click to enlarge
This almost new J45 was bought in 2016. I was originally looking for a Gibson case for my old J45 but there were no Gibson cases to be found in the UK and having spied a second hand Gibson case in a Manchester music shop I asked if I could buy it. I was told it belonged to a guitar... and this is the guitar.
It turned out to be gorgeous!.. a virtually new instrument with a fixed bridge and an internal LR Baggs pickup. After a set up, I found I didn't like the pickup, which for some reason was too bassy, so I installed a Fishman Matrix Infinity system.
It has a wider fretboard than my old Gibbo and I find it much more suitable for my big hands (it's only taken me almost half a century to correct this!) It's also much louder and more like the true Gibson tone I was after in 1968!
click to enlarge
By far the oldest instrument I possess, but I bought this beautiful Gibson mandolin because of its warm tone in 2012. On looking up its serial number I discovered that it was exactly 100 years old.
It's in extremely good condition for its age and as far as I can tell, it still has all its original fittings. The only wear and tear was some minor corrosive damage on the pick guard by the bridge which I removed... that's why the line of the pick guard looks a little weird on the bridge side.
It's now fitted with a K & K Mandolin Twin Internal Pickup, which consists of 2 transducers fitted internally either side of the bridge. It's passive but I can get enough out of it without using a preamp through my Boss GT8 pedals, where I boost the level but roll off the bass.
I sold my old early 60's 330 in the early 80's for £150 when I was broke. Regretted it ever since but couldn't afford to replace when it became a valuable guitar shortly after I sold it (I think Haircut 100 re-started the trend of fashionable semis). This reissue was a bolt from the blue in 2012 and just about affordable. After seeing an original 1960 330 on sale the same day for £7000, I snapped up this brand new re-issue with hardly a backward glance at my pension plan.
The 330 is a real semi acoustic and is hollow, in contrast to my 335 which has a block of wood down the middle making it a solid even though it looks the same. It has been manufactured strictly to its 1959 spec. To quote the Gibson blurb.. "a combination of exacting '50s body and neck specifications and slightly underwound P-90 pickups on aged nickel-plated bases tied together with an original spec wiring harness"...errr.. yeah right. I think that means they recreated the earthing problem! Anyway it's beautifully made and I think this new guitar (as well as having dots) might be better than the one I sold all those years ago.
Boo has been playing a Steinberger 5 string bass for years, but in December 2010 she bought this Martin acoustic bass with a view to making her bass sound a little more natural. It's a beautiful long scale bass with a weirdly unspecified ebony bridge and fretboard (it's usually rosewood on B1's).
Its sound is a little too quiet to make itself heard acoustically against our other instruments, so it's handy that it's got a built in Fishman Prefix Plus Bass pickup/ preamp system which is very natural sounding. With your eyes shut, it's like listening to a string bass at times...
I wasn't familiar with 4 string tenor guitars until recently but was immediately drawn to this violin tuned instrument.
Although other tunings can be used, my tenor is tuned to G D A E which appeals to me most, as it covers almost all the normal guitar range but with only four strings. It has a thinner and shorter scale neck than a normal 6 string (23" instead of 25"). Most chords are surprisingly coherent but different to a standard guitar and it seems a bit easier to get to know because of the regular intervals between the strings.
After a lot of searching, I was amazed to discover this rare and gorgeous sounding Gibson tenor in London (in 2009) which was in very good nick for a 60's instrument.
I've since had it refretted (by Celine Camerlynck) and the adjustable Gibson bridge has been replaced with a fixed ebony one. The saddle is made out of tusq (after much experiment trying out bone and ebony) and there is now an active Fishman Matrix Infinity pickup system fitted.
This Ramirez was bought new in 2008 as a result of helping my sister look for a classical guitar. Unfortunately I got drawn in and couldn't resist buying this one myself. The 4CWE replaced a 2CWE I bought first as I wasn't happy with the recorded sound. They were identical guitars to look at but sounded very different maybe because of the laminated back and sides on the cheaper one. I decided the extra expense was worth it... just!
It's a beautifully made guitar with perfect intonation, it has a gorgeous tone and is a cutaway which solves the problem for me of most classical guitars' necks joining the body at the 12th fret.
It also has electronics built in, so although I bought it mainly for recording, it's ready for live work. It has a Fishman Problend system which consists of an active bridge pickup under the saddle which you can mix with the onboard mike.
This was always my banjo of choice if I could ever afford it, but wasn't around (they don't sell it in the UK normally) when I bought my first decent banjo - a Deering Calico. Still can't afford it but bought it anyway while I had the chance
The Gibson Mastertone was made famous by Earl Scruggs and this one is a beautiful mellow sounding instrument with a surprisingly wide dynamic range. It also has a nice simple look without too much of the tasteless decoration you sometimes find on some of the more expensive banjos.
This one was bought new in 2007 and fitted with a Fishman active magnetic banjo pickup under the skin.

