When a author/artist/filmmaker/game designer/etc. tries to create a work featuring musical instruments and they are not an experienced musician themselves, they will usually lack the knowledge necessary to correctly depict that instrument or how that instrument functions. Electric guitars are the biggest offender here, because of their popularity, association with recent popular media, and the amount of hardware that is used to make and play an electric guitar.
This trope is much more likely to come into play if music is not the focus of the story, but a character is merely given a guitar to look cool. See The Power of Rock
, Instrument of Murder
, and Musical Assassin
where this can also become a problem because the guitar is more a weapon than an instrument. It is also more likely to occur in purely visual works because instruments have an incredible amount of detail that most artists simply won't want to render when the focus should be on the person holding the instrument anyway.
Generally speaking, when an electric guitar appears in fiction, it takes the shape of either a Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson Les Paul, two of the most iconic electric guitars. The Fender Stratocaster has two edges which taper into horned points around the neck, and typically has three single-coil pickups, a five-position blade, and three knobs (one for volume, one for tone for the bridge pickup, and one for tone on the middle and neck pickups). The headstock of a Stratocaster has all of the tuners on the same side. The Gibson Les Paul has a round shape with one edge that tapers into a horn, three-way toggle-switch, two double 'humbucker' pickups, and four knobs. The headstock has three strings tied to tuners on one side, and three on the other. If the guitar depicted is neither of these, it is probably a Gibson 'Flying V', which looks like an upside down V.
This can also be brought about when music produced by an instrument is overdubbed onto an actor (or animation) using an instrument that should produce a different sound. Another possibility is depicting a musician in a historical piece as using a different type of instrument than the one he was famous for using. (Though this may occasionally be justified, as many guitarists have used more than one type of electric guitar.)
This may be justified in some respects; the Stratocaster and Les Paul are extremely famous guitars, and have both had many imitators and outright copies made, to the point where listing them all would take up too much space. In this case, a guitar that looks like a Stratocaster or Les Paul but with a Bland-Name Product
label could pass without becoming this trope.
The electric bass equivalent would probably be All Basses are Precisions (well, there's no such trope, but...).
Just to note, this applies for all problems with musical instruments, not just electric guitars.
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- Any depiction of a character destroying a musical instrument. Many bands/performers do take to destroying their instruments on stage as part of their act, but if you see a character in a TV show or movie destroy an instrument with hardly any exertion, it's a prop. In reality, even cheap instruments take a lot of effort to break.
- In fact some cheap guitars are famous for the fact that they are more useful as clubs than as actual instruments. For example the Soviet Ural, which weighed half a ton and couldn't sound worth a damn, but was exceptionally cheap and exceptionally sturdy.
- Both averted and played straight by K-On!. All of the girls play real instruments with real model names made by real companies (and not all of them being Stratocasters; though Mio's bass is a Fender Jazz Bass, which has the same design). However there are some errors:
- A guitar amp will not produce feedback if you unplug it from the amp (unless maybe you unplug it while it's producing sound). Feedback is much more likely to occur if you plug it in while it is on.
- Some of the music does not match up to what type of instrument is played.
- And then there's Mugi, who prances around with a 17 kg synth as if it weighs nothing.
- As with most animated violin-playing, the movement of the bow in the 'Devil's Trill' arc of Yami No Matsuei, which centers around a particularly speedy and hard-to-play piece of music, does not begin to match the sound, to the point where it's actively distracting from the scene. It's not just really, really slow, it's completely off the general rhythm. He's also holding the thing wrong, and...gah.
- Mercifully averted by FLCL, which namedrops both Haruko's Rickenbacker 4001 bass and Naota's Gibson Flying V.
- Also highly averted in BECK, where the guitarists use instruments that are very different from Stratocasters; the first guitar Koyuki bought was a Fender Telecaster, and the guitar Ryusuke received from Eddie Lee is a Gibson Les Paul.
- The Buddy Holly Story biopic depicts guitars that didn't exist in the time-period (noticeably a Fender Bronco, first made in 1967). Holly is also shown playing a Telecaster at one point, although in reality he never played one on stage and is known for his use of the Stratocaster. Way to play into a trope by averting the trope name.
