father was very fond of working with wood. He had a lot of different
saws, lathes, and various other tools in his shop. Dad worked with
wood; I play guitar. This is my tool box. It is a blessing to own
such a wonderful collection of instruments; it is the sole extravagance
in my life.
grew up in Rochester, NY in the late 1960s. At that time, there
was a well-known instrument collector and dealer named Eldon Stutzman
who ran a little shop called the Guitar Center. I bought my first
Martin (a Brazilian Rosewood D28) from him for $399. Mr. Stutzman
was the one that gave me a bug for instruments that has never let
I know a lot of fine guitarists who only own one or two instruments.
There are others I know who own many more. The number of instruments
someone owns has no bearing on the quality of one's musicianship.
The only thing that matters is what you do with them.
I have spent a great deal of time learning about instruments, and I
have pretty strong ideas about the ones that really work for me, as
well as those that don't. From my standpoint, this is the perfect collection:
a combination of classics, some oddballs, and a few new designs.
I use some of these instruments regularly, and others very infrequently.
Some are quite valuable, and others are not....I could care less--they
are all for playing.
instruments have their own stories, and their own personalities.
I believe that they are like one half of a soul. The other half
comes from the fingers, heart, and head of the player.
have posted numerous reviews of these instruments(as well as some others no longer in my possession) on the "Harmony
Central" website (check out my links page). HC is a great place
to read up about a particular instrument or amplifier before you
you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
My favorite jazz guitar is--and always will be--my 1958 Gibson ES-175 ("Herbie"). I found it in 1974—when it cost me $400; those days are long gone!. It was sitting, unused, in an attic
for about twelve years. It was born for thick flatwound strings, and when I play it, it's always like going back to an old, dear friend. I also own an Eastman AR-800. I purchased it in 2004--about the time that Eastman wasn't quite as well known as they are presently, so there is no logo on the headstock. It has a 16" body, a floating humbucker, and an oval soundhole, ala the Gibson Howard Roberts. It is much more of an acoustic guitar than the ES-175, and as such, works best with thick roundwounds. My third jazz box is an Ibanez AF71; another 16" body instrument with a floating humbucker.
For a thin hollowbody, I own a Cort "Jim Triggs"--a fine instrument with two humbuckers and a Bigsby. It reminds me of a cross between a Gretsch and a Guild Starfire I had in high school. It even has the right color: orange! For the semihollow sounds: First is an Epiphone Elitist ES-335 "Dotneck"--every bit as good as the comparable Gibson model. Epiphone Elitists (or Elites) are no longer being made. If you want a Gibson, but want to pay half the price, try to find one. Second is a Carvin Alan Holdsworth "Fatboy"--a thick tele-esque body shape with no f-holes, two humbuckers with pole splitters, 24 jumbo frets, and a super fat neck. A totally unique design. Third is a Burns Steer. It looks pretty bizarre at first blush (no cutaway; a faux soundhole in the middle; a humbucker, a single coil, a headstock that looks like a beetle, and a green color), but the more you look at it, the more attractive it becomes!
The instrument I have had the longest is my beloved early 1960s Gibson SG Special ("Rosebud") (Read the story below the photo at the bottom of this page). For single coil sounds, I have a Blade "Texas"
Strat--a rock solid, well built instrument that sounds great for all
kinds of music. It has excellent
pickups, and a rosewood fretboard. For whatever reason, they are
hard to find in the US; they seem to be most popular,
and more widely distributed in Europe. I also am a very pleased owner of a Bill Nash "Timewarp" Tele. It looks and feels like it's from the 1950s, and is fitted with Lollar pickups. I also have a Robin Avalon--a terrific Les Paul style instrument with a single P90 design pickup. Without a doubt, the most visually striking--and lightest--electric I own is a 1995 Parker Fly Deluxe. It has two humbuckers and a piezo that offer up a world of tone colors.
