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Why Do Guitarists Need More Than One Guitar?

Published: Mon November 10, 2014  News Feed

Most guitarists don't just "play" guitars. They truly love them, and often one guitar is not enough! As a new photograph of Jimmy Page's Led Zeppelin guitars emerges we look at why guitarists may need a good selection of instruments!

Jimmy Page Led Zeppelin Guitars
Above: Jimmy Page's Led Zeppelin guitars

Many guitarists end up gathering a collection of guitars over the years, but while it's true that some of them "suffer" from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) it's also true that for many guitarists, having an assortment of guitars is not just a lustful pursuit for more gear, but also a matter of necessity!

Jimmy Page is one of the most iconic guitarists ever, and the subject of a few popular articles on our website, such as the Jimmy Page Recording Secrets. So, it's always interesting to find out about his views on not only the technical side of playing guitars, but also the practical. Yesterday, the above photograph of Led Zeppelin guitars attracted a lot of attention when we put it on Twitter (please read note below)* But, apart from being an interesting photograph of some beautiful guitars belonging to a true rock'n'roll legend, that pic also tells an interesting story!

Page used to bring no less than eight guitars to each Led Zeppelin stadium gig in the seventies, as the photograph shows. Some people might find this excessive, but for him, it was a matter of necessity, to keep the band's performances seamless, without worrying about excessive re-tuning or broken strings.

Led Zeppelin was one of the first major acts to experiment with alternate guitar tunings, thanks to Page, and they used a few different ones on their sets. Here's how Jimmy Page used the guitars pictured above, from left:
  • He had a couple of acoustic guitars for his acoustic songs. One of them was a spare, in case of a broken string.
  • The two sunburst Gibson Les Paul guitars were his main instruments, tuned to the standard EADGBE.
  • The Danelectro was used for Kashmir (DADGAD) and In My Time Of Dying (DGDGBD)
  • The String Bender Telecaster was used on Ten Years Gone (DADGBE). The red Les Paul was just a spare guitar, also with his string-bender mod.
  • Finally, the legendary Gibson Double neck guitar (also available: the Limited-Edition Epiphone G-1275) was used for The Rain Song (tuned to EADADE), The Song Remains The Same and Stairway To Heaven.

So we have, encapsulated in one single photograph, the Three Main Reasons Why A Guitarist Might Need More Than One Guitar:


Different types of guitars, different sounds!

Either live or recording, it's a great idea to have a few different instruments to add to your musical palette. You don't want to be stuck with just one sound! Jimmy Page, for instance, always enjoyed acoustic music, and Led Zeppelin's acoustic moments added a depth and variety that many heavy bands lacked. Plus, there are songs that will just sound better on an acoustic than on a Les Paul, for instance! So, on a very basic level, it's recommended that a guitarist should, at very least, own one electric guitar and one acoustic guitar. Playing an acoustic guitar is a very different experience than playing electric, and can help you to even improve your skills. It also gives you an extra dimension to you sound when recording!

There are some guitarists who prefer Gibson guitars, and others who prefer Fender. But there are others, many of us, who prefer both! The fat, rich tone of a Gibson Les Paul humbucker, and teh bright, twangy sound only a Fender Stratocaster or Fender Telecaster single coil can provide. If you're one of those people, you know how it is: having just one guitar simply won't do, you need at least two! And let's not mention the P90 tone...that'd be a good enough reason to buy yet another guitar, like an Epiphone 1956 Les Paul Goldtop!

Many guitars these days (including many Gibson and Epiphone models, such as the Gibson Les Paul Standard Plus) offer coil-tapping humbuckers, so you can have the best of both worlds, and choose between humbucker or single coil.


Tuning the guitar

It'd be very impractical for someone like Jimmy Page, who, as explained before, used a few different tunings, to use the same guitar live for all of those songs - he'd spend too much time tuning his guitar, and the show wouldn't flow as smoothly. But you don't need to be a mega star playing big stadiums to see the benefits of using different guitars for different tunings, and there are few people in any audience who enjoy staring at a guitarists just tuning their guitar!

Having more than one guitar easily solves this problem. But, even if you're just playing on your own at home and enjoy playing using different tunings, having more than one guitar certainly helps and saves you time.

Though, thanks to Gibson, now you don't really need to own many guitars to easily change between tunings. Most Gibson 2015 Electric Guitar Models come with G-Force Tuning System (pic below) which allows you to easily change the tuning of your guitar! Perfect for live performers who, like Jimmy Page, use a varied mix of guitar tunings on their sets!

New G-Force Tuning System!

Talking about Page, it's worth noting that the G-Force can easily tune the guitar to some of his favourite tunings such as DADGAD, C#F#C#F#A#C# and DGCGCD!


Broken guitar string

As the old saying goes, it's better to be safe than sorry! A broken guitar string certainly spoils the moment when you're playing a song! It happens, and there's not much you can do about that. But if you don't have a spare guitar at hand, it can also totally spoil the momentum of your gig! Imagine stopping your set just to replace a string - very, very unprofessional.

And it's not a good idea to just hope one of the other bands will be kind enough to lend you their guitars: some guitarists simply won't do it, and even if someone offers you their guitar, there's always the chance it won't be quite right - different action, different setup, different feel, different sound... you simply can't place your hopes on someone else, when playing a gig.

If you're serious about gigging, it's advisable to always take a spare guitar with you. You may not need it 99% of the time - but you'll sure be glad you have it with you, on that rare 1% occasion!

* The original version of the photograph appears on Jimmy Page's beautiful new book, 'Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page'
Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page

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