I’ve put together a handy little guide to help you spot the different kinds of guitarist you may encounter ‘in the wild’ so to speak. The groupings are largely gender neutral, except where specified and are by no means mutually exclusive or permanent, it is entirely possible to be in two groups simultaneously or move between them.

Musician:

When a guitarist reaches this level they have stepped outside of themselves and they have no ego, they listen to a track and know instinctively what is required and play no more and no less than this. Their vision is the finished product and hopefully the other musicians share this vision, this way, sometimes musical perfection is attained. They see themselves as a small but vital part of a masterpiece. The musician is prepared to play nothing if it is required. They may have 20 guitars or none, it doesn’t matter. When they play, they are lost in the moment, all thoughts of long practiced routines are gone. If they are asked what kind of music they like, they will often reply ‘Good music’. Their hero will often be someone you have never heard of. Guitar played: Whatever they like.

Pro:

This is someone who earns the majority of his living from playing live. He will be able to play hundreds of songs on demand, most of which he will be utterly sick of either as a result of playing them every night for the last 2 years or because they were dreadful to start with. Instead he longs to play some obscure Frank Zappa tune for once. His gear will be pared down to a ruthlessly functional rig that pays no attention to fashion. Reliability and cost are the main criteria, portability coming in a close second along with resistance to liquid spillage. Guitar played: Mexican Fenders or entry level Gibsons etc. plugged onto a solid state Marshall.

Virtuoso:

This a player who has become one with the music and transcended to a level that we mere mortals have no comprehension of. Often their music has gone with them and they have lost that musical connection to the common man. They produce albums that, in latter years, substitute the use of the Lydian mode for real musical creativity. They typically sell small numbers of albums to Disciple Sluts (see below), just enough to keep them in comfort and do guest appearances on more mainstream albums to pay for the rest. Everyone admits that they are outstanding but “haven’t listened to them for years”. Only ever listened to by people who play guitar and if you go to see one live, looking around the audience, it is a sure bet that all the male attendees are guitarists and the females, their girlfriends. Guitar played: His signature model plugged into an exclusive amp you may never have heard of.

Disciple Slut:

For these people, guitar defines their lives, without it they are empty shells. Often recruited from the ranks of teenage boys, and yes, they are almost always boys. Just as a baby bird fixates on its mother as it emerges from the egg, these trans pubescent boys fixate on the guitar as a means by which to define their very souls. We need not discuss the other solitary activity that teenage boys obsess over whilst in their bedrooms despite the very obvious parallels. Heavy metal is almost always the music of choice for these socially compromised hermits and they think that faster/heavier/more distorted/more arpeggios always equals better. They often grow out of it, as I did, to realise that music is about SO MUCH MORE. You may meet some beardy hedge dweller, as I have, who is into some very particular kind of old motorcycle, he is familiar with every single nuance of its all but forgotten production, design and performance, maybe even the names of the workers who built it. He will often own a permanently low mileage and inevitably immaculate example himself. It would be no surprise to find out that this bike was being produced during his puberty. If the onanistic young man fails to grow musically he will become the guitar equivalent of the beardy bike fan. Some signs to be aware of are excessive knowledge of the minutiae of guitar such as the nut radius of a pre CBS Strat or how many coil windings a PAF pick up contains. He will often be adamant that no music can really be played unless it’s on a certain guitar. As a result of long hours spent in solitary bedroom oriented pursuits he will grow to be a formidable technician on the guitar, able to play ‘Eruption’ and other ‘rite of passage’ guitar pieces, he will invariably consume guitar magazines voraciously in order to stay at the front of the race (He certainly perceives it as a race), he is often able to convince the unwary that he is a musician and himself that he is a virtuoso in waiting. He suffers from the ‘gunslinger’ mentality. Music is rarely produced whilst in this mental state, but to the novice they can seem like a fount of knowledge, it is vital that you are not sucked into the private hell that their sick, dead souls inhabit because, once there, you will never play a single musical note. Musicians are rarely troubled by Disciple Sluts ensconced as they are in their bedrooms, diligently engaged in the pursuit of technique above all, because they leave the rest of the landscape free for our exploration. I once heard a DS claim that the purpose of music was so that you could hear good guitar tone! Imagine his music. If in doubt, always ask to hear some of their tunes. Because the life of a DS is almost always one of someone else’s music, this request will often precipitate a rapid scuttle back to the shadows of the invariably sticky bedroom. A DS will often end up employed in the computer industry, engineering or the sciences. Guitar played: Signature model of chosen Virtuoso paired with an expensive boutique amp.

