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This question is motivated by Is it a good idea to leave my guitar tuned over night?.

I leave all ten of my acoustic guitars tuned all the time

I'm a cellist and I just can't imagine having anywhere near ten different cellos.

I'm curious. Why might a guitarist find it helpful to have such a large number of instruments?

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    @DaveEngineer you'd be surprised, cellos can sound pretty different – not as different as, say, Strat vs. Les Paul, but quite as different as any two of the same model compared. Only, most players will largely settle to the sonic qualities of one particular instrument, and to some degree you can't tell which parts of the sound are due to the instrument and which are due to the player. – leftaroundabout Aug 27 '15 at 9:13
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    I think it's useful to add that classical instruments (generally the ones that are used in orchestras) are typically designed to all sound largely the same. Too much diversity would make it very difficult to predict what an orchestra would sound like when playing together. In modern music that's played in smaller groups (such as pop/rock), you can change the characteristics of an entire song by changing the tone of one instrument. This partly explains why guitarists tend to have way more instruments than cellists, for instance. – Lee White Aug 27 '15 at 9:15
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    I've got two cellos; granted one of them is a Yamaha collapsible "silent." I'm tempted to buy that cheapo all-purple one you can find on Amazon just for the shock effect. Most pro-semipro cellists I know have at least two--their top-grade one for 'real' use, and a beater for outdoor concerts, carrying around, etc. For folks with cash, it's not unheard-of to have 2 or three quality cellos of significantly different timbre. – Carl Witthoft Aug 27 '15 at 11:21
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    I have 11 varying guitar-type instruments and upwards of 20 cameras. I could argue that they all give different results - and they do - but the real reason is that I just can't resist them the instant I see them. – Whelkaholism Aug 27 '15 at 11:33
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    Certain guitarists (Hendrix, Townshend, Cobain) it's because the first guitar off the rack had no guarantee of surviving the gig. – Steve Jessop Aug 27 '15 at 17:39
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Guitar (just acoustic guitar for now) is one of those instruments where different constructions, setups and playing characteristics (slide guitar and so on) means having several guitars can be useful.

Going a little off topic, electric guitar is even worse - different pickup models, "tremolo" (i.e. vibrato) devices, neck and body constructions, extended range etc. can produce radically different results.

Guitars are sometimes used in different tunings, so a spare one in an alternate tuning is nice to have handy. (I have a cheap old spare strung in a high tuning for example.)

Then (for amateurs like me) there's the collector mentality - some people just keep several instruments because they have the money and space, and enjoy having them around.

Some of the reasons I've mentioned apply to other instruments too - there must be some cellists, or pianists, with two or three instruments out there.

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    +classical acoustic vs modern acoustic, different string materials (nylon, steel, etc.) – Dave Engineer Aug 27 '15 at 8:48
  • Some pianists have more than one piano, such as one to practice, one to perform, but I believe most have just one, because pianos are very expensive – Justin Aug 28 '15 at 4:06
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    Piantists don't usually use their own instrument for concerts (heavy, bulky, may and will get out of tune when moved - and is difficult to retune). When a pianist has more instruments, it's usually because of these limitations, when they need to play their instrument in multiple locations. Rock stars (like the late Freddie Mercury or Matt Bellamy) are, of course, exception. – Pavel Aug 28 '15 at 8:13
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  • differing tonal qualities, with electric , also acoustic.
  • different tunings, to save bothering retuning one.
  • different actions, e.g. high for slide playing.
  • with/without vibrato.
  • different styles for different genres.
  • different strings, maybe light to bend, heavy for other reasons.
  • different no. of strings - 6/7.
  • investment - would you gig with a collectible?
  • different feel - Les Paul vs. 335?
  • they look good displayed - picture substitute?
  • because we can!
  • also neck profiles and solid body vs hollow body – Neil Meyer Aug 27 '15 at 9:11
  • @NeilMeyer - hence Les Paul vs 335? – Tim Aug 27 '15 at 9:25
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Check this video out for guitar collecting taken to the extreme.

To add to what Andy has said sometimes there is a matter of a having more than one guitar serves some practical purpose but often it is just simply because you can.

When you come to a point where you have spent most of your life playing a guitar and now have achieved some sort of success you really want to have a lot of nice things to look at.

That coupled with the fact that buying guitars is relatively cheap (compared to violins and pianos at least) you can often when you make it big afford to have many of them. Many of guitars for many guitarist is just so gosh darn pretty. It is like collecting art to us.

EDIT: That being said I do think that it somewhat comparable to cello's and violins. Although cello's may look superficially the same I'm sure that when you are an expert cellist you will definitely feel a penchant for certain types of cello's.

