Why I don't play vintage guitars
There are some uncomfortable truths about true vintage electrics most people don't take into consideration.
But before I get into that, above is a new Fender American Original '50s Telecaster. I would take this guitar any day of the week over any vintage Tele for one very simple reason. I know it will work. More on that in a moment.
Uncomfortable truth #1: There is no such thing as a mojo in a vintage guitar
Mojo literally means magical, so to say a guitar "has the mojo" is supposed to indicate it has some sort of magical presence about it that makes it sound wonderful. Total nonsense.
Where does the real mojo come from? The player, not the guitar. A good guitar player can take the crappiest guitar and make it sound wonderful. Similarly, a crappy guitar player can take the best guitar ever crafted and make it sound terrible.
Guitar mojo doesn't exist. Never has and never will. Vintage guitars are not old and magical. Just old.
Uncomfortable truth #2: Vintage electrics are for collectors, not musicians
Vintage electrics are fragile, so they can only be played very lightly. You can't even rock out with a guitar that's over 30 years old, never mind 50 or older.
The only thing you can really do with a vintage electric is take it out once a month to play it for a few minutes, then put it back in its case for preservation. That's it. Does that sound like fun to you? Didn't think so.
Collectors are totally okay with guitars that are valuable but not playable. Guitar players on the other hand who actually use their guitars are not.
Uncomfortable truth #3: As of now they DO build 'em like they used to
In previous articles I wrote, I said there really wasn't any way for guitar companies to build guitars exactly like they used to back in the '50s and '60s.
Well, now I stand corrected, because they do.
Fender in particular with its new (as of this writing in January 2018) American Original Series guitars are almost exactly like they made them decades ago. The only real difference is that the fingerboard radius is 9.5" instead of the rounder 7.25" - but that's totally okay because it's what most guitar players prefer.
Want to know the best part about American Original Series from Fender? They're not "relic" jobs. They are all new all around. Freshly finished, non-cracked nitrocellulose lacquer finishes, no wear-and-tear marks, no "make it look old" crapola. These are USA-made guitars that have all the good stuff in them made just like they were years ago (and better as far as I'm concerned.)
Fender even brought back an Aztec Gold Strat for one of the AO series models. Frickin' gorgeous.
While I wouldn't own one personally due to the fact I'm fine with Squier, AO is what Fender fans have been waiting a long time for and Fender delivered...
...which is ultimately why I don't bother with vintage electric guitars.
If it were true that there was nothing new out there built to '50s and '60s specifications, then yes I could understand guitar players fawning over the vintage axes. But that's not the case. You can, right now, for far less than the vintage item, get the exact same thing brand new.
Collectors will collect, players will play
There's always going to be a market for guys with really deep pockets to spend tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on vintage electric guitars...
...but none of those vintage electrics are player's instruments. They're old and creaky with unstable woods, deteriorating electronics, crumbling plastics and other things that make them collector-only pieces.
The next time you look at a really expensive vintage electric, don't feel bad about not being able to afford it. It's not like you could actually play the thing regularly anyway.
Stick to the new stuff. It works. And you get a warranty.
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