Picks on Strings: The Most Adaptable Instrument of All-Time?

Picks on Strings: The Most Adaptable Instrument of All-Time?
Photo by Méline Waxx
Author: JD McClure

It’s no secret to the Bog Street audience that the guitar is possibly the number one instrument in the world of music creation. The only other instrument that even holds a candle next to its massive list of accomplishments is the piano, and maybe the violin. See a pattern here? While each is capable of a wide range of emotions and expression, there is just something about the guitar that deeply connects with modern society. After all, you probably won't catch a few dozen kids, or even adults, lined up outside of a “Piano Center” on Black Friday waiting to get their hands on the latest Yamaha upright. 

The modern guitar design gets credit for having roots starting in the mid 1800’s with Spanish luthier, Antonio de Torres Jurado. Never guessing this harmony of metal and wood had the potential to become such an important player in the history of man, his designs gave way to the instruments we all play now. The 6,7,8,9 and even 10 stringed beasts of today hold an even wider range of tonal possibilities, combining the elements of bass and traditional guitar registers. Easily putting it at the top of the realm of a physical instrument's possible versatility. I believe a huge part of the guitar's success also has to do with the ability the guitar has to adapt to the ever changing demands provided by the overwhelming quantity of sub-genres these days. You hear guitar in nearly every country around the world in nearly every genre. You will find guitar in Folk, Mariachi, Reggae, Country, Jazz, Metal, Dance, Punk, Blues, you name it! And it does so with a flexible and massive arsenal of tasty tones and tantalizing techniques, not just strings. 

On the more intimate side of these key factors, the techniques we have today, thanks to the guitar whisperers of the past and present, are nothing short of amazing. Sweep picking, thumping and multi-hand tapping come to mind as the top contenders amongst today's virtuoso player techniques. Scroll through instagram or youtube for a few minutes and you are almost guaranteed to see some examples of these popular modern applications. Guitarists have not only been creating new techniques by the minute, but are also introducing techniques from other instruments expanding the sounds we are familiar with. Like beating on an acoustic guitar as if it was a drum for example. This is why we see it being used in so many applications. How many instruments can literally adopt another instrument's style and feel? Very few. But, if you ask me, nothing is as useful or loyal to a guitar player as banging out a simple bar chord. Easy enough to master for any skill level and responsible for practically single handedly creating genres of rock n roll. If it wasn't for the bar chord, I strongly believe we would have lost a lot of musicians due to lack of interest based on the fun factor or instant gratification that otherwise would not have been provided without such technique. The bar chord changes lives. I know it changed mine. Further proving the amazing physical and emotional versatility of this instrument. It provides a platform for not only the incredible to create, but also for the dry footed newbie. Stimulating the mind of every age, gender and creed. 

And those amazing Men and Women leading the forefront, pushing the boundaries of what we imagine a guitar can do, is other worldly. As new techniques are revealed and put into practice the development of new tools capable of handling the demand has also become an important factor in the evolution of the guitar. The variety of picks and strings alone provides a very multifaceted experience. Which is something Bog Street takes pride in producing. So don’t sell these factors short, as the right guitar pick can make a dramatic impact on our tones and playing ability. And don’t get me started on amps, effects, pickups, cables, acoustic vs electric, etc. That is gonna have to be another article. 

There are so many things we could discuss further putting the nail in the coffin on the subject of the guitar's versatility and adaptability, but we’ve heard guitar in every genre from Classical to EDM, and almost every home has one sitting in the corner collecting dust waiting to provide an opportunity to the next hungry shredder. It has basically become a staple in our society as a symbol of expression synonymous with the idea of what “cool” is. I mean, just looking at a guitar is satisfying. No wonder it has held such a permanent place in so many musicians and fans' hearts alike. There's just something tangible and personal about the experience it creates. And the amount of players today constantly working to manifest the next new technique and sound is absolutely mind blowing. Picks on strings are absolutely magical. The raddest instrument indeed.

Will there ever be an achievable ceiling for the seemingly unstoppable world of guitar players to reach? Personally, I don’t think it's even possible. At least I hope it's not. That would be boring.

-JD McClure


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