• New Sponsor: ShipNerd, Ship Your Gear with Us... for less! Click Here.

Which is more important: voice or versatility?


The Fool
Gold Supporting Member
The "If you only had one guitar..." thread got me thinking. These threads come up pretty regularly, and it seems like the responses, while pretty predictable, fall into two major groups:

The first group are those folks who want a guitar that does everything -- versatility is the name of the game for them. They tend to prefer something along the lines of a Strat with a hum bridge & trem, or HSH guitar with trem. In other words, a complicated guitar, relatively speaking.

The other group, while obviously wanting something very versatile, seem to want a guitar with a particular sound; a voice, if you will. They tend to prefer a Tele, LP or 335; a simple guitar, but one with a distinct sound/feel.

Which group do you fall into & why?

Statistical outliers always welcome (ie, if you don't fit in, come on in!)



I play blues and I'm not concerned with sounding like a record. Good or bad, I'd rather have my own tone than be chasing after someone else's.


Senior Member
thats why i like my hot rod tele.

it can do blues, country, rock, jazz, funk etc

the mini hum in the neck really helps.

i don't just play 1 style, i like to do a lot of things

John Phillips

You can have both.

I don't really like guitars with radically different, mismatching and unsuited sounds on them - eg a Strat with a bridge humbucker that's trying to sound just like a Les Paul. (I have no interest in trying to 'nail' specific tones of other guitars.)

But I like versatile guitars, so I usually want a couple of slightly differently-voiced pickups and maybe a coil-split option if they're humbuckers.

That way you can get a lot of different tones but still have it sound like the same guitar.

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
I agree with John - you can have both.

For me it depends on the gig. Sometimes I get called for a session where I have no idea what they're going to want, so I bring a bunch of guitars and pedals to the session - Strat, Tele, PRS, ES-335, LP Junior or Special.

Sometimes I go play a cowboy and rock gig at some honky-tonk and I just bring my favorite Tele or LP Junior and an amp. Hey, every now and again I get to go play all original music, and I bring whatever I feel like that night and have some fun. I usually have two guitars with me onstage for the "Show must go on" aspect of performing, in case one breaks a string, but that said they're usually two different types of guitars - not two Strats or two Teles.

Really depends on the gig, for me. That said, I like Teles and ES-335's for their versatility, but I like Esquires and LP Juniors for their voice(s). The older I get and longer I play, the more surprised I am at how many sounds you can get out of a guitar if you have to. Early onset idiocy made me take the wrong case a couple years back to a gig w/ a set of jazz standards and then some funk dance stuff ... on a LP Junior instead of the PRS CU-24 I thought was in the case - don't ask how, it's complicated. The LP Junior sounded great all night. Because I didn't have a choice, I made it work, or rather I should say I willed myself to let my conventional thinking go and allowed in my mind the possibility that this LP Junior would work well for the gig, and then it did.

Lucky for me.

In my opinion today, Dana O.


Wax Rhapsodic
Platinum Supporting Member
Voice 100% - if I love the voice of the guitar, I can make it sound versatile. If I get a guitar with features meant to make it versatile but I don't like the voice, I get a lot of tones that all sound like crap.


Silver Supporting Member
I started the most recent thread on the subject. I picked a PRS 513. I love the feel, look and build quality of PRS guitars, and the 513 has more distinct sounds available than anything I know. To me, it really is the best of both worlds, although very expensive.


Andy J.

I'll go with voice, as I only play originals, and don't need to cop a lot of different tones, but I agree with John and Dana; there's not a lot of guitars that can be labeled "one-trick ponies".

Mark Wein

I go for voice these days, although I do have a Suhr "utility strat" with the humbucker in the bridge...it really depends on the situation but I have 2 or 3 guitars (Les Paul, Suhr Tele and a Warmoth parts strat) that really have a great sound that I end up playing more than the Suhr...


TGP Tech Wrangler
Staff member
I tend towards versatility with a nice voice. ;) That's where most of my guitars (PRS CE & Custom, Driskill, Tele) fall.

