During a discussion over the weekend with guy in his 20s at a guitar shop over the weekend I realised how many things have changed for guitar players. For me getting back into playing at this particular time for me has been great and I couldn't have been this motivated in my 20s because the resources were much harder to come by. It started with effects, then went to lessons. Here is what I observed, but some of you have 10, 20 or 30 years on me, so I'd love to hear your stories.
Back in the day, crafting your tone meant buying the right amp, 5 or 6 different pedals and running them on an endless string of 9v links.
Now, if you wish you can just buy a profiler or a software amp modeller and have 100s of tones for the price of 1.
80s - Lessons - You had to find a teacher which was often a long and hard road, often you had to settle for someone with slightly more experience than you. If you wanted to learn a new song you had to work it out for yourself or hope your favourite guitar mag tabbed it
Now, fire up Youtube and you have access to 1000s of teachers. Find a good one anywhere in the world, go on skype and you've access to some of the best teachers on the planet
80s - Guitar Heroes - You had to rely on your peers to point you in the direction of the next up and coming virtuoso.
Now - Just surf the web and there are 1000s of players who can immasculate you in the comfort of your own home.
80s - Buying an instrument - you were kind of stuck playing what your friends recommended - particularly when you were saving pocket/chore money for your dream axe
Now - Researching before parting with your hard earned cash is so much easier
So much of this resonates with me!
I'd go further to say that crafting your tone back in the 80's was 100% trial and error. Unless you some how, as a child, had access/ability to spend many thousands of dollars purchasing the exact rack you saw in a magazine with one of your favourite guitarists standing in front of it.
There was no "real" information available anywhere to say how one's tone was created, or how to get that metal tone and why you couldn't get it at home with a Crate solid state combo.
If you didn't know someone locally that already had that tone you wanted, you were **** out of luck.
I can't help but think I would be so much further ahead than I am now if youtube had existed when I was a kid. There's quite a lot of misinformation printed in the various "heavy metal guitar", and "speed licks" books.
There are some new people out there sharing video's that show the "real way" to achieve the ability to play fast or sound a certain way. Troy Grady, especially, being one of them.
Growing up I could never find a guitar teacher that actually played the music I liked, or even knew of the guitarists that I liked. So I had to learn from books.
Re: Instruments and finding new music
As a child I use to catch a bus and a train to get to my local music store just to grab the latest Ibanez catalog. Whenever a new one came in, I'd get a phone call. The owner use to spend time talking to me and made sure I got a new catalog.
When I grew up and started earning money, I ended up spending thousands of dollars at that store. That store owner was a smart man.
I first found out about Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert, and JP (Dream Theater) from an Ibanez catalog.
Around the same time that I started getting the catalogs, I also started buying Guitar For The Practicing Musician and Guitar World magazines.
With no ability to hear any of the music these guitar guys were creating, I had to go to a local CD shop and order in their music. I then had to wait 2-4months for the CD's to arrive.
When I got the music I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was mind blowing. Especially because my idea of "great" before hearing them was C.C. Deville and Kirk Hammett!! (I tell a lie, I was also into Jimmy Page...but he wasn't flashy in the same way, and my young ears wanted shreddy metal tones)
Basically, because of the players Ibanez had on their roster, and the above experience with getting music based solely off what their guitars looked like, I ended up only wanting Ibanez guitars. During my formative years no other brand was even considered.
I associated that style of playing and note choice directly with the brand and pointy guitars.