So, how many guitars do you actually need?
Answer. Just one more.
As a guitar enthusiast that has several guitars it can be perplexing to be quizzed by a non-player.
You can only play one guitar at a time. Why do you need more than one?
I’m stereotyping here but if a female says that to me then my reply is usually, “how many pairs of shoes have you got?”
Why Do you Need More Than One Guitar?
The short answer is that you don’t need more than one – certainly as an amateur.
If you are a relative beginner or only play one style of music then one guitar can certainly be enough.
For example, someone heavily into country music may find owning one Fender Telecaster is enough.
Someone who is more serious about playing different styles, makes recordings and / or plays live then things might not be quite so simple. Professional guitarists and session musicians are unlikely to get away with having just one or two guitars.
So, let’s dig a little deep though into owning multiple guitars versus owning just one.
Benefits of Owning Multiple Guitars
One could argue that there are merits to owning at least two guitars; one electric and one acoustic.
But what are other valid reasons for owning more than one guitar?
- Different Sounds
- Alternative Tunings
- Set up for slide guitar
- They Just Look So Cool
Let’s look at end of them in more detail.
A vast range of sounds can be made with guitars and not just by using effects pedals.
Different guitar body shapes offer unique tonal characteristics and playing experiences. By owning multiple guitars with varied body shapes, you can tap into an extensive palette of sounds to suit different musical genres and moods.
- Solid Body Electric Guitar: Ideal for rock, blues, and heavy genres, solid-body guitars deliver a bright and punchy sound with excellent sustain and minimal feedback.
- Hollow Bodies: Perfect for jazz, blues, and acoustic-inspired music, hollow-body guitars produce warm, resonant tones with a rich sustain and increased acoustic resonance.
- Semi-Acoustic: A versatile choice for a wide range of genres, semi-acoustic guitars blend the characteristics of solid and hollow bodies, offering a balance between electric and acoustic sound.
The pickups play a pivotal role in shaping the way a guitar sounds. By having guitars with different pickup configurations, you can explore diverse tonal landscapes and achieve the perfect match for your musical expression.
- Single Coil Pickups: Delivering bright, crisp tones with a sparkling high-end, single coil pickups are perfect for genres like country, pop, and classic rock music.
- Humbuckers: Known for their thick, fat, and warm tones, humbuckers excel in rock, metal, and blues genres, providing a fuller sound with reduced hum and noise.
If you are playing live then having a back-up guitar is a pretty good idea. Both electronic failures or string breakages are a possibility.
If you have a decent guitar, and depending on how hard you play, it can be quite rare that you break a string (for me anyway).
However, I was playing at a festival where backline, including drums, was provided to make change-overs easy and most important, quick.
It was the first time I had ever done this but, to make transport easy for the band I decided to take just one guitar. It was only a half hour set so I thought the risk was low.
By now you know what’s coming. Yep, a string breakage and I was playing a Fender Stratocaster so the tuning went right out because of the tremolo.
To make things worse, it was all being recorded for a live album.
I’ve never felt pressure like it getting that string changed and stretching it in so it didn’t slip straight out of tune. Again, made worse because it was a Strat.
The moral of the story is, make sure you have a spare if you are playing live. You might well not need it but it is a nightmare if something happens and you don’t have one.
Each guitar possesses its own unique sound, character, and playability, which opens up a world of possibilities for musicians.
Sometimes just picking up a different guitar can give a flash of inspiration that wasn’t there just moments before.
Different guitars have distinct tonal qualities that can evoke various emotions and moods. A bright and jangly sound from a 12-string acoustic guitar might inspire a joyful and uplifting melody, while a gritty and distorted electric guitar could ignite a sense of rebellion or intensity.
By owning guitars with diverse tonal characteristics, guitarists can tap into a broader sonic palette and explore a wider range of musical expressions.
The physical attributes and playability of guitars can influence songwriting and improvisation. Each guitar may have a different neck shape, string gauge, or action, altering the way one interacts with the instrument.
Switching between guitars can spark fresh ideas, as the change in feel and playability encourages the musician to approach chords, melodies, and techniques from new angles. It’s like discovering a new landscape that inspires creativity and pushes the boundaries of one’s musicality.
Even aesthetics of guitars can also contribute to inspiration. The visual beauty of each instrument, from the intricate wood grain to the unique body shapes and finishes, can spark imagination and creativity. Simply gazing at a collection of guitars can evoke a sense of inspiration and motivation to create music.
While there is nothing stopping you from grabbing your one guitar and retuning it to drop D or other alternative tuning, it’s quite convenient to have additional guitars for the job. Each instrument can be permanently set up with a specific tuning, allowing for quick and seamless changeover.
I’d say this was pretty much essential if you are playing live and need to swap tunings.
Set-up for Slide Guitar
If you are into slide guitar, having an additional guitar set up specifically for slide playing is handy.
Slide guitar is a distinctive technique where a slide, usually made of glass, metal, or ceramic, is used to glide along the strings, producing a smooth and fluid sound. By dedicating a guitar solely to slide playing, guitarists can optimize their setup to achieve the best tone and playability for this unique style.
One of the key advantages of having a dedicated slide guitar setup is the ability to fine-tune the instrument for optimal slide playing. The action, or the distance between the strings and the fretboard, can be adjusted higher than the standard setup to accommodate the slide. This allows the slide to glide smoothly without the strings buzzing against the frets. By raising the action, the guitarist can achieve a clean, sustained sound that is characteristic of slide guitar playing.
