British singer songwriter acoustic fingerstyle guitarist
I guess my favourite stage guitar is my Lowden O10 by George Lowden (S/No 5479) I like the neck width, the overall “feel”, the response, and the fact that it’s not tiring on my fingers, and to be honest, I suppose I’ve got used to it… It’s a hand-made Northern Irish model which I’ve had it for about 15 years, and we’ve done a whole lot of playing and travelling together! Acoustically, it has a rich and warm tone – the cedar top and mahogany back and sides give it a beautiful softness, though it can provide a powerful “ballsiness” when provoked!!
I had the Lowden fitted with an EMG under-saddle piezo pickup when I bought it, and it’s still there. It’s a great match with the guitar, and a real gem at soundchecks.
I also use a sunburst dreadnought, hand-made by David Oddy (S/No 0704374) which I’ve had since 2004. A thoroughly beautiful instrument – and a finger-pickers dream. Rosewood back and sides, sunburst finish spruce top, purple heartwood inlaid neck, ebony fingerboard, arrowhead headstock, and inlaid with more abalone than you’ll find on a Mexican seashore…. It’s capable of a more delicate and lighter tonality than the Lowden, probably down to the smaller body and spruce top, but don’t be fooled by that – it packs a punch!!
I have had problems with getting the right pick-up for it. I’ve tried Asworth, and various Fishmans, with marginal satisfaction… At present I’m using one of the EMG under-saddle piezos, and I’m pretty happy with it!
My alternative stage guitar of choice, is an Avalon A-100 Gold Series (S/No A00525)
I suppose you could call the Avalon a Lowden look-alike, though sonically, it’s quite different. Mahogany back and sides and a lacquered spruce top make this a very bright and zingy guitar, a little “leaner” than the Lowden, though it plays extremely well. The neck is somewhat slimmer and faster than the Lowden, and it’s a very comfortable and easy guitar to play. Currently fitted with a Fishman1 under-saddle piezo pickup and a Fishman “Rare Earth” soundhole pickup for a big, blended signal.
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Any of the above, depending on how their individual sonic characteristics suit the particular song! I never use the pickups, but experiment with microphones – quantity and placement. However, if I had to choose, it would be my 1976 Gurian C Series (S/No JR C2595) I have yet to find an acoustic guitar with anything like the immense sound the Gurian produces. Rosewood (3-part) back and sides, spruce top, ebony fingerboard. The neck’s a bit on the “chunky” side, and the internal bracing seems a little over-engineered, but the sound is breathtaking! It’ll sustain for about a week, and sounds more like a piano!! Rich, vibrant, encompassing and involving. Perfect (for me).
Only about 2000 of this model were made, before the workshop caught fire! Apparently Paul Simon uses one, Jackson Browne and Bob Dylan both have them, so I reckon I’m in good company!!! Mine was made circa 1975. Saw one on Ebay recently with a £1000 price start… I reckon that’s a bargain. I can’t think of a single guitar currently on the market at that price that would come anywhere near it on sound quality!!
The Gurian does come out to unplugged music events like Fiveways Folk Club and the RSA in London.
I use Elixir strings, specifically Phosphor-Bronze Nano-web, .012”-.053” strings on all my guitars. They may not seem to have the initial “brightness” of other brands, but they retain their tonality far longer. I was using a new set of strings for each gig, on each guitar, as my sweaty fingers would take all the “zing” out of them. I find that the Elixirs easily last 4 or 5 2 hour gigs, and all the noodling and practice time in between!
It has always amazed me that acoustic musicians spend a vast amount of money on their instruments and the electronics that go into them, then “plug in” using what is effectively a £5 jack lead. Duh!! It’s a bit like buying a £50,000 car and bunging a set of Ford Fiesta wheels and tyres on it… Wouldn’t happen!! All my cables, from guitar to pedal board, between the pedals, from the pedal board to the d/i box, and from the d/i box to the mixing desk are made by Matt Scott at Movement Audio in Poole using Atlas Quadstar which costs about £6/metre, and provides a high quality, continuous signal path from my guitars to the desk. On my own rig, I also use Quadstar from the desk to the power amp, and Atlas Hyper2 speaker cable (£17.50/m) from the power amp to the loudspeakers. I KNOW I’m producing an extremely high quality sound so it’s one less thing for me to worry about!!!
Avalon Guitar, Elixir Strings and Atlas Cables equals great sound
I always say ‘straight down the middle’ and the sound check is very important to me. I arrive at a gig at 7.15 and ready to go at 9pm.
I’m always playing the guitar, it’s always on my lap. I used to work with (legendary manager/producer) Chas Chandler, who told me once that Jimi Hendrix always had a guitar with him, even in the loo. I don’t take it to that extreme, but I will play as much as I can.
Electric guitars can be loud, but the acoustic has the power.
18 August 2010
Re-furbished my first proper acoustic guitar – Yamaha Red Label FG140 circa 1970… £39 19 shillings and sixpence…. Its a beauty – plays a dream!!! What a sound!!! Big Smiles Here!!! It has obtained a semi-collectible status and there are plenty of forums talking about this guitar.
Had it re-fretted 10 years ago at Andy’s in Denmark Street, then put it away for a while.. Was chatting to Alex Roberts about guitars on a trip back from London and he mentioned red labels and I thought… I’ve got one of them… got it out and gave it some TLC and the merest set-up strung it with some 12′s and it sings like a bird!!!! :0)
A very rare occasion that all the guitars would be travelling together; I gave a workshop to encourage people to try the guitars and find out how the sound changes depending on the wood and which sound suits them best.
Photo taken at The Wilderness Gathering Summer 2011