How Many Guitars is Enough?



When I was heading down to Orlando to play a show with SKNN, I knew I would have to play a set in three different tunings. That can be a pain in the ass, especially if I wanted to travel with just one guitar.

That got me thinking about a guitar that I could use where I could switch quickly between different tunings. There have been lots of let downs, like the Gibson Robot that took lots of criticism for not working properly.

Gibson-Robot-GuitarI tried out the Gibson Min-ETune in GC in Orlando. Although they were friendly, the salesfolks didn’t know how the Min-ETune worked. Even when they found the ‘little card,’ it still didn’t make much sense to us.

Quickly, I realized that gimmicks don’t work and are never dependable. I actually reached out to Gibson, Peavey and Line 6 to give their ‘multi-tuning’ guitars a spin.

No word from Line 6.

No word from Peavey.

Gibson’s awesome PR replied, but the guy behind loaner/evaluation gear didn’t reply at all.

Makes me wonder, on this topic, are they hiding something? Too fragile to put in the hands of a reviewer of gear?  I don’t know, but I almost always hear back from these dudes, especially when it comes to gear that can help players solve real life situations. Either way, I wasn’t getting a good vibe from these ‘multi-tuning’ guitars, so I checked them out on my own.2

The Gibson seems like the most natural.  Your guitar, simply tuned differently.  String tension the way it should be, making the playing comfortable.  BUT – it has to work.  If it didn’t work in the store, how can I be assured that it’s going to work between sets. C’mon Gibson! I want this thing to work. Prove me wrong!

The Peavey seems the most ideal, let the electronics do it for you.  Strum. Hit a switch. Play.  The only thing that concerns me is that if the guitar is ‘really’ out of tune, it may feel odd to play. It has to feel right.  If it’s grossly out of whack, you’ll feel it in your fingertips.  Plus, you have to play it through an amplifier, otherwise your guitar will just be in standard.

Line 6. I played this in a guitar store.  Actually sounded pretty good. Biggest complaint was the battery.  We all know it too well what happens when we tuck that guitar away for hibernation for a few years and revisit it as a lost love.  Will I now need to spend $100 on a battery?  That would suck.  Plus, it only works if the guitar is in perfect tune.  (I suspect the electronics work based on a core note that is tuned properly. So, it should feel good under your fingertips)

Remembering the fact that I still had a set to perform with three different tunings. Sure, I could look like a goof as I change my tuning in-between each song, holding up the set and killing the vibe. But, it would be much easier to use three different guitars instead. Plug and play, I always say. Luckily for me, I hooked up with another guitarist that was able to loan me a few axes for the night.

So, that brought me to Facebook to ask the question:

How many guitars does a guitarist really need?  Sounds like a joke (how many ?? does it take to change a light bulb) But it’s not a joke, rather an important

topic. There are songs in a ton of different tuning. E Standard, D Standard, Down ½ step, Drop ‘D’, and that doesn’t even cover open tunings, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Most bands will have a minimum of one guitar per tuning at the ready, but what about the rest of us working stiffs?

After talking to The Tone King’s Facebook friends, I saw a trend in the answers. So, here’s a list of how many guitars you’ll want to keep around.

Line 6


#1 Your First Guitar

This is more about nostalgia than anything else. It’s a special one that you’ll always look back on.  You always remember your first.


#2,3, & 4: Different Tunings

There are many songs that have alternate tunings.  Standard. 1/2 step.  Full step.  If you are a Floyd user, you’ll likely want at least 3 guitars to accommodate alternate tunings, only because it’s a pain in the ass to retune a Floyd.  Even if you’re not, guitars don’t intonate the same at different tunings. So, if you want to keep it in tune, you’d better get those guitars set-up for whatever tuning you’re using.


#5, 6, 7, 8, & 9: Acoustics, Basses, Classicals, and Extended Range

You might need a 7-string to sound like a thunder god. Or, you might need an acoustic so you can get the lighters going. Either case, this category is for those guitars that will do what a standard 6-string electric can’t.


#10 and beyond: Collector

Now, I know I’m going to get a ton of heat for saying that everybody who has more than 7 guitars is technically a collector. And, I’m willing to take a bit of heat on this. Unless you’re on tour, if you have more than one of the same guitar in same tuning, you’re probably a collector. That’s not a bad thing. Embrace your inner collector. Hell, what do you think I am? I’m a collector!


