Guitar Player V: ‘THE GREAT GIBSON’

I just happened to be in Dublin, Ireland when I finished this piece the other day. I’d started it in the US a couple weeks ago, but it took longer than expected. This is interesting for a couple reasons. One is that the subject is a company named after its founder, an Irish American: Orville Gibson. The other is that I had named the piece after the work of another Irish American, F Scott Fitzgerald. Both lived at the same time, late 1880’s, early 20th century and both had a profoundly positive impact on American culture.

Finishing the last edits over pints of Guinness at a pub in Dublin couldn’t have been more fitting- here I was, an American in Ireland, reflecting upon these two great Irish Americans. I love coincidences like this (and sometimes wonder if they really are all just coincidences).

So now, in the spirit of F. Scott’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ (a tale of wealth amidst moral impoverishment), I humbly present to you, courtesy of Guitar Player, the sad but true tale of what has unfortunately become of the company Orville started. Here it is… THE GREAT GIBSON

31 Responses to Guitar Player V: ‘THE GREAT GIBSON’

  1. Nice post but I have mixed feelings about it.
    I'm one of those who can't stand watching anyone smashing a guitar (or any other instrument for that matter) and for that reason alone I would have left the room immediately. What makes things even worse is that it was the CEO of the company concerned doing it. What does it stand for? That their previous products are crap? I seriously don't get it.
    I'm sure that you are fully literate on guitars and I believe your words, but I do like Gibson guitars. They play well and are balanced instruments.
    As for the quality of construction, I don't mind the fact that they are mass produced by machines. In fact that's one guarantee that all part will fit nicely as the tolerances are minimal. Of course it can also be achieved by hand (they would still use a whole lot of machines and hand tools) but they would need at least 20x more people building the instruments to cope with the market demand. Would that be viable? I doubt it.
    Furthermore, what difference would it make in the sound? None. The only difference is that the person who built it would have had an enormous pleasure and care working on the instrument and watching the guitar come to life as all the parts are made and put together. And that, yes, is a benefit for the builder not for the player who end up buying the finished instrument.
    As for the price, yes, they are a bit over priced. In my opinion any recently built Gibson Les Paul (even from Custom Shop) should not be over $4,500-5,000.
    I've recently built a LP replica and the quality is up to any Gibson and believe me, it's not that difficult to build and not that expensive. It is a real pleasure to build a guitar and when it's finished it's the most wonderful feeling. I would love to show you a picture of it but unfortunately it's impossible to upload.

  2. Well.. what´s say ? – It´s a “knife for two vegetables” The future is here…as you, i also believe in a people that explore own gears to make a nice sound, and prefer organic instruments. But have the necessity to be creative. As the digitech,Korg,and Boss multi-effects start, a part of some musicians change from single pedals for this multieffects, actually some continue using them and others back to pedals !!!! – It´s a question of preferences of the tecnology too. A simple exemple : I dont like blackberry or other cell that with cam,web,music,etc… why ? Because for me cell is only to say “hello” if you call me, say hello and I listen the other side, it´s ok ! – Except if they create a cell that serves coffe ! haha haha…

    If you can make a lil observation own rock´n´roll/metal through the times (50,60,70´s until today), you will see that in really, all transformations (the truely) are created by peoples, never by machines.

    • Em Português diz-se “Faca de dois gumes” e não “Faca de dois legumes” e em Inglês diz-se “Double edge sword” e não “Knife for two vegetables”

      • Obrigada Claudia, mas se eu usasse “gumes” no lugar de “legumes” talvez a piada nao ficasse tão explicita! 😀 – Aqui no Brasil usamos a “dois legumes” mesmo, de proposito, hahahaha!!!

      • Thank you for the clarification. We do use 'double edge sword,' But I also like 'knife for two vegetables' that's a fresh take on a classic expression (fresh vegetables)..

