Guitarists today have almost unlimited access to all aspects of playing and learning thanks to online resources. But as with everything you read online, information must be filtered and taken with a very large grain of salt. There are hundreds of sites offering song lyrics, chord sequences, artist overviews and so much more. In most cases you can get at least a basic idea of how to play a song. This is great but always remember the interpretations you find may or may not be accurate. I remember the days a decade or so ago when music publishers were very upset (they probably still are!) that music owned by an artist was becoming available for free and they went to some effort to curb the practice. But they rapidly realized there was really no way to stop file sharing.
My own theory about this is that they also soon realized that some of the information being disseminated was at least partially inaccurate, incomplete or downright incorrect. So perhaps they thought – well, maybe if people really care about getting that song RIGHT, they would be willing to pay for it, so they began licensing sheet music to independent vendors, something that was unheard of when actual printed sheet music was the only way to get the “right” music. I sometimes use some of these services to download sheet music that I print and use with students. It is very helpful and way better than going to a music store in hopes of finding the music. So it’s a win for everyone.
Equipment and gear: I firmly believe that we are in something of a “golden age” of guitars right now. There are dozens of options for the beginner when it comes to buying a new guitar, one that will carry them well into the intermediate level of playing or even beyond. Many of the guitars being made in China are fine instruments. I recently picked up the Sigma line, formerly a subsidiary of Martin but now owned by the parent company of Alvarez. These are absolutely remarkable guitars in every way and quite affordable. Back in the day, the only options for a beginner were some sorry specimens from companies like Stella and Kay and they were mostly junk, almost unplayable in some cases. Now beginners do not need to struggle with brutally high action, terrible intonation and sound that was roughly equivalent to what would be produced by a cigar box with strings.
This I think has pushed the premier American companies into producing even better high end instruments while at the same time making them come up with lower end models that compete quite favorably with the higher end Chinese guitars. Both Martin and Taylor have factories in Mexico that are making some very nice guitars, although in most cases they are made with laminate backs, sides and necks. But add a solid top and close attention to detail, plus the value of having Martin or Taylor names on the headstock and it appears those guitars are selling very well.
Accessories have come a long, long way too. Most younger players cannot imagine being without a digital tuner and as with most electronics these days, the variety is increasing all the time while the cost, accuracy and ease of use has improved radically in the last ten years. My first digital tuner, purchased in the late 1980s if I recall, cost something like $90 and was difficult to use and had suspect accuracy. Now I just clip on my little Snark SN-1 (cost: about $15) and I can quickly tune up, without the need to plug in or try to balance the thing on my knee so the device can “hear” my guitar. It is dead-on accurate and fast. There is no excuse for ANY guitarist to inflict an out-of-tune guitar on his audience anymore!
Capos, strings, straps, humidifiers, picks…. The options are many and all of them can be easily found on hundreds of websites. It’s fun to try out the latest/greatest accessories and I know my own playing is better for trying some of these things.
And finally, the most important aspect of the guitar renaissance is the almost limitless dissemination of information. I look at sites like The Acoustic Guitar Forum and The Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum just about every day and always find something interesting and informative. I don’t always agree with what’s said – welcome to internet forums! – but I’ve been made aware of players, music and equipment I would never have found on my own. Plus, posing a question about things like technique, recording, maintenance/repair or just about anything guitar related will bring almost instant responses.
Yes, we are in a golden age of guitar playing. I can’t wait to see what will come next. I just hope I can keep up!
Peace & good music,