One common affliction in guitarists is the belief that he or she desperately needs some new piece of gear. The new gear is obsessed over and lusted after for months. Then, the guitarist breaks down and buys the equipment only to discover that they are the same guitarist they were before.
The Misanthrope is no stranger to this disease and his growing collection of guitars is a testament to his weakness.
This time it was the Gibson ES-175. As a young player, I had always thought of true hollow body guitars as nerdy, dorky instruments. Even though one of my favorite players, Steve Howe (pictured here on their 1973 World Tour) played an ES-175 for most of his career with Yes, I still never had much interest in them.
As I got older, I moved from solid body guitars into my first ES-335, which is just a fantastic sounding guitar. I've played it almost exclusively for the last 5 years and it is set up to my exact tastes. Still, I felt no urge to take the next step and go for a full hollow body.
When I started listening to a lot of jazz players like Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow, I really started to appreciate the deeper tone that they were getting from their instruments. At the same time, my ears have, frankly, gotten a bit tired of the sharper sounds that can come from an electric guitar.
So, I started looking at hollow body electrics. I didn't like a lot of the body styles I saw, like the Gibson L-5, but I found myself coming back again and again to the ES-175. Today, my new ES-175 arrived. I ended up getting the Steve Howe Custom Shop model, mostly because 2008 Custom Shop instruments have their frets done by an incredible machine called a Plek and also because I liked the tobacco sunburst finish on it more than the vintage sunburst that they offer with the standard ES-175. It's got some different things on it to replicate Howe's guitar, but it is overall very beautiful. And I got it brand new for a huge, huge discount from list and retail by searching on eBay, the world's greatest guitar shop.
When I plugged it in, it was, hands down, the most beautiful sounding electric guitar I have ever played. If only I had know when I was younger! The tone is just what I was looking for all these years. Deep and mellow but still clear and ringing. With just a touch of overdrive on the amp, the bridge pickup sings. Amazing.
I'm going to spend a little time with it, experimenting with different string gauges, before I take it in for a do-over by my guitar guy at Peekamoose. I'd like to put .013s on it or maybe even heavier. I can't imagine what the tone will be like with that much string pushing air.
But, of course, I am still the same player I was yesterday and I still can't play jazz properly.