In a world where 'standardisation' seems to be pervading all walks of life (burger bars and themed pubs are the instances that depress me the most), the somewhat anarchic nature of the Internet is one of its more appealing features. Whatever you are interested in, from stamp collecting to underwater ceramic basket weaving, the odds are that there will be Internet sites that contain information about it. And if you are interested in something as popular as the guitar, you can bet that there are literally thousands of sites dedicated to your habit. While this means that there is bound to be something of interest to you on the web, it can make finding some of the more useful sites quite a frustrating task, even if you are trawling through the results from one of the popular search engines, such as Lycos or Infoseek.
What follows below is therefore a collection of the sites I've come across during my own browsing, which I hope will provide you with a useful starting point. The sites cover a whole range of information types, from technical data on particular models of guitar, amplifier or effects unit, through instruction in playing technique and music theory, and guides to building and repairing your guitar equipment, to information for those trying to record the guitar. As many of these web pages also include links to other guitar-related sites, I'm sure that you will soon build up your own collection of favourites to add to this list.
Your Starter For 10
There are a few large sites that make obvious starting points for the finger-clicking, well-connected (Internet wise) guitarist. A good example is Harmony Central (Derek Johnson and Debbie Poyser highlighted this site in their roundup of music-related software available on the Web in January's SOS). Harmony Central (www.harmony-central.com) is a huge site with material on a wide variety of topics of interest to musicians, and incorporates a big guitar section (www.harmony-central.com/Guitar/). On offer are informal product reviews of guitars, amplifiers and effects units, all submitted by other Internet-using musicians. While these will not have the high level of technical detail of an SOS review, when equipment has been available for a little while you might find comments from a number of existing users. These can provide some really useful additional information when trying to work out how to be parted from your cash. Also at this site you might try the Recording section (www.harmony-central.com/Recording/). This would be of interest to all SOS readers as it includes links to sites with basic hints and tips on recording, including material relevant to recording guitar.
While at Harmony Central, don't miss out on The Guitar Forum (http://tremolo.harmony-central.com/HyperNews/get/guitar.html), which provides a discussion site where guitar-related issues can be debated. This is similar to the SOS discussion forum, so why not start off a recording-related thread if you want some help on recording guitar? Finally, check out the series of articles devoted to the very serious (!) topic of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS for short) amongst guitarists. While some of these are written with tongue firmly in cheek, GAS is something that many guitar players and studio owners suffer from. Learn to spot the symptoms!
Another site that offers an all-round information source is The Guitarist's Network (www.guitarists.net/). This is a big site with lots of useful material and further links to sites concerning all aspects of the guitar, its playing and history. If you have fingers that can't always find the right frets, you should check out the neat chord finder and scale finder pages. These are great for getting on top of that tricky chord or for ideas that might add something extra to your improvisations. They also produce nice graphic output, suitable for printing out for future reference. In the same vein is the Guitar Notes site (www.guitarnotes.com/) with sections on amps, effects, instruction, guitar players and buying instruments. Finally, under the 'starter' sites, try the Online Archive of Guitar Links (www.oagl.com/links/) or the All Things Guitar site (http://tamos.net/~bemo/guitar.html), both of which are essentially a set of links to other Web-based guitar sites.
Getting Tone To Tape
Producing the ultimate tone is probably the guitarist's Holy Grail. Getting that tone onto tape (or hard disk) presents another nice little challenge that can often prove extremely difficult in practice, particularly if you have to do it in your home studio while making no more noise than the average pin dropping. If you need to supplement the regular advice and equipment reviews from SOS, check out the Guitar Amplifier Tone and Effects Placement site (www.serv.net/~hoff/guitar/). This is a really informative site for the tone freak. Though there's not much to look at, as most of the site is text-based, lots of advice and information is offered. Some of this is obviously derived from various Internet discussion lists, while other bits are in the form of short articles. So just what tubes did Hendrix use in his amplifiers?
The Taxi Site describes itself as 'an Independent A&R Vehicle that connects unsigned artists, bands and songwriters with major record labels, publishers, and film & TV music supervisors'. Aside from this, however, the site also includes a series of short articles on music, recording and the music business that might be of interest to SOS readers. Included among these is an article on recording the acoustic guitar (http://taxi.com/insider.html) by Michael Laskow. While this might be familiar stuff to the more seasoned SOS reader, it is full of good common-sense advice. You might also check out a few of the other articles in this directory as well (such as the short piece by the same author on getting decent drum sounds in your home studio).
