OK, so I used to play guitar a decade or more ago. I’ve recently taken it up again, using a couple of old guitars I never got rid of, and have bought minor things like picks and cables and and such, some of it online. So, now I get a zillion catalogs from Musicians Friend and Guitar Center and such, which I like to call Guitar Porn.
Back in the day (late 70’s, early 80s), my recollection was that there were 3 or 4 Les Paul models out there (ignoring Epiphone and Melody Makers), and maybe the same for Strats. Today, my Guitar Porn catalogs lists no less than thirty models of Stratocasters, and a lesser, but similarly large number of Les Pauls models.
Can someone give me the basics on the Strats (ignoring Squire) and Les Paul varieties? It seems to me there are some number of “artist” models, and some really basic models, and then a huge, undifferentiated variety beyond that. Starting with Strats, we have several “American Vintage” (of various years) models, “Standard”, “American Deluxe”, yadayadayada. The prices range from $399 (“Standard”) to kSomeVeryLargePrice.
On the Les Paul side, the plethora of models is less severe, but still kind of nuts. Gibson seems to still relegate the <$1000 range to Epiphone, but there are still like 20 models of Les Pauls, from just above $1k up to $6000. Les Paul has always been a prestige instrument, so I know some of this is intentional, but jeezus.
What the hell is the difference? Are the number of models so numerous just to avoid comparison shopping and confuse buyers? Are there really quantifiable differences between the mid-range models? Is it mostly fit and finish and different paint jobs? Are there any usefulness or quality levels at all between the midrange models in each line, or is it just chaos marketing? Were there some rational steps in the improving the product line in the 80’s or 90’s that resulted in this many models, or is it all a matter of the manufacturers throwing a bunch of guitars out there and seeing what sticks?