What Your Choice of Guitar Style Could Say About You

Electric guitars are one of the musical instruments most closely associated with many types of popular music, and have been for decades, but obviously they aren't all identical, and there are many different styles available to choose from. And that presents a few hard choices for an aspiring guitarist, because while it's possible to play almost any type of music on almost any type of electric guitar, certain types of instruments will give people certain expectations from the person playing them. Here are a few things some people might assume about a player based on the guitar they choose.

Ah, the venerable Les Paul. It's hard to go wrong choosing one of those, because pretty much every type of popular music has been played on them at one time or another. Millions of guitar players stretching back to the 1950s have decided that the guitar designed by a famous jazz, country, and blues musician and manufactured by Gibson is the best tool for making their music with. Since the design has had such wide appeal, a person strapping on a Les Paul has little to worry about as far as image is concerned - it'll look just as appropriate being played in a metal band as it will in a jazz ensemble. The only downside is that if you're trying to stand out visually, a Les Paul won't always do the trick, but if they're good enough for Led Zeppelin and Sonseed, Les Pauls have to have something going for them.

The Fender Stratocaster is another classic design that's been played by just about every type of guitar player at one time or another, and is another incredibly versatile instrument that will fit visually in almost any setting. It has the same advantages and disadvantages as a Les Paul from an image standpoint — they're a classic design, but also just a little boring. People will probably assume you play some kind of rock or blues, which is fine if that's the image you're looking for. Any player who hopes to slice off a little bit of the Stevie Ray Vaugnnabe pie should march right out and grab a Strat.

It takes a brave and adventurous soul to trot out with an Ibanez Iceman, which was originally created in the 1970s and looks like it. Even though guys like Steve Miller were early boosters for the oddly contoured Japanese design, Paul Stanley of KISS is probably the most famous player associated with Icemans, and that is a hard link to shake. A lot of people will naturally assume that a person playing one is either a huge fan of the "Starchild," or maybe digs White Zombie or Celtic Frost a whole lot, since the guitar players in those bands also played them. The great thing about an Iceman is that they sound and play similarly to a Les Paul, but you'll look right at home wearing as much spandex and makeup as you want with one slung over your shoulder.

You play metal. That's what anyone will think when they see you strapping on one of the angular and pointy guitars that this manufacturer makes, and with names like "The Warlock", "The Ironbird" and "The Warbeast," it might be difficult to convince the casual observer that's not the case. This is only really a concern if a player doesn't play some type of heavy metal and cares what others think, because otherwise playing a Warlock might be as close as some of us ever get to being in Slayer.

During the late '70s several enterprising individuals began to experiment with combining the "best" aspects of Les Pauls and Stratocasters, and as fast as one can say "Van Halen" the super strat craze was off and running. Personally, I think some of the better designs of this type are also the most versatile guitars, and every type of player has used them, but they still have a strong connection to '80s shred guitar styles. Back then it seemed like an endless parade of big-haired, spandex-wearing, GIT grads were trotted out playing increasingly technical rock-guitar styles. And the vast majority of those folks seemed to prefer some type of super-strat, so the image stuck. Added "correct guitar for your image" awarded to players who do any amount of two-handed tapping or sweep picking. May Yngwie be with thee! (Note: Yngwie usually played a Fender Strat.)

Sure, there are a lot of other guitar designs out there, and they all have certain associations with certain types of music. If I were going to play in a country band, it would be hard to go wrong with a Fender Telecaster, and a Gibson SG definitely makes a fine instrument for detuned, doomy-sounding metal styles. In the long run, people should find the instrument that brings out the best in them, and not care what others think, whether that instrument is a Fender Stratocaster, or something weirder...say, a Gibson Corvus.
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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.