When I was younger I was always really clueless about "gear," including what was out there and how all that stuff was typically used. I was constantly hearing older more experienced players chastise younger players for worrying about what strings, amps, guitars, ect. to use. As a result, I sort of continued to be blissfully ignorant of such issues for a long time.

Eventually, I began to feel like a complete idiot when I'd get together with other guitarists and whenever they'd talk "shop" I'd feel completely lost and be so embarrassed about my complete lack of understanding of gear related issues that I'd just nod and smile, and not ask questions, and hope to catch a glimmer of information here and there.

Eventually over several years I became a lot more savvy about gear (I think at some point I just broke down and started asking questions whenever someone talked about something I didn't understand), and have finally come to the conclusion that, while it's certainly a mistake to think that having an expensive archtop or whatever is going to make you play great, I think that a jazz guitarist, like any other artist, needs to have a working knowledge of the tools of the trade. Sure, I think that ultimately a player's "voice" comes from some unknown place deep inside, and that all the music theory and expensive gear in the world won't make up for a lack in this area; however, I don't think it's a bad idea for a young musician (or an old one) to spend part of his/her time thinking about the nuts and bolts of how to use the physical tools (and which physical tools work best for the purpose) to make that inner voice come out as purely as possible.

Finding out what Wes Montgomery or John Scofield used can be helpful in finding out "what's out there", as long as someone is willing to spend the time to refine and sift through that information in the pursuit of finding one's own personal voice.

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