Guitar Playability : Fight or Flight?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by LowWatt, Oct 1, 2008.

Do you prefer a guitar that plays easily or one that puts up a bit of a fight?

  1. Plays easy and lets me get my ideas out smoothly

  2. Fights me a little and takes me to new places musically

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  1. LowWatt

    LowWatt Member

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    Just a preference question.

    What do you like better, a guitar that puts up a bit of a fight or one that plays effortlessly? Keep tone out of the question. This is 100% about playability.

    I would have always said I'm best off with my easiest playing guitar (my SG), but I've been listening to my band's recordings lately and realizing that all the best new parts I've created are on my Jazzmaster. I'm starting to think that it's because I have to fight it a little to play it. It's not like the SG where it sustains and sounds solid just by holding it. With the Jazzmaster, I really need to dig in to get something good out of it, but when I do, it's better than everything else.

    So, fight or flight? Do you prefer to fight your guitar because it takes you to new places musically or do you prefer a guitar that plays effortlessly so that the ideas in your head flow out freely?

    NOTE : This is assuming that the guitar is well set up on either side. I'm just saying that some guitars (even well set up) are harder to play than others. I tend to get my best ideas out of those harder to play guitars.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2008
  2. FrankieSixxxgun

    FrankieSixxxgun Member

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    If I have to fight a guitar to play it I get it set up by a luthier. You're never supposed to fight a guitar IMO. That's like fighting a socket wrench while building an engine. A guitar is a tool.
     
  3. RGB

    RGB Supporting Member

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    What we need here is a "both" option. I love my Tele for the fight it puts up, but my Anderson was so smooth and easy that I had to love it as well. The right tool for the job, I guess!

    Had to vote for the fighter, though!
     
  4. puckhead

    puckhead Member

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    I have enough trouble playing without the guitar putting up a fight.

    "nice and easy does it every time."
     
  5. sickboy79

    sickboy79 Member

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    I personally prefer my guitars set up to where I have to play them rather than the "guitar playing itself." What I mean is I prefer a little bit higher and stiffer action, and more neck relief than most folks. I find that guitars with super straight necks and super low action may initially feel faster/smoother but, I find that they don't have the same resonance and singing quality than one setup how I prefer.

    Hope that makes sense - so I'm probably in the "fight" category! LOL!
     
  6. wes37

    wes37 Supporting Member

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    I wouldn't say "fight", but a guitar needs to give some push back, by which I mean not be TOO easy to play. There is a lot of nuance to great music and if a guitar is too effortless, then it's actually harder to dial in the nuance.

    If you don't believe me, ask Jeff Beck.

    In my case, I put heavier strings on my easiest guitar to play (Anderson) to get the "push back" that I like from a guitar. My Suhr is easy to play, but it's dialed in just right. My Fender Strat could give a little less, but they're bitchy by design. :0)

    Oh, the jury's out on my LP...some days I fight, some days I don't. I guess it's close.
     
  7. Flinto2002

    Flinto2002 Senior Member

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    I don't get the whole notion that a guitar that fights you, is going to somehow take you to new places musically.

    That sounds like making virtue of necessity. If a guitar fights you, it is either set up improperly or not the guitar for you. If you can't express yourself on a guitar that plays like butter, why would you be any better on a baseball bat neck, 7.5" radius, vintage frets, 11's with slide action?
     
  8. rah3

    rah3 Member

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    Agree with RGB. I'm in the "Both" camp, depending on the instrument. Love my Parker FLY and Esquire with 9's for the snappy tone and ease of playability, but I also play my others including baritones and bari 12 string with heavier strings and higher action for tone. The higher action and heavier strings make it easier to play slide on those instruments as well.

    -RAH3
     
  9. mprvise

    mprvise Member

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    If I want to be pushed to new places by the guitar I'll pull one out of the closet that hasn't been played in a while. For the most part I prefer them to play nice.
     
  10. RGB

    RGB Supporting Member

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    Because the fight makes you approach everything differently...and a well set up Tele is going to fight more than any short scale guitar, but it's still set up properly and IS the guitar for me...in some situations! That's why you need at least one of each!
     
  11. LowWatt

    LowWatt Member

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    Exactly. I have my jazzmaster set up perfectly, but because of the radius, bridge break angle (jazzmaster reality if you want it to sound right) and the high action that I like for some of my tremolo picking styles, I can only play it by really digging in and strangling the neck.

    By fight, I definitely don't mean a poorly set up guitar. I just mean a guitar that really forces you to dig in to get something out of it. Old baseball necked Teles are a great example of this. They can be set up perfectly and have tone of the gods, but if you're not willing to dig in and get nasty against that fat neck and long scale, you probably aren't going to get every last drop out of it.

