Internet forums...I try keeping away but sometimes I can't help myself.


Over the past year or so I've voluntarily absented myself from a lot of internet discussions, as I've found that proffering advice sometimes results in some unpleasant postings in return. It's not that I want to appear to be a know-it-all, or force my way of doing things on people, but when I see bad advice being given..and then taken as gospel by folks who don't know any better, I sometimes feel that I have to try and put a bit of balance into the situation.

The problem is that there are a lot of well meaning helpful folk out there in the virtual guitar making word of the internet, but not that many wise or genuinely experienced people. There are some very experienced people...but they are either too busy making guitars, or maybe so wise that they aren't going to share their hard earned experience for free with every Tom, Dick and CyberHarry.

Consequently one can observe the inexorable rise of the "overnight expert", with a view and something to say about pretty much everything. It's great that people figure out things for themselves from scratch, and it's a good way of learning, but there are a lot of people with very little experience who are eager to share their own scant knowledge with those who are seekers after truth...and people with latch onto anything and take it as the only true Gospel. Take it with a pinch of salt.

I see it all the time when people start discussing technical matters, such as how to ground (or earth, in UK ) electric guitars, what action to use for slide, how to read music, what causes a pickup to be microphonic...the list goes on and on. Someone will pitch in with an answer that's not quite right, often offering a solution that shows there's no real understanding of what the problem is caused by. If there's nobody else around with any better knowledge, this can get seized upon as the way forward by several eager people, and acquires some credence. It quickly gets accepted and indeed defended as Gospel truth, and anyone who steps in to shed a little light on the matter can quickly find themselves reviled and shunned. 

It doesn't happen all the time, but I see it happen far too often than I feel comfortable with. As an example the other day I saw a discussion about how to wire an electric guitar, and someone said they were having difficulty soldering seven (yes, 7) wires onto one terminal of a control potentiometer. My experience of having wired nearly 1000 guitars told me there was something fundamentally wrong with the way this person was approaching the task, and that I could probably help to make things easier and simpler for the poor guy. There were various solutions proffered, but not one person stepped in to say, "That doesn't sound right, why are you trying to solder so many wires to one point?". Nobody had done the obvious thing and Googled "Electric guitar wiring diagram". When I posted a diagram from Seymour Duncan (a very well respected pickup manufacturer) it didn't really change the dynamic of the discussion thread, it still seemed to carry on in it's own crazy way, effectively trying to re-invent the wheel and coming up with something that was triangular in shape  - i.e. a result that was impractical and illogical.

What many participants of internet discussion boards and groups are very small don't seem to grasp is that there is a real world out there that is totally indifferent to their passions and problems, and there are a lot of big fish in very small bowls. Unfortunately it can tend to create a very insular and blinkered view of the real world that exists beyond the confines of the computer monitor.  There has been a lot of discussion of late about very cheap cigar box guitars, either cheap Chinese kits or people making and selling them for what appears not much more than the cost of the parts. It's obvious that there's a myriad reasons why people make and sell cheap guitars...there are plenty of people who don't value their own time, don't need to make money, haven't a clue about marketing and selling something, or are happy to palm off a piece of junk on someone who knows even less than they do...and so forth and so on. However the whole discussion seems to excite people and stimulate a lot of introspection and breast beating that really does nobody any good. What's certainly happened is that more and more people are making cigar box guitars, and selling them at very low prices. There's a bizarre "cottage industry" scene that's going on that is distorted by the very fact that people don't need to make money at it because for them it's hobby and they have a regular job or other income to support them. Consequently prices (and often quality) can be very low, and yet there seems to be an endless stream of people who want to try their hand at becoming the next leading entrepreneur in the field.

A little less conversation, a little more enough of this, back to the workshop for me.

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  • John Wormald
Comments 5

    I love the teaching and playing videos, really have learned a lot. Like that you seem very logical and the common sense seems to abound. Tired of all the infighting and snobbery from all the many experts out there myself. I love these guitars because they get better and better and nothing sounds as good to me. I especially like the obvious quality of yours and after I get my diddley bow, I plan on a 3 stringer. But right now, looks like you’re sold out of just about everything ! Can’t wait for my diddley bow. Thanx, Larry McCormick

  • Brian

    Thank you for what you do, John. Your videos and comments around the net have taught me and helped me greatly. I didn’t even know a guitar needed to be earthed until you taught me how to do it correctly. I feel I’ve learned a lot in a short time, but I learn something new from every build. I know I have a lot to learn, and that I need to hone the knowledge I’ve gained through practice. Thank you wise sage. Don’t let the gophers get you down.

  • john

    I was just cruising the net and wondering what you are up too!..I sure do miss seeing your work….I love your work!..Its great to see your are still banging out killer guitars!…John

  • Moritz Vögeli
    Moritz Vögeli

    John hello,
    thanks for these statements. I was on cigarboxnation for some month, tried to offer something to learn something, but i’m somewhat disappointed. I have an impression of lack of common sense and exaggerated self-esteem, an impression to participate to a kind of cbg fashion week.
    Have a good time, yours Moritz

  • turtlehead

    You’re doing the Lord’s work CBJ.

    The current “overnight expert” on a certain website has made it tough to even engage in a discussion. It’s too bad, because there are a lot of folks who seem to look to him as an authority on the matter. I’ve tried to jump in and nudge him a little bit a few times, but the endless stream of posts keeps coming.

    It’s a shame for the entire community really and no wonder most of the old guard are nowhere to be seen.

    Glad I stumbled on this post. I needed it.

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