Jason Isbell advises anyone buying a guitar to do this thing first

 Jason Isbell performs at Ryman Auditorium on October 17, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee.
(Image credit: Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

Jason Isbell's new interview for GibsonTV's The Collection showcases what an incredible vintage guitar collection he has. But regardless of what you're playing he has some advice for all guitarists buying a new electric guitar.

"Anytime somebody asks me, 'What's the most important thing about buying a guitar?' if they're not a guitar collector or someone who has played for a long time. Get it set up – spend the extra 50 bucks and get it professionally set up. Because how many people didn't have that option in the '50s and '60s and thought, this Les Paul Junior is a terrible guitar… because the frets aren't level or the intonation is off.

"That's where the magic happens for me," he adds. "For a guitar that somebody else might not have realised it's a good guitar so they put it under the bed for 30 or 40 years."

It's solid advice – the nature of wood and changes means even new guitars can come from the factory with uneven frets. For intonation you might want to tackle it yourself with our guitar setup guide.

But what does Isbell consider his own Swiss army knife guitar from his collection if he had to take only one to a gig? Well it's not his '59 Les Paul, or the Teles he's spoken so highly of in the past…

"Probably the 335," he says of the first vintage 1961 Sunburst Gibson he bought from his producer Dave Cobb. "Recently we did a show up here at just a little restaurant bar in the neighbourhood and I brought a bunch of guitars for other people to play – I brought the old Gold Top and an old Strat for my friends to play. But I just played the 335 all night with the [Marshall JTM45] Bluesbreaker and the Rangemaster and just used my volume knobs. And you can do any style, anything and it plays so easy that '61 neck. It's kind of flat – it's wide enough but thin and wide. You can do anything with it."

Check out the full Gibson interview above. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.