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Simple vs. complicated guitars

B.C. Rich Bich 10 String

Is having a complicated electric guitar any better than a simple one? Let's find out.

Above is a B.C. Rich "Perfect 10" Bich 10-string; it is one of the most complicated electric guitars you can buy, and in fact is on my list of guitars you should never buy, mainly due its ridiculous gaggle of electronics.

It could be argued that I also play a complicated guitar, the Jazzmaster. The Jazz is a 2-circuit guitar that confuses the crap out of a lot of players. While it's nowhere near as complicated as the 10-string Bich is, players do get that deer-in-the-headlights look when they see the Jazzmaster's 6 controls.

One of the simplest electric guitars I know of is the Les Paul Jr., such as this inexpensive Epiphone model:

Epiphone Les Paul Jr

One pickup, one volume control, one tone control and nothing else.

The only guitar I know of that's even simpler than the Les Paul Jr. is the Kramer Baretta Special (also inexpensive); it only has one knob.

Which is the better of the two?

The simple guitar, obviously. The less crap on a guitar you have to worry about, the more you can concentrate on making music with it instead of fiddling around with the controls that serve to distract you more than anything else.

Also, the simple guitar is the best for stage, because bringing out a complicated piece of equipment into a performing environment just generally isn't a good idea. You will even notice that several "signature" guitars from various guitar brands exist where all the complicated stuff has been engineered right out of it, and all that remains is usually just one pickup and one or two knob controls. Fender "Jim Root" guitars are designed like that.

Is a super-simple guitar the best guitar?

This depends on the type of player you are.

If you are the type who loves to experiment with effects, a super-simple axe is the best kind because you can "tune" all your effects to a guitar with a tone that does not change. When "tuning" all your effects, this is actually really important because if the guitar's tone changes, all your effects need to be "re-tuned" again.

If you don't use tons of effects, the super-simple guitar is not the best. Instead, you would prefer what many thousands of other guitar players like, the simple two-pickup guitar.

An example of this is a guitar I just featured recently, the Fender Mustang 90. Or you could go with a Telecaster. Or maybe something cheap and good with humbuckers like an Ibanez GRX20.

The 2-pickup guitar with one volume control, one tone control and no vibrato system is the best for most players. A guitar like that is the no-hassle axe many players go for. In addition, the 2-pickup 1/1 control guitar is easily ready for stage use, even if the guitar was bought new for under $200.

In the end, you can go for the super-simple axe if you like, but it's probably true not having a front (as in "neck") pickup will bother you. It would certainly bother me.

As for complicated axes, yeah my Jazzmaster falls into that category, but then again, so does a Les Paul Standard because of its 5 controls (4 knobs, 1 switch). And there are a lot of players who do forget which knob does what on a Les Paul.

I personally love the Jazzmaster in all its complicated goodness, but there are times when I really appreciate the simplicity of a Telecaster, which is why at some point I will be buying another one.

My recommendation is that if you want something simple, stick to the 2-pickup 1/1 control layout; it's a tried-and-true formula that works very nicely.

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