music, technology & life in pasadena, california


Occasionally I get an email from other guitarists who wonder what instruments and equipment I use, and ask why I don’t list all of it on my website as many others do. The truth is that I’m not a gear advocate and I don’t think it’s important. I hate to perpetuate the all-too-common belief that if you buy the same equipment, you’ll get the same sounds. While it’s important to have instruments that feel good in your hands and amps and electronics that help you realize your pre-visualized sound (or would that be pre-auralized?), contrary to popular belief, that’s not really where your sound comes from.

I’m sure that every musician has had the experience early in life of buying their favorite player’s instrument, the same make and model, along with any extras (amps, pedals, strings, reeds, mouthpieces, etc) that their favorite uses. The realization in every case is that you didn’t end up sounding anywhere near the player you were trying to emulate.

The “magic bullet theory”, in which a person constantly searches for different equipment that will ultimately make him/her a great musician, photographer, painter, etc is a common human trait. The search always ends in frustration after spending much hard-earned money. In the end, the truth is that there is no shortcut on the road to technique or experience.

So, back to my equipment. You still want to know? OK, I’ll share with you the single-most important piece I use: A Fender Heavy pick. It doesn’t slap around, instantly responsive, can use the rounded corners for a mellower sound (especially on nylon string guitar if you’re not using your nails), produces an extremely beautiful tone whether picking very softly or digging in…I could go on and on. Think about the musical food chain. Brain. Wrist. Fingers. Pick. All the sound that is you comes from this chain, more so than any other equipment/instrument you own.

Special thanks to my Wicked associate guitarist, Justin Smith for finding an extra special batch of Fender Heavys recently, in grey tortoiseshell, no less!

December 2, 2008 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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