Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Gear Talk

Regularly I get questions about strings, picks, amps and guitars etc. So it's time to do a Blog entry on what I have been using over the last years so I can refer to this page when confronted with yet another question on what strings or amp I use ....  Gear wise, the last years have been pretty consistent. I am not one to change frequently.

Let's start off with the guitars. A number of you will know them already, especially my Facebook friends. Here's the trio that I have been using since the mid 2000s.

Tal Farlow, ES 175, ES 350t
So guitar wise, I tend to prefer laminate Gibson guitars. Yeah, to my ears these guitars reproduce pretty much the classic bebop sounds that I hear on my favourite jazz guitar recordings by Joe Pass, Tal Farlow, Jimmy Raney, Rene Thomas etc. You can hear and see these guitars in many of my vids and I have written on the Tal Farlow and the ES 175 earlier here and here. No need to elaborate on them now.

The amp I have been using since 1997 is a Polytone Mini Brute IV with a 15" speaker. It is a pretty classic sounding jazz amp with great headroom and bass reflex because of its 15" speaker. I would love to get the same sound from a smaller and lighter amp though. So lately I have been trying out some other models like the AER Alpha and the ZT Club but I must admit I haven't met anything significantly better yet. Still have to try out some though. To be continued.

Here's a short chord melody that I recorded the other day playing through the Polytone :

My string story is pretty boring. In the mid 90s I equipped my first archtop with d' Addario Chromes, liked what I heard and never changed. D'Addario Chromes have been a good sounding, reliable and durable choice ever since. A set will last for at least a year. I don't have sweaty hands and I do not gig a lot. The only reason I have for changing a set is that I will get intonation problems after a year (or two). The Tal Farlow and ES 175 carry 0.12 sets and the ES 350t (a thinline model) is equipped with a 0.11 set. I see no reason whatsoever to even try out other brands.

The pick story is a Dunlop one. I tend to prefer the Dunlop Jazz I pick. It is the thinnest one in the jazz series with 1.10 mm gauge. You have them in red and black. The Jazz II is thicker (1.18 mm) and the Jazz III (1.38 mm) is the stiffest one. I know the Jazz III is the most popular one in the series but I seem to prefer the I because it is just a bit more flexible. What I like about these picks is the even and mellow tone you get. I have used Dunlop Stubbies in various gauges too but I don't really like the sound of these (though they play great). The Jazz series is available in XL sizes too but I find the bigger size not very comfortable. I kind of like the Jazz I best when the tip is worn a bit so that it looks more rounded. I sometimes use a file to "age" them artificially.

When recording vids I often use a POD 2.0. You can find an entry on it here. Recording is a whole different ball game.