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by Chris Medici

Once I decided I wanted to learn to play the guitar, I was faced with a major decision: what guitar should I buy? It was such an important decision – the consequences of which I would have to live with for years. With so many options, I was frozen – not even knowing where to start the process of buying a guitar.

So, I started by thinking about my favorite bands and favorite guitar players. I am a classic rock fan, first and foremost. I grew up listening to The Who, The Beatles, Hendrix, Aerosmith, Queen, Kiss, and Springsteen. What was the sound that drew my attention, captured my imagination and inspired me to learn to play? 

I have vivid memories of listening to my brother’s Who records, especially Live at Leeds, and then watching Pete Townshend and his windmill guitar playing on TV. I also remember the tone that Hendrix produced on his studio recordings but mostly his live performances – I had never heard such sounds before. I can say the same about Brian May of Queen. Another defining moment was listening to a song called “Sick as a Dog” by Aerosmith off their “Live Bootleg” album. The tone of Brad Whitford’s guitar is one that I have been chasing ever since I started to play. I’m also a huge fan of Green Day, especially “Dookie” and “Insomniac.” Billie Joe Armstrong’s guitar tone on these two records still blows me away. 

This was my guide to buying my first guitar: what guitar can I (afford to) buy that will enable me to produce this sound? I researched the gear that my guitar heroes use. I soon found out that they used a wide variety of guitars: stratocasters, les pauls, telecasters, and custom built guitars as well. I then dug a little deeper to learn about pickups: single coils and humbuckers. It became very clear that the type of pickup is a key ingredient in producing a player’s tone. So, I had to choose: do I go the single coil route (stratocaster, telecaster) like Hendrix or Springsteen or go with a humbucker style like Townshend or Billie Joe?

After watching a ton of YouTube videos (demos, reviews, head-to-head comparisons), I went to my local Guitar Center and played a bunch of guitars. (I also highly recommend doing research on Reverb.com to find great deals on new and used gear). In the end, I went with an Epiphone ES-335 PRO with coil splitting pickups, which gives me the best of both worlds: the option of playing single coil or full-on humbucker style. 

I want to be a good rhythm guitarist – I love power chords! This guitar is perfect for this type of playing, plus it’s the same style that Dave Grohl plays, who’s another one of my guitar heroes. Now, I just need to learn to play it like him!     

Chris playing at Reggies Music Joint in Chicago

Chris Medici is a member of Altered Stage and started playing guitar in 2014.

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