OTOH, I really dig my Singlecuts and they're not especially versatile IMO.


The Fool
Gold Supporting Member
Great responses & interesting reading -- thanks.

I completely agree that you can have both. I think that's why many folks choose something like a Tele, LP or 335. That's also, imo, why these designs, and a handful of others, have withstood the test of time. Sure, there's some validity to saying that, for example, the Tele shaped the 'typical' country sound or the LP shaped the 'typical' blues-based rock sound, but I think that can be looked at the other way. That is, a Tele (to choose a single example) is capable of such a broad palette of tones, while still retaining a certain, almost inescapable, Tele-ness, that it can thus be used for an equally broad range of applications, while leaving a bit of that Tele magic behind.

The KISS principle of guitars -- best exemplified by an LP Jr or Esquire -- is also, I think, something many guitarists, particularly those who are inexperienced or for whom nailing a wide range of recorded tones is critical, all too often ignored. Playing those guitars is, imo, kind of like playing an acoustic, inasmuch as touch & technique become critical to wring as much range out of them as possible.

Also -- these two seem to work together: a Tele (again) is an essentially amazingly simple instrument. And it's exactly that simplicity that allows the player to choose from such a broad range of possible sounds to craft their own instrumental voice.

To answer my own question, I think that voice is the more important of the two -- but that a well chosen, well voiced instrument can cover a remarkably broad range of sounds & feels. I first started to learn this when I learned that those knob thingies on Teles actually really do perform a useful function. It was like realizing that I didn't have to just draw with the point of a sharp pencil -- the sides, or a rounded point, even the eraser & my fingers, opened up a whole range of greys, and I was no longer limited to just hard, precise, black lines.

Later, I got into LP Jrs, and played one, pretty much exclusively, for a couple of months. That was, if anything, even more eye opening. I recommend trying to play a Junior or Esquire straight into a good, simple tube amp exclusively for a while -- it's amazing what you can do with a 'bare bones' rig. When I went back to my other guitars, I realized that they were far more versatile & interesting than I'd ever imagined. A highly ear-opening experience.


I chase others' tones.

I'm not an original artist. I guess I could try. But I'd be as bad as the thousands out there who consider themselves original artists and suck.
:AOKI'm with you! I try to write tunes, but they suck so hard they never see the light of day. I work on em, but the lyrics always suck. I hold onto the music to see if I can do anything with them, later. When I'm trying to write, sometimes I want a thick HB sound, sometimes I want a stratty sound, sometimes I want something in between. Luckily, I have a small guitarsenal to make that work for me.

I like playing other people's music, and ballparking the tones though. I don't want to play Sweet Home Alabama or Free Ride without a Strat, or Are You Gonna Go My Way or Sweet Child O' Mine without a humbucker.

Sean French

Silver Supporting Member
Voice for me.
I only play Tele's and Les Paul's.
I play original music so,coping a specific tone for a cover song doesn't concern me.
Besides a Tele's voice fits nicely into just about any genre of music.


It's a dilemma, because ultimately the best I can realistically hope for in my future musical endeavours is to be in a covers band. And that would suggest 'Versatility'.
And yet my weapon of choice is a Musicman Axis.
Not the Axis Supersport with the 5way switch which at least offers some coil splitting.
No, mines the 2pickup, 3way switch, not even got a tone pot model.
Sounds lovely through my Rivera mind you.....

So probably 'Voice' then.

mad dog

Silver Supporting Member
Versatility is not much use to me if the guitar doesn't have one or more tones that keep me playing and listening. I have encountered a few versatile, excellent playing and sounding instruments that somehow didn't work for me tonally ... those ones get reluctantly sold. A few others (the Dearmond M75T comes immediately to mind) may not be that versatile, but have distinctive, interesting sounds.

So it's voice first.


I would have to go for the versatility of my PRS SCT IRW. It has splitable humbuckers and a trem ... lots of range.

Trending Topics

Top Bottom