Additionally, having a separate guitar for slide eliminates the need for constant tuning adjustments (see above). Slide playing often requires alternate tunings to achieve certain chords or intervals that are easier to reach with the slide. With a dedicated slide guitar, musicians can keep it tuned to a specific alternate tuning, while their other guitars remain in standard tuning. This allows for seamless transitions during live performances or recording sessions, saving valuable time and effort.
Collecting guitars can be fun and choosing limited editions and vintage guitars may mean that their value will appreciate over time.
Vintage guitars, in particular, hold a significant allure for collectors due to their historical significance and potential for value appreciation. As time passes, certain guitars become increasingly scarce and desirable, commanding higher prices in the collector’s market.
They Just Look So Cool
Let’s face it, many of us play guitar because they look so cool.
While the aesthetic appeal of guitars may not be the primary reason for collecting them, it is an undeniable aspect of the hobby that adds to the overall enjoyment. Guitars are not just functional instruments; they are works of art in their own right, with their unique shapes, colors, and designs.
From the sleek curves of a Stratocaster, iconic shape of a Gibson Les Paul and the undeniable cool of a Gretsch, each guitar model has its own distinct visual identity. The array of finishes and wood grains available further adds to the visual appeal. Whether it’s a glossy sunburst, a metallic sparkle, or a natural wood grain with a satin finish, guitars can be visually stunning and captivating objects to behold.
Advantages of Owning a Single Guitar
While owning several guitars may have its benefits, there are several advantages to owning only one decent guitar.
Decision Fatigue: Much like Steve Jobs who dressed exactly the same every day to avoid decision fatigue / wasting time choosing. Just grab your one guitar and practice.
Quality over Quantity: You can invest all of your guitar money into one higher quality instrument. In the case of vintage / rarer guitars they often go up in value over time. It might well be better to have one instrument that is gaining value over several mid-priced guitars that have all lost value.
Deep Connection: Most musicians will attest, a profound bond can develop between a player and their instrument. As you spend countless hours practicing and playing your guitar, you start to develop an intimate familiarity with its contours, its weight, and the way its strings respond to your touch. You learn its quirks and idiosyncrasies, and it becomes attuned to your personal style and technique.
What is GAS?
Gas stands for “Guitar Acquisition Syndrome” or more generally, “Gear Acquisition Syndrome”.
It’s a condition that affects many guitar players around the world. It is characterized by an overwhelming desire to continually acquire new guitars regardless of whether the guitarist needs them or not.
It’s the insatiable desire to continuously acquire new guitars, pedals, and other gear to add to one’s collection. For some, it’s a harmless hobby that simply brings joy and excitement, but for others, it can become an addiction that leads to financial strain and even relationship problems. If you love guitars it is very difficult to avoid.
I own a number of guitars, 25 to be exact (at the time of writing). I play electric guitar 95% of the time yet four of my collection are acoustic guitars. I also have five amplifiers. The only thing I don’t own is a classical guitar. I think we can safely say that I suffer from GAS and am firmly sat in the more than one guitar camp.
How Many Guitars is Too Many?
While some may argue that there is no such thing as too many guitars, it can get out of control if you aren’t careful. You love the way they look, the way they sound, and the way they make you feel. But let’s face it, there comes a point where you have to ask yourself, “How many guitars is too many?” Here are a few things to consider:
- Finances: Guitars aren’t exactly cheap. If you find yourself spending more money on guitars than you can reasonably afford, it might be a sign that you have too many. You don’t want to be struggling to pay your bills just because you couldn’t resist that shiny new six-string.
- Unused Guitars: Take a look at your collection. Are there several guitars that haven’t seen the light of day in months? If you have guitars gathering dust in a corner, it might be time to let them go. Sell them to someone who will appreciate and play them. Don’t let those beautiful instruments go to waste.
- Insurance Costs: As your guitar collection grows, so does the need to insure them. Each guitar represents an added expense in terms of insurance premiums. Make sure you’re factoring in these costs when deciding how many guitars are too many.
- Storage Nightmare: All those guitars and amplifiers can take up some serious space. I like to leave my guitars out either on wall hangers or in a rack so they are easy to grab and play. However, this also means the cases need a home taking up nearly twice the space.
- Relationship Struggles: Having a massive guitar collection has been known to cause relationship problems. Your significant other might start to wonder why there’s a guitar in every corner of the house or why there’s always another guitar arriving at your doorstep. It’s essential to strike a balance and ensure that your love for guitars doesn’t strain your relationships.
- Guitar Strings: Having a plethora of guitars also means you’ll be shelling out a significant amount of money just for strings.
- Gear Fix vs. Practice: It’s easy to get caught up in the never-ending search for that next magical guitar that promises to transform your playing. However, spending excessive amounts of time hunting for gear can detract from the time you could be spending actually practicing and honing your skills
How Many Guitars Do You Own?
As we reach the end of this article, it’s time to reflect on the fascinating journey we’ve embarked on together, exploring the age-old question: “How many guitars do you need?”
Throughout our discussion, we’ve discovered that the answer to this query is deeply personal and subjective. It depends on a multitude of factors, such as one’s musical aspirations, playing style, and personal preferences. Some may argue that a single guitar is all you truly need to create beautiful music, while others may find joy and inspiration in amassing a collection of diverse instruments.
The most important takeaway is that Guitar Acquisition Syndrome is very real. Let us know in the comments if it has taken hold of you yet and how many now sit in your collection. Are you already planning your next guitar?
Conversely, perhaps you are a guitarist with only one guitar. We’d love to know if you feel you are all the better for it.