        Re your comment below- I think we mostly agree. I have several Gibsons- they're some of my favorite guitars. I'm not saying there should be no assembly line guitars, I understand the purpose of them as affordable entry level models. I'm only saying that Gibson should price them fairly and be clear about the differences between them and the custom shop models.

    • It's true- it is always the individual that makes a statement with technology. This new Gibson seems like too much technology in one place. The effects shouldn't be 'in' the guitar (unless they sound great and don't cover the guitar's natural quality as they do here). I hear what you are saying about cell phones- my Iphone has music, camera, e-mail, apps etc… but the phone itself doesn't work that well! Still I can't live without that Google Maps App…

  3. Does it come with a drum machine and bass pedals so you dont need a band ….sheeesh . Apparently Mr. J isnt a recording artist and doesnt understand the creative process of a musician.I watched the video clip on youtube I chuckled when he said “Reinvent the guitar” I didnt know there was anything wrong with it.

    I'm really sorry you had to sit thru that, rather than relaxing in your apartment or taking a walk thru the city. By any chance is there a photo of you with Ace. I'm a huge Kiss fan as well.

    • Yeah, watch any clips of Mr. J on line and it's surprising he's running a manufacturing company based on the creative endeavor of music.

      There is a photo of me and Phil Demmel from Machine Head with Ace from a couple years ago in the UK, but its not great. He'd just been snubbed at an awards show and doesn't look happy. Still, maybe I'll post at some point.

  4. A great guitar gaffe. Seems Mr. J stuck his neck out only to miss the bridge to greatness. Wasn't the Firebird a car? What a fun read. Sometimes a legend be it a person or a thing can get lost along the way to greed, profit or fame and some camouflage their insecurity by raising their voice and making loud sounds. Perhaps, that is why the presenter pushed the product's 'greatness' and 'revolutionizing' qualities. Innovation can be a good thing if it maintains integrity along with being adaptable and compatible. This may be easier to accomplish with certain products more than others, like cell phones. It's a matter of preference and still having a choice in availability to select what may be considered old/vintage yet classic and original. A well structured face and form can endure time with grace and elegance staying true to its form, with appropriate enhancements being done without effecting style or soul within. Unfortunately, many trade in the older models for newer younger ones. Too many revisions can diminish the mark of originality and result in a lost heritage. In today's fast pasted techno charged environment we expect improvements. Yet, while developers keep up with consumers need for this, they often loose sight of the basic ingredients that initially branded it a great innovation. (the guy in the Prego commercial fits the description of the X demonstrator 🙂

    • This monstrosity is loosely based on is the original Gibson Firebird, a great guitar usually favored by blues players- most famously Johnny Winter but also Warren Haynes, Albert Collins and others. It's been around for decades and actually went on sale in 1963, four years before the car (the first Pontiac Firebird hit the market in 1967). However, it's a relevant point, because according to Wikipedia:

      ” Gibson had made forays into radical body shapes – the Flying V and Explorer in the 1950s – but they failed. The president of Gibson, Ted McCarty, hired car designer Ray Dietrich to design a guitar that would have popular appeal. Under Dietrich, the Firebird took on the lines of mid-50s car tailfins.”

      Is it possible the car was named after the original Firebird guitar? Could be a connection…

      And you're right- the guy from the demo looked a lot like the guy in the Prego commercial, or at least his cousin.

    • PS Found this on one of the threads, very well said:

      “This will be a somewhat strange view, but it's a view none the less.
      I am a construction worker.
      To me, the guitar is a tool for making music, as a hammer is to building a building.
      The effects we use are the “nails” used to build a building.
      We chose our nails based on the needs of the building, nails have remained basically unchanged for many many years, as have “hammers”, but buildings have evolved in design and functionality, but the “hammer” remains basically unchanged i.e. a handle and a head. There are different handle materials, like there are different woods in guitars, and different head weights, as there are different scale sizes. All the innovation around and I havent seen a hammer that carries all the different nails in the handle that you will ever need, and if it did, it wouldnt allow for future innovation in nail design. When I go to build my next building, a standard hammer will do, thank you. That way “I” can chose the nails necessary for the job. The next building I build (song writing) will be unique from all other buildings ever built in some way, but the good old standard hammer will have helped me build it.
      Long live a well built, plain ole, nothing fancy, guitar.”

