I recently started playing guitar again after several years. Although the craze for vintage and/or reissued guitar gear started before my hiatus, the new “boutique” market niche took me by surprise. What do you think about all this?—Bret Johnston, Gaithersburg
I am not a “gear snob.” I have equipment from all eras, and I feel that taste in equipment is incredibly subjective. When I’m interested in a guitar, there are a handful of factors that come into play. First, the initial feel: It should instantly feel comfortable in my fretting hand. As I move the guitar to the playing position, the weight of the body should arc down naturally to my waist. If everything feels comfortable, I tune and strum the guitar using first position chords. If the body resonates evenly, I’ll continue with it. People see Hendrix play a Strat, Page with a Les Paul, and Johnny Ramone with a Mosrite, and reissues take them back to a place in time. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s what sells classic cars or vintage anything. For some, the acquisition of boutique equipment can be likened to hitting a nightclub in Manhattan or Hollywood and promptly ordering $600 bottle service. It’s a way of letting people know that you have lots of money, and that you’re not afraid to spend it. But the main thing is that the guitar must feel right, the wood must vibrate evenly, and it should make playing an enjoyable experience.—Bob Mould
Bob Mould blogs at modulate.blogspot.com.