What Makes a Good Guitar? Matteo Mancuso Explains: ’It Doesn’t Need to Be Expensive’

According to young Italian guitar virtuoso Matteo Mancuso, your gear doesn’t really need to be expensive. It all comes down to what you know to do with your stuff, and it’s as simple as that.

Getting more attention from old established names, Mancuso got into the spotlight for his fingerpicking technique and a classical-like picking hand stance. He manages to pull off things that most guitar players can’t with guitar picks. But, most importantly, it’s his choice of notes that really sets him apart, combining jazz fusion with tasteful classic rock elements.

Now, there’s always the discussion of whether guitar gear is one of the most important factors in your final sonic output. During a recent interview on the Mike Nelson Show, Mancuso was asked about guitar gear and its impact. His answer shed a lot of light on how we perceive our guitars, amps, pedals, and everything else.

Matteo Mancuso Interview

“I think that one of the most important things is having a gear that you know a lot, rather than having expensive gear,” Matteo replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs). “It’s more important to know your gear very well rather than have a really expensive gear and not knowing everything about it.”

It may feel like a slap in the face to some. But considering the abundance that we have on the gear market these days, all of us do tend to get a little too obsessed with shiny new pedals. Matteo further explained:

“I prefer to have two or three pedals, but knowing them pretty well, rather than having 12 pedals, but you can do only one thing with them. So it’s really important to know your gear rather than have a lot of gear. That’s it.”

Matteo Mancuso - Silkroad (Official Music Video)

Going into the matter, the Italian virtuoso also addressed the guitars. This is where things may seem a little controversial — your guitar doesn’t need to be expensive. It just needs to stay in tune and feel good. He added:

“And when it comes to guitar, it doesn’t need to be expensive, but it needs to be reliable. One of the most important things when you’re buying a guitar is that it stays in tune. That’s it. It stays in tune, you’re comfortable with it — then it’s a good guitar.”

“You don’t need to spend a lot of time finding the right wood for the fretboard or the right pickup combination — they are all secondary things,” Mancuso continued. “The important thing is that it is in tune — at least for me — because you need to make music with it.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care about what goes into a guitar. It’s just that there’s a whole other set of fundamentals that we, as guitar gear consumers, might overlook.

And, according to Mancuso, having single-coil pickups might be a better option in terms of flexibility and versatility:

“If you want a particular sound, you can achieve that sound with the pedalboard. You can play around with the pickups — especially if you have single coils, I think they are really versatile pickups — so when you are playing around with your guitar, you really have a wide variety of sounds that are ready without pedals and without amps.”

But, at the same time, you don’t need to obsess about having too much stuff either. As Matteo added, it’s also about how you use your instrument. Or, more bluntly, you need to play well and have a proper skill set.

Matteo Mancuso | Incredible Guitar Performance

“Just with your guitar alone, you already have a wide variety of sounds,” he explained. “You don’t need to have a lot of different pedals in order to achieve different sounds, you just have to experiment with your guitar — maybe playing with the volume on five with a blended single-coil.”

“It’s really something that you need to explore more before buying gear. So yeah, I think it’s a matter of finding a guitar that stays in tune and finding a bunch of pedals that you know pretty well. And that’s it.”

Obviously, there’s a high chance that anyone reading this is at least somewhat of a gear nerd. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, Matteo here reminds us that, at the end of the day, it all comes down to your guitar skills.

Matteo Mancuso - Blues Shuffle in G

And, most importantly, these are all tools for your expression. Ask not what wacky fun features your gear can have, but what music you can create using the least amount of gear.

Photos: Idunnorick (Matteo Mancuso, Stefano India and Giuseppe Bruno), Sidebart (Large pedal board)

  • 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 Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.