For some further advice on techniques for recording the guitar, check out The Recording Web Site (http://recording.hostway.com/). This is quite a big site and has lots of information that would be of wider interest to home studio owners, including sections on home recording, studio recording, miking techniques and the use of effects processors. Of particular interest to guitarists is the advice on miking a guitar amp (http://recording.hostway.com/micing/amp.htm) which includes the suggestion that you should judge the best mic position on the basis of how good the amp 'hiss' sounds through your headphones (try it!). A similar section is available for the acoustic guitar. The site also has an excellent introduction to the use and abuse of EQ within its pages on effects processors.
On a smaller scale, but along similar lines, you might check out The Solo Performer site (www.soloperformer.com/) or the Guitar Geek (www.abilnet.com/guitargeek/). Both of these sites offer good (if somewhat basic) advice on recording and guitar techniques.
You Hum It, I'll Play C Major
If you think your playing needs a little boost or you are stuck in the same three-chord rut, in addition to The Guitarist's Network site mentioned earlier there are plenty of resources on the Internet to get you thinking about how and what you play. For example, if you are trying to work out what that elusive chord is on the catchy song you have just heard on the radio, or you are struggling with the notes from a well known solo, check out Tab of the Day (www.netstatic.com/tab/). This site consists of a large collection of guitar tabs submitted by other players connected to the net. It covers all sorts of musical styles, including pop, rock and blues. Some tabs are just the basic chord sequences, while others are more detailed. As seems to be the case with many guitar tab sites, a disclaimer appears saying that you can use these tabs 'for personal instruction only' (copyright law is one of the many intriguing problems the Internet has made more complicated for the music industry!).
If technique is what you need, try The Essential Guitar Guide (www.essentialguitar.com/). This site concentrates upon playing guides, theory and tuition. It contains some good basic stuff if you need to improve your technical knowledge, all of which can help to make your playing in the studio that little bit more varied. The Guitar Archive of Fretboard Figures (www.blah-blah.com/gaff/), or GAFF for short, offers something along the same lines. If you don't know your Dorian from your Myxolidian, this site might help, as it is based around colour figures that illustrate scales, modes and chords mapped onto diagrams of the guitar fretboard, including different tunings. If you just want the blues, take a look at Donald Loignon's site on pentatonic and blues scales (www.microtec.net/~dloignon/pentbluesa.htm), which again has some good basic tuition in a simple format. Finally in this section, try the Better Guitar site (www.betterguitar.com/MainPage.shtml) which has lots of good material on playing technique and equipment, and a facility that allows readers to exchange views on gear and different players.
Keeping Good Company
If you like your photos in full colour and curvy, you really should treat yourself to an eyeful of the Stratocasters and Les Pauls on the Fender (www.fender.com/) and Gibson (www.gibson.com/) home pages respectively. Both of these sites have some excellent material for the guitar fan. The Gibson site claims to have over 600 pages of information (I haven't checked!) and this includes good technical and construction data on their various models. Also included are a number of pages illustrating the wide variety of finishes available, which seems to have more colours than your average Dulux paint chart (no magnolia, unfortunately, but honeyburst would look great in my studio). The Fender site has an excellent article on how to set up the action of your guitar (but please be careful with that truss rod) and a database system that, for pre-1984 guitars, allows you to enter your serial number and then attempts to verify the guitar's origin.
If big, black, loud boxes are more your thing, do not miss the Marshall home page (www.marshallamps.com/images/home/home.htm). Again, this is a great source of information on the past and present range of amplifiers, with good technical data. The Top Tips page includes the advice not to store your Marshall amp in the garden shed or greenhouse! Perhaps all those decibels are bad for the brain as well as the ears? Most, if not all, the major guitar, amp and effects manufacturers now have a presence on the web. Check out the SOS web site or one of the links-based sites mentioned earlier to track down your own particular favourite.
If you woke up this morning and found that somebody stole your keyboard during the night, you might need some help with using a MIDI guitar system. Again, the Internet can provide some support if you know where to look. For example, take a peek at the MIDI Guitar Showcase home page (http://home.epix.net/~joelc/git_show.html). It contains a pretty good introduction to the topic of MIDI guitar and has information on 'MIDI ready' guitars and MIDI pickup systems. There are also some basic pointers on playing technique, plus links to other MIDI guitar sites. One such site is Digital Guitar (http://waynesworld.ucsd.edu/DigitalGuitar/home.html). This site has information about a mailing list devoted to the guitar and technology, including MIDI guitar. As with the many musically based mailing lists available via the Internet, this list provides a forum for exchanging ideas and acts as a source of help in solving problems. If you are not averse to receiving email from like-minded individuals, subscribe and see what happens... just try not to spend more time logged on with your mouse than plugged in with your plectrum!