Guitar reviewer and gear enthusiast Rich Beech discusses the increasingly crowded market of the online review, and how this forces everyone to up their game...
The first item I ever reviewed was a rather complicated bit of kit, the Eventide PitchFactor, a brilliant pedal and one that I thoroughly recommend if you have a spare wad of cash lying around.
At that time, I wouldn't have termed myself a 'professional' guitarist by any stretch of the imagination, I worked as a studio engineer and producer, but I did often end up playing guitar on other people's recordings if they needed some extra instrumentation.
I would not say that my technical ability was limited though, I was just a bit out of practice. For about 10 years I had practiced for at least five hours a day, but I became disillusioned with the technical aspect of guitar playing and became far more interested in soundscapes and composition. This was ultimately what led to me becoming a studio engineer and producer.
But anyway, I loved reviewing the PitchFactor, I didn't have to play anything flashy (playing-wise) in the review and I felt at the time like I did a decent job (considering it was the first time I'd ever had a camera pointed at my face).
But fast forward to present day, and I would by lying if I said I hadn't felt a pressure to improve my playing abilities for the purpose of reviews.
The thing I loved about Sonic State, even before I started working with Nick and the gang, was that their video reviews were so in depth, they showed the synth, the pedal, the amp or the guitar from every possible angle and demonstrated its full sonic capabilities.
We are the Sonic State, that's what we care about here - sound!
So this was my mantra, every time a new piece of gear arrives for review, I want to know it inside-out, I want to know it as well as the guys at the company that built it.
And I find it gratifying and humbling that there are people who tune into my reviews and trust my opinion, I met a chap in a train station recently who recognised my ugly mug and told me that he had bought a Kemper Profiling Amp after watching my review. That's a cool feeling (and, you're welcome, Kemper)!
But I also find it terrifying that there are guys and girls out there who are probably among the best players in the world right now, who also review equipment and guitars in the same in-depth manner. That's the glory of YouTube, anybody can upload a review, and many of the best players do.
It's these guitarists who really push me forward and force me to try and become a better guitarist, I'll never match their skill, I've practiced enough hours in my life now to know that improvements in my guitar playing will be made through extending my knowledge and my range of styles, rather than improving my speed, I am not a fast player, and I don't want to be.
A handful of lessons with Tom Quayle opened up my eyes to approaching improv in a completely different way, and that has really given me a new lease of life with my playing. Cheers Tom!
But for every person out there who is a great guitarist, and who can shoot a brilliant review with decent recording equipment (audio and visual), there are a whole host of guitarists who contribute to the white noise of the internet by posting bad reviews made on their low-res webcam.