      • Screw-guns and air-nailers do a much better job than hammers. The recoil of a hammer blow actually loosens the joint as compared to an air nailer which delivers more PSI on the nail head, focusing all the energy on the nailset, not wasting any energy in the lateral direction. Does this 'carpenter' still use a dovetail saw instead of an electric? Why not make the case for acoustic guitars as superior to electrics? or clean guitars instead of effected sounds? The same complaint was leveled when Keyboards came out. The keyboards of the 60's were pretty bad, but without them we wouldn't have the keyboards of today. They can't replace a $100k grand piano in the concert hall, but are infinitely more useful tools than pianos for the creative musician. Just ask an orchestral composer, how many of them don't have a midi module to render their symphonic drafts during the composition process? Guitar modeling probably won't replace guitars in the studio in the next couple years but it won't belong before they do. Look how far amp modeling has come. Having $100,000 assortment of vintage amps is a thing of the past.

        • You make some good points. But if I go hear Keith Jarret at Carnegie Hall, or for that matter if I listen to any album with piano, it needs to be a real piano, not an imitation. No module has come close, yet. Perhaps some can't tell the difference, but many of us can.

          > Just ask an orchestral composer, how many of them don't have a midi module to render their symphonic drafts during the composition process?

          Absolutely. For the composition process, yes but not the concert or the recording. That's exactly how I described the role of processors (or modelers) in the original piece.

          It's fine if you think modelers will day be what Gibson is (falsely) claiming to have created. But again, only time will tell. Until then, I'm not hearing anything from you that we don't basically agree on.

          • Thanks for the 2 replies, probably more energy than my PWI's (drunk postings) warranted. I did agree with much of your article. I just got excited over “And no great vintage guitar, Gibson, Fender, Martin or otherwise, can ever be replicated in the form of a digitalized, turbo-charged super-guitar. Sorry, not going to happen…and the more processed something is, the more the original quality is lost” I don't think a guitar can be replicated digitally or manually (two guitars built in the same shop from the same tree don't even sound identical) but I do think modeling is getting “close enough” as in: today's modeling might not sound like this LP or that LP but next year's may sound as good as either– and more processing actually = less variation from the model.
            From a creative standpoint, having 25 good guitars in 1 guitar is better than 25 string changes, tuneups, etc just to get a basic flavor on a track or in the live mix. I think the technology should be embraced I do recognize that your original article did, in some way, endorse this if not for the $5k price/performance ratio.
            Here's another example of what I think is a great jazzbox tone on a variax:
            Those guitars are about $1k:
            I can't speak for James Tyler/Line 6, but I bet they'd give you one just for allowing them to put your name on the Line 6 users page.
            thanks again for having taken the time to reply

          • No worries. My beef is with Mr J's ridiculous presentation, not so much the guitar or its technology. I actually did have a section in the article mentioning that I do think there's potential for modeled sounds, not as a replacement for but as something interesting on their own (as Adrian B proves. His rig is ideal for what he's doing). I edited that section out simply because, quite obviously, the article's too damn long as it is. It sounds like Gibson is trying to take credit for something that clearly has and is being done, as evidenced by the videos you guys have shared here.

            Adrian Belew's guitar demo is inspiring, he's using it to create now sounds and isn't trying to sell his guitar as something that'll make any other guitars irrelevant (nor is he smashing a guitar to emphasize his). If I had to choose between buying a guitar from Adrian Belew or Henry Juskiewick, I'd happily buy one from Mr. B, not Mr J.

