Those of you who know me will know that making decisions is a long and hard process at the best of times, even with something as simple as deciding what to have for breakfast (not a problem when theres only one cereal on offer, but present me with a choice of six different cereals and it could easily take me a couple of minutes to decide which I want). So coming to a decision on something as important as which guitar to spend money on has turned out to be quite a monolithic challenge for me. Thankfully, I think the decision has been made. And I think its the right one.
Until this morning I had my heart set on the Yamaha RGX A2, which is a futuristic looking white guitar with some fantastic design elements and quirky features, including an LED in the volume knob and tuning pegs that are round rather than flat. In terms of looks, this guitar is awesome, right up my street. However, it is about £250, and having played it in the shop this morning it didnt quite feel that much. Sure, it was fun to play, and allowed me to create some really cool rocky tones, but because it only has two humbucker pickups its rather limited in tonal variety, which is a shame.
I then picked up a Yamaha Pacifica. These are legendary guitars, loved the world over by amateur and beginner guitarist for their reliability and flexibility. With a more traditional Strat-inspired body and layout, and with a combination of humbucker and coil pickups, it has a lot more tonal variety than the RGX A2, and also has the benefit of a vibrato (sometimes called a Tremelo or Trem) bar. That makes playing punchy rock solos a little more interesting! In terms of completeness, then, the Pacifica is actually more suitable for me than the RGX A2, in that its able to play a wider range of styles. It might not have such good looks, but it is likely to be more reliable, and comes in much cheaper at around £140. Of course, its still a beginners guitar at the end of the day, and has Yamaha written on the headstock. Yamaha make motorbikes and cheap keyboards, remember. Do I really want to be playing a beginners guitar? Not really. Im far from being professional, but I wouldnt consider myself a novice either.
That brings me back to the Line 6 Variax 300 that I found a few months ago. Line 6 traditionally make guitar accessories and amps, but have recently turned their hand to guitars, bringing out a range of digital guitars – rather than having normal pickups it has a clever electronic bit of wizardry that models a bunch of other guitars. At the flick of a switch you can make it sound exactly like a Fender Strat, or a Gretsch, or a Guild acoustic guitar, or a banjo… hows that for flexibility! Apparently some of the acoustic sounds arent perfect through a normal guitar amp, but through a PA system it sounds awesome. To beat it all, it comes in at an affordable £250, which is the same as the RGX A2. Those who know me will know that I dont like to be limited to one style of music, but rather I prefer to explore all sorts of different sounds, from rock to jazz to classical to quiet acoustic to funk to pop to whatever, and in that sense this guitar is pretty much perfect for my needs. Sure, its perhaps not as attractive as the RGX A2, and the internal electrics are a little more tricky to replace if they go wrong, but for studio recording and playing at church this would be a fantastic choice.
So there we go, Ill be buying the Variax 300 then. In fact, Ive also got my eye on a Line 6 Spider III 15 amp to go with it, which has some fun features too. With all of that in mind, it should be a while before I get bored of that setup and need to invest in effects pedals, which is even better! The only down side is that Ill have to buy the guitar and amp on the internet, as none of the local guitar shops stock them, but maybe thats a good thing – it means Ill have bought it before I play it, which means Im less likely to start thinking about rethinking my decision…