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A Few Notes & Thoughts on My Gibson Guitar Collection (Part 2)

Rik Emmett

Over time, chunks of my guitar collection were gifted for charity things, school programs, and then a bunch were given to my own kids so that they could sell them off and raise dough for their college funds. There were a handful of rare guitars that ended up in the Hard Rock Caf├ęs around the world. And I have no regrets about guitars that came and went. To me, it's always been about evolution. Plus it's for fun, a job-related diversionary pastime, and the collecting of guitars is something like collecting—I dunno—art, maybe, or cars...? We are all only caretakers on this planet, and in the case of musical instruments, especially guitars, most of them were made to be played—not to be museum pieces. Once a guitar has been hanging on a display wall for over a year, it's changing from an instrument into an objet d'art. And there is a place for that, maybe. But for me, I'd prefer to have a smaller group of guitars that I use, and that I play on a fairly regular basis.

For posterity, I already have the first (plywood catalogue) acoustic I ever owned, the first (one pickup Kay) electric, the first (Yairi) classical (a factory "second"); I can't replace those sentimental landmarks. I also have a turn-of-the-20th-century Hall & Sons miniature guitar that my wife bought for me one Christmas. I have one great classical nylon string. And there are always a few guitars that one needs to be able to create some special effects: my old trusty National lap slide, a sitar guitar, a dobro... But a good Gibson—it kinda comes down to that, for me, to cover the spectrum of "classic" rock sounds. Lately, as I've been playing on the 356 (and my Classic '60s Les Paul sits there in the stand, making me feel guilty, because it's a really, really fine guitar, and has stood me in perfectly good stead), I feel like I'm finally boiling it down to basic needs, and have the necessary tools.

I can live without a whammy bar. But I sometimes think about putting the non-invasive Stetsbar tailpiece on one of my Gibbies. If anyone reading this has any experience on this, feel free to write in and share your thoughts.

Now, feel/touch-wise, the 356 is a dream to play. Tonally and response-wise, its semi-acoustic nature gives it just a bit more bite/honk/character when you really play it hard—and that's a difference between semi-acoustics and Les Pauls. The LPs are incredibly good when you turn them up fairly loud. But maybe they do not have quite as much dynamic response and tonal range at lower levels as a semi-acoustic electric guitar has. My chambered black LP is pretty darn good for that dynamic responsiveness, (the chambering is the thing that takes it more in the direction I favor) and adding piezo bridge saddles gave it even more clarity at lower levels on clean settings. But the 356 has an audible difference in articulation/definition of notes. It may not have as much punch, or as much sustain—but it has a brighter twang or pop on the front end of notes, ("brighter" might be a misnomer—it's also more of a "woody" thunk…an archtop's roundness) which maybe gives it just a bit more "cut," even if it might not have as much output. Plus, when you dig in (and I mean REALLY play hard), the 356 gives that snappy edge, whereas a Les Paul seems to kind of compress out a bit more.

Esoteric description, sure. Possibly purely all in my own head. But that's where the music starts before it makes it outta my fingers anyways, right?

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