    My SG on the other hand, sounds like me with very little effort and that effortless playing somehow (maybe psychologically) usually leads me into my owns long standing cliches and habits.
     
  12. LowWatt

    LowWatt Member

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    That's exactly the issue I face (and a perfect description of how I like my Jazzmaster set up).

    Here are a few reasons (they are personal and definitely don't apply to everyone)

    - If I have to fight a guitar to get the most out of it, I can't sustain that energy for a whole show and my playing gets more dynamic. When I dig in, I really have to put my all in it. Forced effort I guess.

    - Big vintage style necks change the way my left hand sits and the way I fret. The simple act of taking my hand a little out of what is familiar and easy, breaks me from my bad habit of letting out a lot of cliches without thinking.

    Essentially, I think it's because I'm lazy. My SG, with it's thin neck and shorter scale, allows me to be lazy and get a lot from a little effort. I will embarass myself on my Jazzmaster if I don't really dig in and feel like there is more of a give and take between me and the instrument.

    Might not apply to all. FWIW my band does lots of intense rhythym work with heavy grooves and large orchestra sounding instrumental compositions. I need to go from gentle whisper to tearing down mountains repeatedly and often in the same song. Having a guitar that can go from weak and wimpy to huge and powerful is an absolute asset in the music we create.
     
  13. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    I hate a low action playing guitar. For one thing, the tone is always plinky. But I know you asked to leave tone out so I'll give another reason. I don't want a guitar that plays like a girl scout can play it, because fingers get a little weak and lazy. I like to be able to pick up any old guitar and play it well.

    I like a little fight in the guitar anyhow, keeps you on yer toes.

    But the biggie is tone. Higher action gives a fuller/less fret buzzin' tone. Ooops, sorry again!
     
  14. Help!I'maRock!

    Help!I'maRock! Member

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    as a writing tool, we always hear about guitars that the song "just came out of". sometimes those guitar play like crap. but that doesn't mean i should set up my guitar to play like crap so i get get inspiration out of it.

    all of my guitars are set up to play as well as possible. but they all end up feeling and sounding different, and sometimes the songs just come out of them. sometimes the song comes out of one guitar but sounds better on another guitar. but i don't buy the argument that you have to fight a guitar.
     
  15. LowWatt

    LowWatt Member

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    Bari 12 string = awesome
     
  16. MuseCafeChris

    MuseCafeChris Senior Member

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    I prefer a balance between the two. Straight neck, but with higher action.

    This thread is exactly why everyone should learn how to do their own setups. How can a "luthier" or "tech" know exactly how to set up your guitar?
     
  17. LowWatt

    LowWatt Member

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    Exactly. 16 years playing, with a little bit of touring time, and 5 years working in a major music store, I know how I like my guitars set up and I would never expect a luthier who didn't really know me to be able to hit all the fine points in my set up.

    I'm always shocked how many people seem to believe one way is best or proper for all. A guitar is such a personal tool that half of the fun is figuring out what works best for you. That's why I started this thread, because over the last little while I'm really starting to like my personal quirks with the guitar and I find that if I embrace them instead of trying to fix them, I get more original work and more of my own voice comes out.

    I'm not saying fight the guitar to find your own voice, that's just what works for me. I'm saying figure out what brings out your best ideas and go with that no matter how much it goes against the grain.
     
  18. jaycee

    jaycee Member

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    Definitely a little of both. If a guitar 'plays itself' i find i don't have to think about it and that leads me to get a little sloppy. But i don't want to have to 'concentrate' on playing, make sense? I don't want to fight the thing but i like to 'reach' a little. Medium low action. Effortless bends get sloppier for me too. There is a sweet spot.
     
  19. bluesjuke

    bluesjuke Disrespected Elder

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    I like a good resistance in playing.
    I'm in the "both" catagory but it also depends on each individual guitar.

    There is too easy.

    I don't play improperly (read badly) set up guitars.
    That's not my definition of a guitar giving a fight.
    In other words nothing on the guitar need's to be fixed or adjusted.

    I love my Fenders for this and they are very smooth but give a fight.
    My Gibsons are set up to optimum conditions and play like a dream but they are not set up fpr little girls either.
     
  20. Mayflower

    Mayflower Supporting Member

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    When I fight,,,I have licks that are for a "Fighting guitar" and stick with them.
    Playability.....Play whatever you want.
    I don't like to fight an axe, but have a few that I do.
     

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