When I started, I was just trying to justify a set where I needed three different guitars and now I’m at 10 plus. Maybe there’s no such thing as too many guitars. Maybe playing guitars is not just about the function, but the passion. So, whereas Peavey and Line 6 are great Swiss army knives serving the purpose or the function, which may be great for weddings, passion probably lies somewhere else. Props to Gibson, Line 6 and Peavey for giving players the tools, but in the end, these multi-tune guitars can’t replace the passion that fuels our soul. Just like seeing Slash sling a Les Paul or Lynch with an ESP, those guitars are iconic and fuel your passion.

The short answer, if you roll like The Tone King, there will never be enough.

Let me know how many guitars you own, and how many you think you should own.

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About the Author: The Tone King | | TTKRocks | REAL reviews for REAL players! ROCK hard, ROCK loud, ROCK ON!

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  1. I really like what you have acquired here, really like what you are saying and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it smart. I cant wait to read much more from you. This is actually a wonderful website. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  2. Frederic Pinsonnault says:

    I have a Gibson SG with Min-eTune. My min-eTune works well and tunes my guitar precisely and fast. However, it is not a device that allows to switch between tuning on the spot.

    When you change tuning, the tension changes and the strings do not stay in tune for more than 1 minute. You have to re-tune several time before they settle on their new normal tension. Kind of the same phenomenon when you put new strings on the guitar and they have not stretched yet.

    So min-Etune is not an alternative to having multiple guitars each tuned differently. My SG is in standard tuning, the Les Paul is in Eb.

    The only exception that might work well is switching between standard E and Drop-D since only the low string changes tension and it can be stable in both tuning.

  3. Joe says:


    You got it right with the “passion” end of it. Biggest problem with the axes you mentioned? The technology isn’t there yet. I have a ’97 LP standard that kills, but what happens if I want to do my Albert Lee thing? (the answer is an American tele with a hipshot B-bender). Ultimately, it comes down to how we make our music, and what lengths we’re willing to go to to do that. I have 5 guitars, and each could have its own place within my set list, but that’s 5 guitars I’m carrying to a gig, and 5 different sets of strings to change. In short, how many guitars you need is the 64,000 dollar question of gear. My not-so-helpful contribution: Tone is in your fingers, and there’s plenty of music hidden in standard tuning (or drop D, or DADGAD, or whatever). Make music with the tools you have, and don’t automatically treat every “need” for another guitar as a valid one. A “must-have” guitar for a drop D song could possibly work great on a standard-tuned guitar with creative voicings and an imaginative bass player. Keep up the good work, hoss.

    Joe from WV

  4. TVLTNT says:

    TK, as you know I could probably write a book on this one pertaining to different tunings. As far as the amount of guitars one should have. Well that part comes from me both as a player and as a collector. Hey, it happens to the best of us. 🙂

    I don’t think that having a single guitar that will do everything will ever work out quite as well as having a bunch of different axes all setup for how you want them to be used and played for both the sound and the feel that one wants.

    I do believe that each company and others are perhaps trying their best to see who has the better mouse trap at this point in time.

    BTW there’s also that nice Fender/Strat/Roland guitar that does quite a bit that you forgot to mention that I have taking a liking to. Again though I’m sure it’s not perfect either.

  5. hotrod V says:

    As far as how many guitars one should have, I say as many of every variation as possible, plus the amps to make each sing…that does not necessarily one amp per guitar, just a good range of tube and ss amps that will conjure up just about any sound that one might need, and a few you might not. This may actually be a deceivingly short list, as any good amp or head should be capable of a good bit of tweaking.
    In the live arena, definitely at least one guitar in every tuning, even if some (generally for original bands with a certain “sound”) are the same brand or even the same model. It is hard enough for a working guitarist to keep everything up and running…and in tune. Why try to change tunings on stage? Unless it is a drop tuning on a hard-tail, forget it.
    As far as electric tuning…of any sort, no way. I don’t want some gizmo leaving me stranded in the middle of a set, or even worse DURING a song! No thanks. Leave that to the folks that like toys, they’re not solid performance equipment.

