Al Di Meola Explains What ’Young Players Online’ Today Lack, Names ’Best-Sounding’ Guitar

The electric guitar has evolved since the 1950s. However, its basic features are almost unchanged. If something ain’t broken, why fix it in the first place? Some have taken this to a whole new level and claim that guitars made back in the day are much better compared to what we have today.

Al Di Meola - Broken Heart

While that’s something that’s very debatable, we all know about the astronomical prices of certain guitar models. The best example comes with Gibson Les Paul guitars manufactured in 1959. These are sometimes worth a few hundred thousand dollars, depending on how well preserved they are, as well as other features. And, of course, it’s not uncommon for a guitar master like Al Di Meola to own one.

In a recent interview with Guitar World, Al discussed his ’59 Les Paul, guitar players today, and many other issues. When asked about the issue of speed, technique, and substance, he said:

“I see a lot of young players online with such super-phenomenal technique and in many cases, super-phenomenal lines, which are just incredible and very impressive, but very rarely ever do I see it in the framework of a composition, especially an original composition. So, it’s how it’s all applied.

Al Di Meola - Song to the Pharao Kings

He also adds:

“It’s one thing to come up with a lot of fast interesting lines which in itself is interesting, but it’s another thing to see how it will be applied within the context of a composition, and that is something that doesn’t go hand in hand.

“It’s like a whole separate side of a musician that you might not even have. You might just be a hot gun.

“To write music is a whole other profession, and that is something that eventually you’ll get to as you the player matures in some cases, but not all cases.”

When asked about his guitar collection, Al Di Meola replied:

“I do have a large collection, but I’m not a collector; I’m more of an acquirer. I just acquired these guitars, I didn’t go out with the intention of becoming a collector for investment purposes. But I do have some that I consider to be noteworthy.”

Al Di Meola Race With The Devil On a Spanish Highway 1977

Prompted to say which some of these guitars are, he said:

“My 1971 Les Paul Custom, which was the one I used with Return To Forever and on all of those records and it’s also on ‘Land of the Midnight Sun,‘ my first record and my second record, ‘Elegant Gypsy,‘ with the guitar also on the cover of that album.

“There’s a lot of history with that guitar and is probably the most historic guitar because of its connection with my early start in the business.

“As time went on, I acquired some other guitars, like a 1959 Les Paul Custom which is considered the holy grail of the best-sounding of all Les Pauls. I’ve compared that guitar to other Les Pauls and it truly is the best-sounding one. No doubt about it. Mostly it comes down to the wood they used, which was already aged when it was built.

“I also have several Conde Hermanos guitars which I find to be really valuable as well. I also have a 1948 Martin steel-string, which is an incredible guitar. It is a dark-sounding but super-sustaining D-18.”

Photo: Gorupdebesanez (Al di Meola, 2013 05)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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