Gibson L140 - Boo

This is one of the new look Gibsons which caught Boo's eye in 2003. The L140 is a deep but smallish bodied guitar which has a very warm tone to it.
This one came equipped with an active Fishman and was bought directly from the States via the internet. A somewhat risky thing to do with something as personal as a guitar, but this one turned out to be a beaut... and also saved about £600 on the West End prices.

Taylor 355 12 string - Dave

This guitar has been the object of a lengthy experiment since I bought it in 2001. Loads of new songs have been inspired by it with the 12 string pairs tuned to 5th's instead of octaves.
The main strings are in standard guitar tuning intervals but down a tone and a half (which means the lowest string is C# rather than E), and what would be the octave strings are tuned a fifth above on all pairs (the highest one becoming G#... hence the need for the tiny 9 gauge).
In case you want to try it with that old neglected 12 string, (needless to say there are no 12 string sets manufactured for this) you will need to buy custom gauge strings.
Here are the tunings for each string with the string gauges I use:

string

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

tuning

C#

G#

G#

D#

E

B

B

F#

F#

C#

C#

G#

string gauge

13

9

17

12

28

16

38

23

44

30

56

40

Fitted with an active Fishman pickup under the saddle and a combination of steel and ebony machine head buttons to help with the tuning confusion of a 12 string.

Fender Telecaster USA - Dave

This USA made telecaster was bought new in 1997. Originally it was a horrible unloved 50's pale blue colour... until recently.
I finally got the tele of my dreams after stripping the paint, varnishing the natural wood and fitting a tortoiseshell scatchplate (making it look more like an acoustic guitar I guess!)
Although it has almost no acoustic properties, it sounds very natural and is essential for recording certain guitar sounds.

Martin 000028H - Dave

A thoroughbred bought new in 1997 and used as the 6 string of choice on our early acoustic albums.
As with most things reassuringly expensive, it does just what it's supposed to do: it sounds right, both live and recorded - without having to do too much.
Fitted with an active Fishman pickup under a bone saddle.

Steinberger 5 string Bass - Boo

This is Boo's bass which replaced a G&L single pickup 4 string in 1995. The main reason for the change was because of the Steinberger's low 5th string tuned to a bottom B which gave us a bit more range on the bottom end.
The headless bass looks a bit of a fashion victim these days but has a uniquely full growly sound to it and is lovely to play with its graphite neck. Unfortunately double ball end strings are needed, which are increasingly difficult to get hold of.
It is tuned by means of 5 thumb screws just behind the bridge.

Gibson 335 (1989 reissue) - Dave

This may look like a semi-acoustic guitar but is in fact a solid guitar with a block of wood running down the centre of the body, which makes it less prone to feedback than a real semi.
It's a reissue manufactured around 1989 and bought directly from Gibson. Although new, it already had a history when I bought it... having been stolen from Gibson's artists' relations showroom and later recovered. The humbuckers it came with were later replaced with PAF (Patent Applied For) humbuckers.
It was used mainly on the Brave Lucy 'Snaps' album, but still appears on more folky recordings from time to time when a mellow Gibson tone is needed. It has also become the host for the GR-20 guitar synth, so now gets used for synth sounds and parts I can't play on a keyboard.

Gibson J45 (1966) - Dave

This was my first decent guitar which I still have and which was bought brand new in Liverpool in 1968 for £180. My choice was mainly because of John Renbourn's Gibson J50 on the front of 'Another Monday'. My folks lent me the money and I'd only paid about £70 off when I left for London in 1970. I said I'd pay them back the rest when I was rich and famous...
Amplifying this guitar was a real headache in recent years because its original adjustable bridge prevented the use of the modern piezo pickups. So I took the advice of Celine Camerlynck (the best luthier I have ever used) who replaced it with a fixed ebony bridge and then installed an active Fishman under the saddle without a problem.

Equipment for gigs

Boss GT-8 effects - Dave

 
The Boss GT-8 was bought originally for recording electric guitars. It replaced my old Korg A2 which drove me mad with its user unfriendliness! However, it has also replaced my Yamaha AG Stomp which I used to control levels and tones coming out of three different live instruments.
It is an incredibly well designed piece of kit with every type of facility you can think of and virtually every effect Boss has ever produced. For live work, I can use it to control the different acoustic instruments with nothing much happening beyond the level adjustment and EQ tweaking - the odd bit of delay and chorus maybe. But for recording it can come into its own and opens up a huge soundscape potential for any electric guitars I want to use.

Porchboard Bass

We did a gig with Martyn Joseph who had a couple of tricks to create a fuller sound during his long set. This was one of them called a Porchboard. It produces a very satisfying bass drum kind of thump when you tap your foot on it. It's passive and has no noise, feedback or delay. Dave has occasionally inadvertantly achieved a similar effect by wearing Doc Martens whilst performing on hollow stages, but without the sound quality and... (as he wasn't actually aware of it) clumping out of time. The rhythm section (Boo) has now commandeered it.

