How Many Guitars Do You Really Need?

How Many Guitars Do You Really Need

How Many Guitars Do You Really Need?

Let’s start by acknowledging “How Many Guitars Do You Really Need?” is obviously budget dependant; then immediately disregard the real world and start daydreaming (just in case you actually do win lotto).

From what I’ve observed, there seems to be a few catagories of guitar owner:

  1. Musicians who consider guitars as tools to do a job
  2. Collectors who consider them art or an investment but don’t play them
  3. And the rest of us who fall somewhere in between

I’m jealous of those who live in group 1, I think my life would be so much simpler if I lived in group 1; I know I’d be a better player. I also understand those in group 2 as I too can appreciate the works of art that guitars can be, I just wish my PRS held its value like a Gibson does.

However, I fall into that last group; and if I’m honest, I’m a hobbyist with more gear than talent. I’m also a complete gear head who genuinely finds the blend of aesthetics and technical specifications endlessly fascinating.

I’ve read posts on this subject before that talk about the practical points, such as different sounds or just having a spare axe. But I think the need vs want is definitely blurred by the emotional element. To me, the subtext of the question is “how many guitars do I need to own for the GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) to subside?”. And that is something I feel qualified to answer.

Over the years I have tried to decrease my guitars down to what my family thought was a sensible number, but every time I bought and sold stuff I ended up with 1 more guitar than when I started. What I do know is that my guitar collection hovered around half a dozen for years, but since its been an even 10, that emotional void where GAS consumes your thoughts, seems to have disappeared (at least for now). Now I’m not saying you need 10 guitars, 10 just happens to be my number and your mileage will certainly vary.

I also think its not about the number of guitars at all, but what is offered by the guitars you do have. Which means it’s plausible to get the same results from fewer guitars (if I sat down and thought about it and could have a do-over with hindsight).

With that many guitars, have you found the perfect guitar yet?

Honestly, no. There is something I love and hate about all of my guitars. I think my Schecter KM-6 is as close as I’ll get in a production model though.

So ignoring brands and marketing hype, I’ll try and breakdown what I love / hate about my guitars:

FeatureLoveHate
Body ShapesSinglecut
Doublecut
Number of Strings67
Bridge TypesFixedTremolos
Scale Length25" to 28"Less than 25"
PickupsHumbuckers
Black bobbins
Black covers
Ivory pickup rings
No pickup rings
Single Coils
Zebra bobbins
Chrome / Nickel covers
Cream pickup rings
Pickup Selector3 Way Toggle3 and 5 Way Blades
Controls1 Volume / 1 Tone2 Volume / 2 Tone
Push/Pull PotsNoneCoil Tap/Split
Neck JointSetBolt-on
Neck CarveC Shape (or in that ball park)Wizard
FretboardEbony, Maple or Rosewood (dark in colour)Anything too light in colour or streaky
Fretboard Radius9.5" to 16"Less than 9.5" or more than 16"
Frets24 Frets
Stainless Steel
Jumbo or Larger
22 Frets or Less
Nickel
Smaller than Jumbo
InlaysBirds
Offset Dots
No Inlays
Black Center Dots
Luminescent Side Dots
Center Dots
Non-Luminescent Side Dots
BindingReveal BindingFretboard Binding
NutGraphtech or PRS
Dark in colour
Bone or plastic
Light in colour
Headstock Shape3 a Side6 in-line
TunersLockingNon-locking
FinishSatin
Transparent
Gloss
Opaque
ComfortArched Top
Belly Carve
Heel Carve
Forearm Carve
Slab Bodies
No Carves
Overall WeightLightHeavy

As you can see, I’ve learned enough about what guitar features I like to build a custom guitar – not that I will ever be able to afford that. Plus, I much prefer to see the finished product before forking over cash for it.

So what is your dream guitar?

Using a PRS CE24 as the base (because its body is thinner than the McCarty and the top carve is shallower) and customised as follows: satin faded grey-black finish with natural back/neck, maple set neck, ebony fretboard, mother of pearl bird inlays, adjustable stoptail bridge, stainless steel frets and Seymour Duncan pickups with the McCarty control layout – THAT is the perfect guitar for me. Sadly I couldn’t get that even with a custom order as PRS don’t do stainless steel frets. And this is as good a time as any to mention: I hate tremolo bridges of every kind!

So if none of your guitars are perfect, why keep them?

I think each guitar being perfectly imperfect is part of the appeal; it shakes things up a bit. Ironically, if I did have a custom guitar made from the features I like, I know I wouldn’t be happy with just 1 guitar. Guitarists are complicated creatures.

This is all very interesting (*cough* contradictory *cough*), but how can I justify owning multiple guitars to my other half? They’re not going to buy this emotion crap.

  • Redundancy: You need a spare
  • Pickups: Single coils vs Humbuckers – they sound very different
  • Scale Length: 6 String Baritone vs 7 String – if you like heavy music, you need one of these to compliment your regular scale length guitars
  • Tunings: Even with locking tuners, tuning is a total pain, so it’s just easier to keep guitars in the tunings you use
  • Acoustic: For inspirational power chords and nearby campfires

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Comment (1)

  • Denny Reply

    Mine always seems to be around 6. I don’t know why but it seems to be the case. What I don’t understand is having multiples of the same guitar. Sure a tele can be configured lots of different ways but you see people with multiples of just the 1 or 2 single coils. That doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve got 6 electrics and they’re all different. Scales, construction, pups etc. I prefer variety. An artist needs tools plural!

    June 20, 2020 at 1:19 pm

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