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In Defense of Mojo
Mojo is a hot topic (at least in my world). The internet has long spawned debates over the question of whether or not a musical instrument’s appearance has any effect on its sound, or mojo. Debates over whether the type of wood you use to make an electric guitar matters, brass hardware versus aluminum, even the type of finish (I hear that it’s safer to snort drugs off of polyurethane, but that’s a separate discussion.)
For the uninitiated, mojo is defined as “a magic charm, talisman, or spell.” In music gear culture it typically refers to some component, usually one that is visually appealing and often new old stock (NOS), that doesn’t alter the sound of a piece of gear. Instead, these “mojo bits” add to the gear’s mojo. Circling back around to the Oxford definition, that means that using old resistors in a fuzz pedal adds to the magic of the fuzz pedal.
This of course implies that there is “magic” in the aforementioned fuzz pedal, and I believe that there is a type of magic in all music gear despite being a staunch materialist atheist.
Dozens of examples exist of people proving or disproving things like tonewood, magic op amps, and whether NOS parts are any better than their brand-new counterparts. The debates are still thriving in online forums despite there being “scientific” proof that mojo doesn’t exist.
But remember: music is a creative process. Aesthetics are at the forefront of our minds while we’re playing because art is aesthetic. While you plink away on your ebony fretboard you might feel like it plays better. If so, it does play better. Art is dependent on feeling, and if your feelings make you attached to the Tube Screamer that you’ve played with since the 80s, that Tube Screamer is magic!
What I’m saying is that despite the “proof” given one way or another, how you feel about the instrument you play has an effect on how you play the instrument. Ornate musical instruments have existed for millenia. The desire to make sonic art on something that is visually pleasing must have some benefit to it or it surely would have faded away, right?
So take your classic Telecasters (or your sick B.C. Riches), your germanium Tonebenders, your “broken in” cables and your tube amps and go make beautiful, magic, mojo-filled music.