Why Does More Strings or New Things = Moral Outrage?

EDITORIAL ALERT! Prepare for hurt butts.


I know the world is a scary place. I know that everything seems to be changing at ever increasing speeds, and that technology (music and otherwise) is exponentially compounding on itself. No one is more critical of Skynet than we are. There is shit going on that would have been worshipped as dark magic 30 years ago that is simply the work of miniaturized tech.

But why, why, why in the name of all that is holy is there a fucking MORAL outcry whenever a new creative tool comes out?

I am PERPETUALLY seeing this shit:

Too many strings.

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Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 12.25.04 AM “Too Low”

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Not enough strings.

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This guy is afraid of being replaced by robots:

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On the Ibanez RGKP6 with integrated Kaoss Pad:

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“kids these days”

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Yah, I’d really hate for two of my favorite things to be combined.

And from Slipknot’s Mick Thompson: “Seven-string guitars are gay – they’re nothing more than a trend. How many guitarists use all seven strings anyway?”

I can’t imagine that the day someone added a claw to the back of a hammer there was somebody who walked into the smithy and loudly complained that “Claw hammers r gay” “If you need a claw on your hammer, you’re just trying to mask the fact that you’re a terrible carpenter” “Jesus was a carpenter, and HE didn’t need a claw on HIS hammer!”

The problem is a Dad problem. And no, I’m not talking about a male human who has copulated and borne young, I mean the mindset of “Why do you need to change? The way things are now is good and I feel safe and now that things are changing I need to complain and get outraged about cool new things because I don’t understand them.” Which I have shortened to Dad, to save internet ink.

Here’s a hilarious video demonstrating this Dad mindset – it’s 8 minutes of a luthier who just cannot comprehend that a guitar with 8 strings exists:

There are 2 more videos where he capitalizes on the controversy of this first video, and much to the delight of Dads everywhere, really shows us whippersnappers how it’s done by challenging 8 string guitarists to play Johnny B. Goode and then proceeding to not play it right. There are so many dad utterances I lost count immediately.

Dad response: “I miss the days….” “Remember when….” “Whatever happened to just plugging your Les Paul into a Marshall and ….” “AC/DC didn’t need 7/8/9 strings to ROCK!”

Sure, AC/DC has had great success plugging their Gibsons straight into their Marshalls and making the same fucking album 17 times. But they also REFUSED to sell their music anywhere on the internet for a very long time, and thought that this music video looked good. Also, AC/DC already exists. They’re not going anywhere, and even if (when) they all die, their music has been uploaded to the internet whether they like it or not and will therefore never die. So you or I doing something new won’t affect their legacy in any way.

Technology won’t make you a better musician. A fun new gadget won’t replace hours sitting on the edge of your bed playing that one lick over and over til you get it right. But creativity requires tools, and tools change over time. The guitar wasn’t always the guitar. According to Wikipedia (a bastion of infallible information, to be sure) “The modern guitar was preceded by the gittern, the vihuela, the four-course Renaissance guitar, and the five-course baroque guitar, all of which contributed to the development of the modern six-string instrument.” That means that at some point, some luthier decided to add strings to a previous instrument to create what we know of as the guitar. Do you think some Renaissance dad proclaimed that “No one will ever need six strings! This instrument is an abomination against God!”? I’m sure they did. And history has proven him to be the douche. And it will prove you to be the douche as well, only this time there will be written proof on the internet of your Daditude.

Imagine the first time somebody decided to take the various pieces of percussion used in the orchestra – a snare, a bass drum, some cymbals – and rigged it together so they could play them all at the same time. The very first drum set. Imagine how the 4-5 percussionists who were usually needed must have screamed.

Listen to these stupid statements, same as the above but applied to other things:

“There are too many words in this language. I think you should be able to make poetry with a vocabulary of only 1,000 words, and stick to the easy ones that I understand.”

“Anyone who needs an 88 key piano isn’t a good pianist.”

Intentionally restricting yourself can actually be very artistically freeing, and I find that it’s actually critical to the creative process. Arbitrary restrictions from other people, on the other hand, are just pure unnecessary tyranny. Keith Richards plays with 5 strings on his guitar, Max Cavalera plays with 4, are they somehow morally or musically superior to someone who plays 9? If that’s true, then THIS guy is king:

Oh, you think he sucks? Or that his one string instrument is stupid? Then I guess we have to draw the conclusion that number of strings has fucking NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

Yah, kids these days are SO lazy that they took the time to build an instrument from scratch and learn a song all the way through and film and edit it. They’re SOOOO lazy that they decided to learn an instrument that didn’t even exist ten years ago and has more strings than you need to play “Smoke on the Water” that you only learned the opening riff to before you gave up and went to dentist school (so now you can afford a Gibson!).

Our Editor in Chief wrote two stellar articles defending 9 string guitars, which you can peruse here and here, to which there was much outcry. Mostly the article was responding to the age-old “Well why don’t you just play a BASS?” to which the world eventually responded with Extinction Level Event, a metal band with 3 bass players and no guitar.

The takeaway is this: escalation is a constant. All of life is an arms race. But adding or subtracting strings or using electronic means to enhance the sound of your music (sampling, amp sims, triggers, plugins) doesn’t hurt anybody, so why the MORAL superiority? Where does the urge come from?

I’m not just being glib, I really want to know.

I get not understanding maybe what you need it for, some confusion perhaps, likely curiosity, or even just plain not liking it, but moral outrage is un fucking called for. I don’t come to your Mom’s basement and tell you your Alienware gaming computer has too much RAM, or to your law office and tell you you’ve got too many fucking staplers, or to your job on a fishing boat and tell you your net is too big (I can do this all day, there are many jobs that people do ISN’T LEARNING NEAT?). A Marshall and a Les Paul were once new technology, and plugging one into the other probably incited more moral outrage than anything I’ve mentioned here so far. How fucking stupid is that?

I’m also aware that the internet is full of trolls and anonymity breeds loudmouthed assholes and this may not represent the views of the general public. But I feel like this is a general Daditude I hear about loads of different kinds of art, and not just music. Aesthetics just isn’t subject to morality. The color blue or the vibration of 80hz never hurt anyone, and neither will a 10th string or a new plugin.

I’ll leave you with this: This is Christopher Cardone talking about his 24 string bass, and how trolls called him a “fucking prick” for building a bass. In this video he says the best thing I’ve ever heard about the topic:

“Anyone who uses the words “too much” in creativity doesn’t know what they’re talking about. There’s no such thing as too much when it comes to expressing yourself and being creative.”


Written by

As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.