Prodigal Father:

Often a middle aged guy in a well paid job such as medicine, law or architecture, who has devoted himself to work and family and has just blown his bonus on a nice guitar but doesn’t really know how to play it or maybe played a little in his youth. Often it will be the kind of guitar a DS aspires to, but this guy has earned his toys and as such it requires no justification whatsoever. They often derive pleasure from simply owning the guitar of their dreams and guitar is a relaxation and a hobby for them. Years of work and family have hammered the ego out of them and they are blank musical canvasses. If they decide to graduate to Improver status (See below) an exciting musical world is out there, waiting for them. Guitar played: Top of the line PRS or Les Paul Custom.

Woman:

Refreshingly devoid of the DS ego BS. For them, the guitar serves the music, nothing more. The ascent to the level of Improver then Musician is often straightforward assuming that they can meet the physical challenges of the instrument and put in the hours. Guitar played: Nothing specific as long as it looks nice and is a bit quirky. Wipe clean surface and resistance to baby sick definitely a plus.

Dilettante:

Often loves music, owns a guitar and even plays it sometimes. Likes the idea of improving but never really puts in the effort due to a busy life or a lack of application. Will know numerous tunes or fragments but often has no idea how it all hangs together. Guitar played: Hard to name but it will be at least 10 years old with strings of a similar vintage and it will almost certainly be ‘cool looking’. Often a gift or lucky find.

Improver:

Serious student of the guitar who actually enjoys practice. Applies themselves diligently and is definitely on the ascent. Only limited by time and talent and is open to virtually all styles of music. Often a Musician in waiting unless they get seduced by the spirit sucking vampire DS dark side. Guitar played: Mid range Fender.

Savant:

A very rare breed indeed. Often dyslexic and left handed, they are incapable of learning any form of structured music and it is often tempting to dismiss them as utter buffoons but this would be a mistake because, somewhat infuriatingly, despite knowing virtually nothing, they still insist on churning out nice tunes by the truck load. There is no point asking them how they do it as they will not be able to explain it in a way that is either meaningful or enlightening. Often they will be interested in B&W photography as a sideline so if you encounter one, just enjoy the show and try to steal some riffs. Guitar played: Charity shop acoustic or something from a skip.

Child:

Often below the age where they become musically aware and so they rely completely on their parents’ music collection. Sadly, often relegated to pressing their putty like fingers onto the extra wide neck of an unrelenting and dreary classical guitar with the requisite ‘egg slicer’ action, this often proves to be the final nail in the coffin of their embryonic musical aspirations. Under no circumstances must they be allowed to come into contact with a DS as their unformed minds and lack of critical faculties make them easy prey. If you see a DS interacting in any way with a Child it is your musical duty to throw your self between them and instruct the Child to run, you could shout ‘Save yourself, it’s too late for me’ for dramatic effect. Guitar played: Entry level classical ‘until we see you’re serious’ or the father’s expensive electric.

Collector:

Does not play the guitar at all but just likes them. Will often have a collection of desirable guitars numbering in triple figures. Very handy to know one if he falls on hard times and needs quick cash.

Guitar Teacher (TYPE A):

Not usually seen in the wild because, as a rule, he doesn’t get out much. Shuns genuine social interaction, preferring to write lesson plans for his long suffering victims and penning supposedly humorous articles concerning the largely fictional distinctions between the tribes of guitarists, based mainly on his own personal prejudices and the limited pool of people he has met during the course of his life, rather than any real data. When not engaged in these solitary pastimes he will often be found practicing challenging scale based exercises in a desperate attempt to stay one step ahead of his more able students. On inspection of his appointments for that day, invariably you will find one of these more able students is due in 40 minutes or so, therefore precipitating the flurry of practice. Key behaviors to look for are a genuine joy in his students progress, irrespective of their abilities and a seemingly boundless supply of patience. Guitar played: Hard to say but he will have numerous to choose from.

Guitar Teacher (TYPE B):

Unfortunately, this can be the fate of an unreformed mature DS. Often middle aged, dressing like a 70s rock star and bitter that the world will not recognise them as the Virtuoso that they are convinced they must be, and unwilling to admit defeat by getting a real job, they turn to teaching to supplement their ever dwindling income derived from gigs at Harvester and the Dog & Duck. Excellent technique and an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the ‘mother bird’s’ guitar playing style can be initially very convincing, however be aware that every time a student sits in front of him, it is an hourly reminder of his failed dreams. Guitar played: The ‘mother bird’s’ exact setup or as close as his finances will allow. It’s likely that this guitar too will look as if it has been salvaged from a skip but don’t be fooled, it is almost certainly the most expensive item he owns. He will take every opportunity to tell you why it is superior to yours.

Which are you