Guitar World Acoustic

As best I can tell, there are precisely two prerequisites for being a Magazine Rack columnist: one, the ability to read; and two, some minimal competence in arranging nouns and verbs in coherent working order. You can pretty much fake the rest, whether or not you know the slightest bit about banana casseroles or ethnic fly fishing or positively darling throw pillows, or whatever else is finding its way into mainstream publications nowadays.

Nonetheless, every so often we (and by "we," I mean "I") decide to venture into areas of personal expertise, and it's Guitar World Acoustic's profound misfortune to catch me on one such afternoon. You see, guitars make me very happy. I prefer their company to that of actual human beings. And I know my shit.

Yet the March issue of Guitar World Acoustic ain't a magazine for me--nor, I suspect, for anybody with more than lukewarm interest in guitars or acoustic-based music. It careens aimlessly between profiles that only peripherally touch on a performer's guitar stylings ("First Stringers" items on honky-tonker Cast King and Brit folkie Vashti Bunyan) and features on artists not exactly renowned for their six-string prowess (Cyndi Lauper, Jethro Tull flute god Ian Anderson). Even when the magazine stumbles upon a worthy subject like Johnny Cash, it goes no further than a sincere career summation that could have run in any number of publications, guitar-centric or otherwise, at any time over the last 15 years.

Everything Guitar World Acoustic does wrong is on proud display in its Billy Joel "Exclusive Lesson!" Never mind the bizarre choice of artist--Billy Joel is to guitar as Black Sabbath is to flugelhorn--the story appears to have been written by somebody only passingly familiar with the guy's music. In addition, the writer doesn't bother to check in with former Joel axemen and presents strumming tips in a language barely recognizable as English ("think 'trip-uh-let, trip-uh-let,' with the basic 16th note falling on the 'trip' or the 'let'").

To top it off, there are mistakes in two of the three song transcriptions: there's no C chord (an Eb with the third-fret capo) in the introduction to "Don't Ask Me Why" and the second D chord in the verse of "Just the Way You Are" should be a D/F#. (In the interest of accuracy, I actually checked, prompting a $1.98 iTunes tab that somebody not named Larry better pick up.) These might seem like trifling details, but what the hey--this is a GUITAR MAGAZINE. If you're holding yourself out as an authority on all things acoustic, you make mistakes like these at the cost of your credibility.

I wonder why guitar mags even bother to offer transcriptions nowadays, anyway; it isn't like every potential Guitar World Acoustic choice can't be found on the Internet with a few clicks (try if you're so inclined). That said, how's this for a random collection of songs: Cash's "I Walk the Line" (exactly six chords total), triple-dreamy hunkthrob John Mayer's "Daughters" (this one'll slay 'em at open-mic night in Murray Hill) and the Beatles' "Yesterday" (in which the mag instructs players to tune each string down a full step, thereby ducking the barre chords to which its transcribers seem pathologically averse).

The March Guitar World Acoustic doesn't truly become a guitar magazine until its 80th page, which kicks off a series of worthy columns on acoustic amplification and jazz riffs (from ace second-generation player and my former camp counselor John Pizzarelli). Yet after these too-brief columns pass, the mag offers a mere three acoustic-guitar reviews, none of which delve any deeper than "the P8E delivers gorgeous acoustic tones with bell-like treble."

In yet another puzzling decision, the same issue that serves up "I Walk the Line"--which I could teach my 21-month-old nephew to play in five minutes--presents for consideration a guitar with a $7,415 price tag. You think the mag's Johnny Novice readership is about to drop that kind of cash on a guitar? Just a guess here, but maybe the reviewer wanted a shiny new toy, regardless of whether writing about that toy actually serves the needs of his audience.

Throw in a 40-page mid-issue downshift into smudgy paper stock, and what you've got is a title that feels like it has been thrown together on the cheap by an editorial team with no discernable agenda. If I'm still-solid older sibling Guitar World, I stage some kind of intervention before Guitar World Acoustic does permanent damage to the brand.

Next story loading loading..