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Hard & Easy Guitars


‘Hard Guitars & Easy Guitars. I love ‘em both.

As a young’un I wanted ever lower action, lighter gauge strings, lighter string tension and all the things that go to make playing easier. More than that, I needed these things in order to play properly at all.

I don’t recall exactly when it was I realised that I didn’t need those features anymore, but it took a little while to sink in.

Moreover, I now seem to be able to play any guitar at full throttle regardless of its set up.

The Spanish guitar is full scale, with a very wide neck and very high action. At first, everything about it was a challenge, but within a few months I had managed to adapt my most technically difficult composition to this guitar. I had to adapt my technique because the 26” scale meant I could no longer span the frets needed to perform it properly. I had to invent a ‘new’ technique in order to play it at all.

The work was worthwhile because that piece sounds much better on that guitar than it could on any steel strung model.

Likewise the Archtop was difficult because the heavier string gauges created such high tension. The only thing to slow me up on that was the realisation that the notes didn’t ‘ring out’ properly at higher speeds. I now make a point of allowing the archtop full voice by just slowing up a bit.

Make no mistake, both these (and other) guitars are more challenging to play.

The Spanish is a challenge in terms of maintaining accuracy. A quick chord change is likely to find the frets but miss a string along the way. It’s a serious issue with high action & wide fingerboards.

The archtop took more physical strength to play and made my arms & hands tire quickly. It’s also more difficult to judge intonation, because when using thick wound strings past the 12th fret, you just cant feel those frets anymore. The string cannot bend into the fret recess.

But these ‘hard’ guitars don’t really slow me down technically whether fingerpicking or using a plectrum. I’m able to play both just as fast as the super easy PRS and higher end Jacksons.

Even trying to master a 'hard' guitar is liberating, because it expands your range of what you can play & therefore the different (& even techniques) timbres available to you.

Preference. I get great satisfaction playing the higher action / higher tension Hagstrom Deuce. It requires some effort to bend the strings. More than 2 hours straight and I would start to struggle with it. It’s masculine. You can play anything on it, but it somehow suits Chicago blues or balls out rock.

By contrast the PRS demands the very lightest & most delicate touch. It’s every inch a feminine guitar. I could play it all day and night without complaint.

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