The Acoustic Guitar is something that I believe to be in a constant transitory phase.
C F Martin led us out of the gut string stage into the steel string and such others such as the Larsons Brothers and the Stella guitars helped pioneer where we are at now. But everything changes, currently in India we have the Mohan Vina, an instrument played by Vishwan Mohan Bhatt with its sympathetic drone strings, in the seventies we had John McLaughlin playing his scollaped fretboard guitar with additional strings and in the eighties we were blessed with the brilliant Michael Hedges playing the harp guitar and opening up new possibilities.
We also had Davey Graham with his Moroccan style tuning in the late sixties opening new doorways with DADGAD and other players such as Nick Drake with his haunting vocals riding over his alternative tunings.
Currently we are in the Golden Age of Handmade guitars, small workshops turning out masterpieces, examples would be Linda Manzer and her baritone guitar. Also the development of electronics and the way they are implemented into various players styles such as Adrian Legg and even John Butler with his dirty sounding acoustics are giving us all new possibilities for us to build on.
Then there is Andy McKee with his beautiful tapping and harmonics. Andy McKee manages to keep it musical wheras other players at times make it sound like guitar tricks. And in the end guitar tricks will impress guitarists but won’t really do much for listeners.
So where is this leading? As each new player and invention comes through and adds itself to the database of players and extremely cool guitars, we find that it inspires us to dig deeper and find a music within us which is more personal, less like what you’ve heard before, something that is unique and undeniably our own. And that’s why I love the acoustic guitar so much, because when we play a decent acoustic guitar, it will allow each of us to define our musical voice, at a low volume and because the instrument is basically an organic instrument it will respond to the nuances and individualness of our playing.
Ike Isaacs the great jazz guitarist would always inspire me to take what he had to offer, the theory, the technique, the harmonies, and turn it into something of my own. He always pointed out when people were playing what he called ‘typewriter music’, paint by numbers music. So I pass this on, with so many different players leading the way and the numerous music tools available now, why not try and be yourself instead of being copies of other players? Take what you can from the wealth of information available and BE YOURSELF.