  5. Tx for responses, you need think in case to buy a new cell , only to say “hello” !!! haha

    About the videos, I saw and listen the first (demo), I realized some things:

    1 – It have a 5-key, and 1 bottom with 7 steps (look the colors on bottom at 3.10min) and change all the time, during the play, probably have a combination, with bank memory (inside it?) – total: 35 effects only.

    2 – I dont see he use pedals or multi-effects – or he have a hide rodie (back side the amp) or really this effects are on guitar ! In first case it´s good for walk on big stages on shows, but if the second is true, this propaganda is a lie! (ha-ha)

    3 – Still if this effects are inside guitar : as do you choose the best ? it´s from factory or you download from website ? Do you change if want ?

    4 – Digital x Vintage : It have 1 single and 3 humbuckers: this is to give a “fat groove” ? The semi-acoustic already does this very well.

    My humble Conclusion : We need back to the past, if we want to be new. Much tecnology , sometimes hinders !

  6. I disagree. I remember when people were claiming the Jimmy Page Model Les Paul technology degraded the instrument, lol. While I agree that the Gibson corporation is the least likely to usher in a new era of guitar technology, that era is here. The Adrian Belew model Parker fly, despite it's hideous looks offers much more tonal flexibility than a classic guitar and it sounds excellent. I believe the nostalgia for 'classic' and vintage instruments is unwarranted by artistic ideals. The 'organic' qualities may translate to a musician who craves what they claim cannot be delivered through technology, but to an open-minded musician, modeling is on the brink of sonic revolution. Maybe 1 more iteration of the Line 6 guitar modeling and we'll be into the next generation of instruments. As far as Gibson goes, they just don't have the artistic insight to compete with the newer, artist-driven companies, so again, I agree that they should stick to classic instruments.

    • No one is saying all modeled sounds are bad, only that this new Gibson and the way it was introduced don't make sense. Having just checked out the Adrian Belew clip below, I think it sounds great and enjoy hearing him play it. But that doesn't mean it would work for everyone. There is something special about a great vintage sound that can't be captured with a modeler right now. Perhaps your right- maybe it'll happen one day, we'll see. But it is certainly not happening now with that new Gibson and I'm just calling out the CEO's claim that it is.

  7. After viewing the wide range of guitars at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame yesterday that included ones from originating planks of rail tie wood with a wire string, to Jimi Hendrix's Flying V named 'love drops' to the Gibsons used by Beatle members, and seeing the beat up one played by Lead Belly in a film clip, I'm simply amazed at how far the tools of this trade have evolved and amazed at what exists out there for you talents to choose from to convey your musical voice and achieve what you desire. I hope you all find the best fit for what you seek and remember that what matters is the soul you play it with.

  8. It's easy to see why you play Heritage instead of Gibsons. Of all the big manufacturers, Gibson seems to be the one that just doesn't get it. I remember reading an interview with Vivian Campbell in which he says Les Pauls are all he plays anymore but said Gibson doesn't give him or other artists the time of day. The only cool thing I've seen from them lately is the Don Felder signature EDS-1275. It's cool because it's equipped just like the one Don played Hotel California with on stage. None of the “Robot” technology Gibson seems so fond of these days. Oh and on smashing a guitar for no reason whatsoever? I wouldn't smash that cheap, beat up Squire strat that every pawn shop in america seems to have.

  9. This is ridiculous. I'd rather have a guitar from Gibson's Norlin led years. I have one Gibson, a lower end SG and I love it! But I'll not pay a dime for another one unless I can know that I'm not being overcharged for inadequate products. And honestly, I don't think any of the switching and robot tuning helps…AT ALL! If you have to rely on the guitar to tune, then you're lacking some basic skills.

  10. Did you see? Now they are offering and “Beano/Clapton” model. This instant classic collectible will be available in a limited run for the scant sum of $29K! Get yours soon before they are sold out! Goodness, what do tell young and aspiring musicians when they are deluged with this type of detritus?

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