I think that it is fair to say that the different great violin and cello makers had varying opinions on what made the best instrument and this is reflected in there instruments. Bösendorfer certainly are very different than Steinway's

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    They aren't like art, they are art! (and usually a lot cheaper than a painting) – Dave Engineer Aug 27 '15 at 8:37
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The question has been answered quite thoroughly. But since the question quoted me directly (from my answer to the overnight detune question), I feel compelled to weigh in.

Part of the reason I have ten acoustic guitars is purely nostalgic. My first acoustic was a present from my wife from before we were married so it has sentimental value. My next acoustic was a Christmas present from my Brother - so it has sentimental value as well. Over the years I have come across guitars, new or used, that I wanted to buy either because I liked the way they felt or the way they looked or the way they sounded or a combination. So I bought them. I have sold a few guitars that I had no particular attachment to. Most of the ones I sold, I had acquired because I got a "good deal" on buying them.

Of the guitars I have kept that have no particular sentimental value - they all serve different purposes. I have three acoustic guitars that I use primarily for performing. These all have electronics so I can plug them in. I rarely play these unless I am on stage. I have three because I like to have a backup guitar at all times in case I break a string and I leave them in different tunings for different songs.

Some of the guitars I play at home live on guitar stands in different rooms of my home. I have a couple in different tunings in my office/recording studio and I have my favorite couch guitar sitting on a stand beside the couch in the living room.

One very practical reason for playing different guitars is that if I played the same guitar every time every day, I would wear out the frets too fast. So I like to rotate guitars and play different guitars on different days. I do have my favorite guitars, but I try to play the others also -to preserve my favorite guitars.

I have several more guitars on my wish list, so I hope to add two or three more acoustics to my collection soon. There is not any correct answer to this question. I have several guitar playing friends who have collections larger than mine who each have their own reasons for keeping the guitars they keep.

Like my guitars, there is a unique story behind every single one of them. People collect different things (coins, stamps, model airplanes) as a hobby. I consider collecting guitars a hobby of sorts, but unlike coins I can't spend, or stamps I can't mail, I can play the guitars in my collection and thereby derive enjoyment beyond just the intrinsic value as a part of a collection.

These are some of the reasons my acoustic guitar collection is at ten and growing. Thanks for asking.

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    I was hoping to hear from you! It was very interesting to hear about the frets and the rotation -- it reminds me a bit of reed rotation. – aparente001 Aug 28 '15 at 3:36
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Guitar players are just notorious about owning many guitars.

Also: a player might have two or more copies of the same guitar on stage in case of string breaks. Even at the level where you can afford a guitar tech to change strings for you, your show would be halted for minutes otherwise. (I saw an acoustic Todd Rundgren show a few years back and he had three of the same guitar on stage with him. One was tuned down for certain songs, but the other two seemed to be identical.)

Also also: different instruments have different tonality. Maybe you need that one axe because you wrote this song on it and it just doesn't sound right played on anything else.

Also also also: hauling three cellos is heavier and more awkward than hauling three guitars? (I don't know if this is legit because guitar players seem to be willing to haul half the gear they own to every gig, even though they never use most of it.)

Also also also also: three really nice cellos might possibly be worth, like, eleven guitars of varying age and hipness and provenance, so if you imagine an imaginary gear budget, that's just what happens.

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The short answer (gleaned from everyone's helpful contributions):

  • Guitars come in a wider variety, anatomically, and can produce a wider variety of effects, than cellos

  • Guitars are cheaper than cellos and pianos

  • Guitars take up less space than pianos

  • All correct and I think you should take into account the aesthetic visual qualities that are possible. See this link to a site with rare guitars. rarestarguitars.com/culture/spalt-guitars-rare-guitars --- If cellos looked like this, more people might collect them. – chasly from UK Aug 28 '15 at 11:04
  • @chaslyfromUK - It's a good thing more people don't collect cellos. Investors and speculators drive up prices and also hoard good instruments without playing them, or without playing them very much. It's one thing to buy one beautiful instrument, play it and enjoy it. It's another thing to have a "collection" sitting around collecting dust. Sorry, this is a pet peeve of mine. – aparente001 Oct 1 '15 at 5:37
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Plenty of good answers here, but here's something I haven't seen mentioned - novelty is inspiring.

If I play the same guitar for too long I start getting in a creative rut. Everything sounds the same, and I get bored and frustrated with myself.

This happens to everyone I think, and common advice is to play a completely different instrument, or do a completely different activity - which is excellent advice.

However, I often find that switching to a guitar with a completely different sound is enough to perk me up again, because it forces me to play a different style in order to sound good.

So, if I've been playing a mellow, pure guitar for ages, switch to a twangy country one. If that starts to sound a bit samey, switch to a nylon. If suddenly the only thing I seem to be able to create sounds Spanish, pick up my dad's old battered guitar that my sister stored in a leaky attic and do some dirty old "ain't got no money for a new guitar blues".

On reflection, this is actually a huge reason for me to have different guitars, and it really does work.

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