  6. Lou Condon says:

    I feel like a guitar Virgin compared to the likes of Tone King and others. I just purchased my 6th guitar. 5 elec. and 1 Acoustic. My problem is none are what you would call budget guitars. LOL Not that they are Vintage but the acoustic is a good Martin HD-28. I mean if your going to play acoustic every now and then get a good one that will last and be worth something 20-30 yrs. down the road 🙂 Sometime I come across a “Deal of the Day” and just can’t say NO. I’ve got an amp for every guitar now. LOL I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon either. I’m still on the edge on the Kemper Profile amp, that would cut down on expensive hand wired amps for sure. I try to give all my babies equal amt. of love and I am just like TTK when keeping them wiped down and I dust my amps weekly too 🙂
    I laugh when a person puts gear on ebay or craigs list and it is super dusty, take some pride people if your trying to sell your gear online. You can never have enough toys would be the correct answer for me.

  7. Deneteus says:

    I have 31 Guitars going from Acoustic to Electric. If you think that’s allot then you haven’t talked to enough people. You should see how many pedals I have. I haven’t even started counting the amplifiers yet. I modify, build and tweak so I also have alot of other guitar gear like tube tester, Bias Meters, different types of tubes. The truth is those who know are going to have what they need for any situation. You forget about those guys like me that also do backline or work stagework. So in short you can never have too much of a good thing.

  8. 4suremann says:

    I always take 3 guitars to any show; 2 are tuned at 440 and one is tuned 1/2 step down and hard tail.

    I do covers tweaked my way but don’t do but a few tunes drop tuned so don’t need a back up for those, but for most of the show (up to 6 hours)it’s
    crucial that I have a back up due to the Floyd /or clone bridges.

    I actually have 20 guitars but many of them are for studio use only, I’m fond of Bigsby/clone bridges but just hate them for a live show, for recording they are great.

    Many of my guitars are rescues, some of my favorites are built on Epiphone EA-250 bodies ca 1974-1976, one is loaded with lipstick p’ups, another with TV Jones “Gretche” p’ups, a Conrad (same factory, different f holes with T’armond p’ups. They are ES335 clones bolt on necks but very old wood.
    (Hate the stock necks, either build them or use MityMites after I’ve neck jigged ’em.

    I love the tone of Rickenbacker p’ups but not fond of their necks or maple bodies so loaded a Kramer Nightrider with rick p’ups, it’s mahogany set neck, center block and top and bottom except for an inoffensive very thin flame maple veneer on the top.It smokes.

    My utmost faves are V bodied guitars that I have built from wood up, they never go to a show,wouldn’t dare subject them to any risk from a show, two are alder bodied but my fave is figured limba wood (korina),p-90 in the nose in a bucker chassis and a Duncan P-rails at bridge.The midrange bark derived from a properly built V (3 piece body, center block and orient the grain of the bouts to run toward the neck)simply cannot be exceeded by any other design period.

    Nitro cellulose laquer is a pain in the ass to apply as a finish but it’s the only thing I use, I want those old or choice woods to breathe and to live.


  9. Rock God!!!!!!!! says:

    I will never have enough guitars or amps. Each one has a different story to it and of course each one plays and sounds different.
    I have my favorite…2010 PRS Experience Custom 24 but one is NEVER enough. Each is a work of art…assuming were talking American guitars and English Amps of course! LOL. Keep up the good work Tone KING!

  10. Jerry says:

    3 of each type . That’s a Max of 12 . Example : On solid body , 1 P90 type , 1 Signal coil type , 1 Humbucker type . Then you have 3 hollow body electrics , 3 Semi-Hollow body Electrics and 3 Acoustics . You also might need 12 Amps . That should cure your “GAS” . Wanna talk Pedals ? Lol !

  11. Vlamir says:

    Hey Tone King! How about… well… tone? A LP doesn´t sound like a tele or a strat or a 335. I don´t use different tunings but I like to hear the different tones of the different guitars as I play different songs. I like the difference between a Les Paul with a humbucker and a P90. So, how about one of each of your favorite guitar tones and a backup of the one you like/use the most, case you break a string on stage? I have a LP with P90´s, a tele, a strat and a 339. I´m planning on a Les Paul with humbuckers and I guess I´ll be a happy dude… for a while at least. 🙂 Nice post and nice topic as usual! Cheers!

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