2021 Review: Guitars For Home Playing

Rather than do a ‘best of’ style post, every year I’m going to do a rundown of what guitars I’ve had my hands on, and what I’ve learned from the experience.

This post covers guitars I play at home for fun. I’ll cover the guitars that I gig with tomorrow.

Previous articles: [2019][2020]

tl;dr

With travel difficult and dangerous due to lengthy lockdowns and then the emergence of dangerous new COVID variants, I haven’t had much chance to explore new (to me) guitars for home playing.

This year, the emphasis has been very much on making the guitars that I already have suit me better. Well, the Fenders at any rate, because there’s nothing wrong with my Les Paul or PRS guitars.

Finally! A Year Of The Telecaster

For the last two years, all I’ve done is complained about Telecasters. And then, this year, something changed. I’ve probably played Telecasters more than any other type of guitar.

  • I swapped the necks over between my Fender Vintera 60’s Modded Telecaster and my Fender American Special Telecaster, suddenly transforming both guitars into instruments that I love playing. I still hate the inaccessible truss rod on the Vintera’s neck; locking tuners at least speed things up when I’ve got to take the neck off to make adjustments.
  • I picked up a second Squier Esquire – a 60s Custom to go with my 50’s blackguard – and gave both of them locking tuners and era-correct Seymour Duncan Antiquity pickups. These have gone from fun little go-kart guitars to serious instruments in their own right.

Can any of them compete with a Fender Custom Shop Telecaster? I finally got to play one, and the answer is an unequivocal ‘no’.

They’re more than good enough for me (for now), and each one gives me a different option. And I’d rather have options atm than just one damn good Tele.

The Second Fender Player Stratocaster Didn’t Stay Stock After All

For Christmas, my wife bought me a Fender Player Stratocaster HSS, and in last year’s review I said that it would stay stock. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

This second Player Strat turned out to be nothing like my first one. The neck carve was thinner, the pickups were anaemic, and I never managed to vibe with it at all. So I had a decision to make: move it on, or put it right.

I went with the second option. New pickups and a new neck have totally transformed this guitar. I don’t want to pretend that it can hang with a Custom Shop Strat, but for what I want, it’s now more than good enough.

The Charvel Is Back, Baby!

I’ve been playing this old Charvel Model 3 since 1991. I’ve written a lot of music on it, and it’s a very important part of my personal history. It had also fallen out of use in recent year, as I could never find a bridge humbucker for it that suited me and my rig.

I’m delighted to have solved that problem this year.

I took a punt on the brand new Polymath pickup from Bare Knuckle Pickups. It’s the signature pickup of Adam “Nolly” Getgood (of Periphery and GetGoodDrums fame), and so far it’s turned out to be the bridge pickup I’ve been looking for for the last 30 years.

Once I finally get my Phase 1 material recorded (it’s not going well, but that’s a story for another blog post …), I’ll be using the Charvel as the main guitar for putting down my Phase 2 material.

The McCarty 594 and The Les Paul Are Still King (To Me)

I had an operation earlier in the year. Nothing serious in and of itself, but having an operation during a pandemic is a serious thing. Here, thousands of people have caught COVID while in hospital, and nearly a third of them didn’t make it.

So I took the day off work before surgery, and spent it playing guitar. And I spent it with Deadnote (my PRS McCarty 594) and Ghost (my Les Paul Custom).

Now that the Tele thing has started to click, I’ve been playing them more than Deadnote or any Les Pauls (I’ve found that they allow me to explore gear I’ve had for a while in new and interesting ways). But I always come back to these guitars.

There’s just nothing quite like them.

Any Plans For 2022?

I’ve got a set of Sigil Pickups’ Snakebites that need a Les Paul to go into. For a time, they were sitting in the Vintage AS100 (the first #PlayAlternative guitar), but I’ve had that guitar restored to stock ready for moving on.

I still want a lemon burst of some kind for them; probably an R8 if I can find one with a neck that I like. We’ll have to see if things get safe enough for me to go hunting for one or not.

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