Guitar Showcase 2021: Thanks to the ‘Player Port' – a player-facing second sound hole in the upper bout of the guitars – the Gibson Generation Collection promises a more immersive playing experience, as well as comfort and affordability. Comprised of four models, this new family of acoustic guitars shares the same fundamental make-up of solid Sitka spruce tops and walnut backs and sides, but comes in a range of shapes and sizes - from parlour to jumbo.
Although the Player Port was inspired by a 1960s archival blueprint, Gibson are positioning the collection as “new guitars for a new generation of artists,” and alongside players including Amythyst Kiah and Nikki Lane, Alejandro Aranda is one of them.
More commonly known by his stage name, Scarypoolparty, Alejandro is one of three young ambassadors for the collection, and is a pioneering player whose speciality is finding the sweet spot where contemporary fingerstyle and pop production can coexist harmoniously. We caught up with him to get his take on the collection and picked his brain for some playing tips while we were at it...
How did you get involved with Gibson and what led you to become an ambassador for the Generation Collection?
"Well originally, I kind of started playing guitar and started developing this style and all that stuff. Originally, I wanted to always play a Hummingbird but I never had the resources to. I don’t really remember exactly when Gibson reached out but they had this one model of guitar that they wanted me to try.
"When it comes to playing guitar, I love playing different styles of guitars and developing different songs with each one. They had me play this one guitar that they had and ever since then I was just like, ‘Man, if you guys ever want to work on some music or if I could be involved within Gibson and playing your amazing instruments, I’m down!’ That was like, a solid two years ago now."
How important do you think it is that brands like Gibson are starting to work with younger, more musically diverse players when it comes to product development and getting the next generation interested in playing guitar?
"They were kind enough - especially with the style of music I play - that I felt like they really wanted to expand the audience. You know, when you hear ‘Gibson Guitars’ you think of the SG or the Les Paul and electrics. So I think they were really trying to branch out and get a lot of people into songwriting and fingerpicking folk styles, - so that’s where I came in."
Of the four Generation Acoustic launch guitars, you're using G-200 EC jumbo cutaway model and not many people have been able to hear or play these guitars yet, so you must be one of the first people who’s got to spend some time with them - how would you describe the tone?
"It’s more of an immersive tone because the Player Port is on top. It’s really loud and you hear yourself more. So, when I was playing on that guitar, the Player Port was the main thing that made me want to write more music and write more songs. It gets you in the mood to play more because you can hear yourself more. It just sounds louder!"
The Player Port is probably the thing that people are going to be most excited to check out - is it a game changer?
"When they hit me up I was like, “Wow, I’ve never even seen a guitar like this, with the hole on top”. I thought it would take away the body. When I play on a Martin acoustic, it sounds really full and then when I played on the Gibson, it had that same feeling but I could just hear myself more. "
Are there any other aspects of the hardware or build that you particularly love?
"The model that I’ve played on almost replicates the style that I was originally playing on. I was playing a Martin D Series, but the Gibson has the feel that you could travel with it. The frets are really well aligned and it feels really good to play, especially because I have a tap style. When I’m playing a lot or if I’m really hitting certain frets and I’m going crazy, sometimes guitars can sound kind of muddy - but this one felt more fluid and sounded more full."
To what extent does having a new tool like this inspire your songwriting and experimentation on the fretboard?
"It inspires the whole process. I’m very much a person that, when it comes to an instrument or anything that makes noise - like a synthesizer or something like that - I really take it as a new story that can be told. So with this guitar, one song led to another and I wrote probably eight or nine songs on it already. They can inspire that kind of thing."
You mentioned your ‘tap style’ and your right hand technique is very unique and percussive - could you talk us through how you learned to play that way?
"I’m a huge Nick Drake fan and a huge Ben Howard fan too. I think Ben Howard’s guitar playing is so amazing. I wouldn’t say my brain doesn’t work that way, but my brain can’t do that palm-hitting-the-strings percussion thing. So I started just noodling around on the guitar, and I’d say it probably took a couple of years to really get into the habit of tapping the second string with my index finger and muting it to make it kind of like a snare.
"It’s less movement in your hand and I felt like it was easier for me to play it that way, and so I started developing that and really played it more and more. I haven’t really seen guitar players play like that, so I just kept playing it and it became my playing style. The shortest way possible to explain the style would be: using the index finger to use your string as a snare."
You play in a few open tunings - does having that little bit of extra slack from a dropped tuning help with getting that ‘snare’ sound’?
"One hundred and fifty thousand percent yes! Exactly."
Could you share with us some of your favourite tunings you like to play in?
"Yes, so my favourite tuning right now is DADGAD. I really love DADGAD. I have two tunings that are open A and open D. Open A is really low so I'll use more of a lower gauge string. I would say between DADGAD, open D and open A, those are really the ones – and the Nick Drake tuning. I’m not sure what notes those are, but I’m pretty sure there’s YouTube videos everywhere!
For players who aren’t just strumming and playing chords, it's important to know if a guitar can hold those lower, more experimental tunings. Do you find that the Generation Collection is particularly well suited to this?
"One hundred percent. I really think so. Also the string gauge really matters and I’ve been able to go pretty low on the tunings with that. I totally think the Generation Series can hold those experimental tunings."
So they really are modern guitars for modern players, even though Gibson started working on the concept way back in the sixties?
"Yeah. I’m a big fan of watching other people get into music. That’s the main focus as to why I’m doing it. If I can be a voice to say: ‘Pick up a guitar, play music and have fun’ - of course I want to be a part of that. It’s dope."
Do you find there’s less pressure to conform to ‘standard’ ways of playing these days?
"Personally, I feel like music is just a freeform energy, basically. It matters how you want to express yourself within music and a lot of people now are really expressing stuff in the best way possible.
"I feel like guitar and piano are very much instruments that you can just get on and play – guitar especially. There’s a lot of guitar players who are expressing themselves in the best way possible, and I think that’s a step forward because there shouldn’t be any pressure when you’re playing music."
What’s next for you and are there any more plans with Gibson?
"I’m always open to anything as far as collaborations or instruments or anything like that. I just put out a record and now I'm just in a headspace of making more music. I’m already writing demos and all that stuff. With Gibson, they’re such good people over there, so I want to reach out to them and be like: ‘I’m ready to make this rock album - I’m ready to go electric!’"