific sound and despite being more versatile than one my likely expect of an open tuning, I none-the-less gravitate toward very specific voicings and, perhaps most troubling, the same key. Standard tuning, of course, has the same pitfalls, but since it’s the “normal” tuning, we tend not to think of it as locking a player into a specific set of voicings, patterns and keys.

But it has become such a specific instrument that it defines itself in a way totally dissimilar to some of my other guitars. The 7 strings, the fretless and microtonal guitars, and the miscellaneous other guitars hanging around the place all have a greater degree of flexibility–they can do way more and can act as chameleons, shifting into new forms where they need to. The strat is nothing more than the strat strung up in an open tuning; it refuses to listen to my demands of flexibility and versatility and simply asks to be played.

I’m going to have to give into that demand to create an entire project for it sooner or later.

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