- Referenced in Little Man Tate.
(comments on a painting of a piano): "You didn't paint the right number of keys on here."
- Averted in Stranger Than Fiction. The main character shops for a guitar and ends up buying a Stratocaster, but a wide variety of other guitars are visible and the narrator tells us that the Strat was a personal choice.
- Wayne's World:
- Averted. As in Stranger Than Fiction, non-Strats are (presumably) visible in the guitar shop. Cassandra identifies the Stratocaster Wayne covets (and soon acquires) as a 1964 model, then, curiously, lists attributes almost all of which are common to all standard Stratocasters and appear in the trope description. Still, she knows her stuff. Wayne displays his knowledge by stating that the guitar is "pre CBS Fender corporate buyout" - CBS bought Fender in 1965 and held onto for 20 years, after which Fender's employees bought it back. No way would the writers go into such detail only to fall into this trope.
- Not averted. The two guitar players in Cassandra's band both play Strats, and she plays a Precision bass, which would be All Basses Are Precisions as noted above.
- Averted with Marty McFly playing a Gibson ES-335 during the Enchantment Under the Sea dance in Back to the Future. Unfortunately this guitar was first made in 1958, three years after 1955 when the movie is set. (Note this is not Marty's guitar which he plays in 1985, it's the guitar he borrows from the band.)
- Also averted with Marty's yellow Chiquita guitar at the beginning of the movie.
- Pat gets Kat the white Strat she's been lusting after in 10 Things I Hate About You with the money Joey paid him to date Kat.
- Played straight in several episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, especially "The Way to Eden". Mr. Spock plays the 'Vulcan Lyrette,' which sounds suspiciously amplified.
- On the short-lived TV show, Players, Ice (played by Ice T) sees a cardboard cutout of a dead rock star (played by Glen Campbell) and recognizes the guitar he has on as a Stevie Ray Vaughan model Stratocaster. It's later pointed out that this guitar was first manufactured in 1992 - two years after Glen Campbell's character supposedly died in a plane crash.
- Lammy of Um Jammer Lammy uses two left-handed guitars. Her first clearly resembles a Les Paul (except for the shape of the headstock). Her second guitar seems to be a bizarre combination of different models, but more resembles something made by Fender. (This is a Widget game though.)
- Mostly averted by Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The original PS2 Guitar Hero controller was built to (sorta) resemble a Gibson SG, and Rock Band's a Stratocaster. Also, both games have sponsorship from instrument makers (GH from Gibson up until Aerosmith, then many other guitar makers stepped up to the plate, like Ibanez and B.C. Rich, while RB has guitars by Fender and its subsidiaries, like Jackson and Gretsch). However, where else can you find someone who plays guitar without a strap? While that is feasible, it requires a whole load of effort to stop the guitar from falling - and sometimes, the characters still act like there were straps (usually, they hold the guitar's neck).
- Beatles Rock Band has peripherals modeled after instruments the band members used: John Lennon's Rickenbacker 325, George Harrison's Gretsch Duo Jet, and Paul McCartney's Hofner violin bass.
- One of the new Rockband Pro Guitars? A slightly Modified Stratocaster, made by a Fender sub-company, Squier.
- Simultaneously averted and played straight in Ménage à 3. Gary's guitar is a Telecaster . . . with a Stratocaster headstock.
- In Rango, the guitarist of the burrowing owls plays a blue sparkle Mosrite, a realtively obscure 1960s guitar that was used on Spaghetti Western soundtracks, as well as by bands like The Ventures, The B-52s and The Ramones.
- Neo-Classical guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen plays this trope straighter than a Arizona freeway. With a collection of Stratocasters around the triple digits, it's hard to deny.
- Suppose you're a cosplayer who wants to cosplay as a character who plays a musical instrument, but you yourself are not a musician. You can either:
- 1. Go without the instrument.
- 2. Borrow one. (Though convincing a musician friend to lend you an instrument purely for the looks may be a challenge.)
- 3. Rent or buy a cheap knock-off or copy which will pass as something resembling a quality guitar as long as you don't actually try to play it.
- 4. Buy or make a toy or prop.