Acus One-8 acoustic amps - Dave and Boo

 
These are Italian designed amps and they are from the same people who were behind Schertler amps. They are 200W with one 8" speaker and a tweeter. Despite the smallish speaker, they are incredibly powerful with a warm rich bass response and so we both use them as they can handle Boo's acoustic bass just as effectively as Dave's guitars. They have the most natural sound of any acoustic amp we've heard and somehow they've managed to make a guitar sound like a guitar rather than a pickup.

Equipment for recording

Roland GR-20 Guitar Synthesizer

I have had an on/off relationship with guitar synths since my first Roland GR300 guitar synth in the early 80's, which I loved and wrote a lot of tunes with. It only made a basic synth sound using 2 oscillators which you could edit in a very limited way but it prompted my interest in playing chords and tunes simultaneously a fifth apart.
This is not the latest version (I swapped the newer GR-55 to get my old GR-20 back!) but the triggering is fast (with a GK3 pickup) and I can get it to sound exactly like my old GR300 if I want to!

Mesa Boogie Studio Preamp - Dave

I use this preamp for recording electric guitars straight in to the desk. It uses real valves which give a beautiful warm sound and there are endless opportunities to get the guitar sound just right via loads of tone controls and a total of five separate volume/drive controls on two separate channels.

Fender Super Champ x2

This is a 15w valve amp. It's very loud for its size and is perfectly useable with live drums. However its main use is as a practice amp for electric guitars, plus it occasionally gets plugged direct into the desk (using the RAT speaker load to avoid blowing up the output valves while having the option of cutting out the speaker)

Recording microphones

We now have a collection of great mikes which are about as good as we can get...
From left to right
Neumann U87 - a three pattern, large-diaphragm microphone with bass cut and pad switches, which is one of the best vocal mikes you can buy.
Neumann TLM 103 - the same as the U87 but without the switching options and hence cheaper.
AKG C460B - an excellent acoustic guitar mike. It is a small-diaphragm condenser microphone with 3 frequency cut switches on the back. It uses a CK1 module which is a general purpose one.
AKG C451B - much the same as above but without the switches.
All these mikes are pretty much general purpose. For instance the C460B I've had for decades and I used to record vocals with it, although now its main function is to record acoustic guitars and percussion. The Neumann took over as a warmer sounding vocal mike but is not the chosen mike for guitars.

Kawai MP4 keyboard

The Kawai MP4 is our master keyboard in the studio with a convincing hammer action which feels like you're playing a real piano. For practice purposes it gets monitored through a pair of little Yamaha MSP3's.

Roland Octapad

This is our drum kit, with which we occasionally use for adding drum parts to our recordings. It's the nearest we can get to a real kit without annoying the neighbours and the closest we can get to a real drum sound with feel. It consists of a Roland SPD-30 Octapad with a Roland KD7 bass drum pedal and a Roland VH-11 virtual hihat. All these pads trigger very realistic samples inside the Octapad or elsewhere in another sampler. Dynamics are preserved, the hihat rattles and responds like a real one, and the toms make the snare drum's snare vibrate in sympathy. What more could you want? Yes I know... a drummer with a brain and a sense of rhythm... hmm

Percussion

Manual percussion (as opposed to computerised percussion) is good for getting a natural feel onto a track. We've built up quite a selection over the years...
1. Windchime - lots of jingle jangles for the top end.
2-4. Long shakers - different tones and sizes for different tracks and tempos.
5. Soft shaker - two shakers joined together with a softer sound.
6. Rainstick - beads trickle down to make an extended noise which doesn't sound much like rain!
7. Thunder tube - a tube with a wire attached. Shake it and it thunders. Flick the wire and you get a tin roof being hit with a mallet in a cathedral. Weird.
8. Heavy tambourine - this one has double jangles, is hard work for rhythm but is good for single hits.
9. Light tambourine - single jangles and much lighter. Was favourite until no. 10 arrived.
10. Small tambourine - very useful if you have a start/stop kind of a part. Easy to control and doesn't take over the track sound-wise.
11. Small shakers - you never know what is going to suit the song. An egg is sometimes what you need.
12. Guiros - a wooden scraping noise not used much in our music. Quite expressive but only if we go latin.
13. Castanets - again not used much... in fact not at all! Couldn't get the hang of these and ended up using samples on our only Spanish sounding track.
14. Maracas - shakers, but a bit more heavy duty.
15. Triangles - a much under-valued bit of perc. Once you learn how to mute and create a rhythm it sits happily in the top end of the track a bit like a high hat but more delicate.
16. Whistle - don't know how this got here. Never used it! Thought it was for sports day.
17. Claves - if you need a wooden sounding clink, then this is for you.
18. Sleigh bells - very necessary for your anti Christmas songs.
19. Coconut shells - these used to be maracas, which got sawn in half when we needed horse's hooves in a song which mentioned a horse. Surprisingly realistic. Better than a real horse.
20. Finger cymbals - got these in India. Small heavy cymbals which give a satisfying ding.
21. Cabasa - controllable beads for irregular rhythms.
22. Cabasa - from India this one... can also sound like a very small sounding shaker when shaken.

back to top