Let’s be clear: music is not a competition. But if it were, the guitar would win that competition and there would be trophies, a podium, champagne, fireworks, plus an abundance of large and colourful sashes. Here’s our list of measured reasons why guitar is the best instrument…
1. It’s portable
When a guitarist wakes up on a glorious summer’s day, they simply amble down to the park with an acoustic. The same can’t be said for a drummer with a 10-piece kit, who has to lurk in their waterlogged basement, battering away in the gloom like Gollum, and eventually dying from a vitamin D deficiency.
2. It’s dirt-cheap
After a shaky start back in the 70s, budget guitar factories in Asia can now make their CNC routers perform like keyhole surgeons, and you can now pick up a giggable electric for around £100. Good luck getting a pipe organ for that kind of wedge.
3. It looks awesome
Well, obviously. To strap on a guitar is to feel yourself imbued with outlaw cool. To hit a power chord is to send a tidal wave of pheromones sloshing through the venue. Unlike, say, the French horn, which makes you look like a vet with your hand up the arse of some bizarre brass animal.
4. It’s handy in a fight
When a gig turns nasty, it pays to have a solid slab of timber in your hand. Just ask Keith Richards, Pete Townshend or Pete Doherty, who have all felled foes with a well-timed swing of their axes. “A Telecaster,” notes Keef, “is a damn good club.”
5. It’s sociable
“This is a chord. This is another. This is a third. Now form a band”. So went the advice of 70s punk fanzine, Sideburns – and it pretty much sums up the lightning-fast transition between picking up a guitar and finding yourself in a van hurtling towards a doom-metal fest in Doncaster.
6. It’s versatile
Some days you want to be Nick Drake, others you want to be Kerry King. Guitar is the only instrument out there that truly sheds its skin, taking you everywhere from high-gain hellfire, to ethereal shimmer to hot-buttered porn soundtrack.
7. It’s expressive
If you’ve got a personality, the guitar will bring it out, with your soul seeping through your fingertips in the form of bends, vibrato, slides and slurs. If you haven’t got a personality, best to go with bass…
8. It’s therapeutic
Somehow, smashing through a few visceral open-position chords makes everything feel better, in a way that tooting on a kazoo doesn’t. If they had an acoustic and a Beatles chord book in the backstage area on Jeremy Kyle nobody’d ever throw a chair across the stage again…
9. It’s best for songwriting
Whether you switch things up with an alternate tuning, stick on a capo, stomp an effects pedal or batter on your soundboard like you’re in Stomp, there’s a thousand ways the guitar can unlock your creativity. It seems unlikely that Jimmy Page could have written Communication Breakdown if he’d played the triangle…
10. All the coolest bastards play it
Slash. Jimmy Page. Keith Richards. Kurt Cobain. Jimi Hendrix. Johnny Thunders. Joe Strummer. Noel Gallagher. Are you noticing a pattern here? By picking up the guitar, you’re running with a baton handed down by rock’s most untouchable icemen. Clearly, the same can’t be said when you plump for the penny whistle