I have some other electric instruments: for bottleneck/slide styles, I have my old Hagstrom II (Rosebud's companion on many, many gigs over the years), and a 1950s Fender Lap Steel. I have a 3/4 size Xaviere Les Paul copy that is handy for travelling ultra-light. Bringing up the low end is a short-scale Samick bass guitar and an Ashbory bass. I am also presently beginning to construct a hybrid Strat/Tele guitar as a belated 60th birthday present from me to me! I hope to have it finished by the end of 2015
My main acoustics are a Collings D1, a Martin HD-28 , a Martin 000-16, and a Gavin Baird GD.
The Collings D1 is a top-notch dreadnought; it travels well, and always sounds great over a good mike. It has mahogany sides and back. I won the HD-28 at Winfield, Kansas in 1980, when
I took 2nd place at the National Fingerpicking Championship. It
took a few years for it to come around, but at the age of 35 now,
it’s got a fine voice. My 000-16 (made in 1989; the body--with a cutaway--was redone at the Martin factory in 2008) has a well-balanced tone that works for just about anything. The Baird GD--the new addition to the family--is an absolutely first-rate J45 style instrument. If I have to fly and change planes, in order to ensure that the guitar does not get lost, I have a Voyage-Air VAD-1--a fine quality mahogany dreadnought that collapses into a carry-on baggage sized case.
I also own two nylon strings--a 1980s C132 Takamine, and a Yamaha NTX1200 which is a modern instrument with cutaway and a built-in pickup system.I'm no classical player, but if I need to make nylon string sounds, both of these (solid top instruments) suit me just fine. I have an amazingly loud Gitane Macceferri copy--a fine acoustic guitar for swing. For 12-string, I have played the same huge-sounding Guild
F212-XL since 1975. My 1960s era Harmony Sovereign is like a little time machine--it was the model (although not the
actual guitar) that I learned how to fingerpick on; my other fingerpicker is a Alvarez Parlor size Mini D . For acoustic blues,
I play a Regal RD1 National copy. For lap style, I have a mid-1970s Dobro, and an ancient Oahu. For high string, I use a Rogue D size. I also have a Rogue acoustic bass guitar. (Anything with the name Rogue on it--like the Xaviere electric--is a ridiculously good value.) My old Martin 000-16 body was transformed into a baritone guitar with a neck made by Wes Lambe. I also own a Yamaha guitalele--a tiny nylon-string instrument that is tuned a fourth higher than standard pitch. For "plug and play" gigs I have an Epiphone Masterbilt DF500, and a Yamaha SLG "silent" guitar that collapses for ultra-portable travel.
I have various kinds of piezos installed in most of my acoustic
instruments, and I also use magnetic pickups occasionally. My first
choice is always a good microphone; nothing sounds better
than notes with air around them.. At other times, for practical reasons,
it will be a mike with a piezo signal added. (If you are an experienced
performer, you probably know what I mean by “practical”)
If I have to go with a piezo signal--either alone, or with a microphone--
I will use a pre-amp or blender to make it sound as warm as possible.
I also like to employ a Fishman Aura that imparts an amazingly authentic acoustic texture to magnetic or piezo pickups.
MANDOLINS AND OTHER INSTRUMENTS
My second instrument is the mandolin. I was very lucky to get a Nugget A around 1986. I got it (previously used)
directly from Mike Kemnitzer (the builder) for $750. Like I said,
I am lucky—it would cost a great deal more now. I got the
bug for Nugget when I saw Tim O’Brien play his A in Hot Rize,
circa 1977. I am the proud owner of a Sheba A made by Gavin Baird to the specs of Peter Ostroushko, my favorite picking partner. I also play a Trillium octave mandolin
made by Robert Abrams, who lives in New Hampshire, and a mandola
made by Brian Dean, who lives in Quebec. Both of
these men make exceptionally fine instruments—I recommend
their craftmanship without any reservations. I also own a Red Valley EM--a wonderful oval hole instrument (with a flat tops and back). Additionally, I have
two banjos--a four string, and a five string--and eight ukuleles( I have ukulele fever these days!), an autoharp, an acoustic/electric
mandolin, and a dulcimer. I have an unusual "Loog" (three nylon strings) that is a great teaching instrument. I also own a fiddle, which is played
mostly in private, thank God. (Sounds like Nigel Tufnel's in the house?)
For amplification, I like both tubes and solid states. For tubes, My main amp is a Tone King Imperial. It's the perfect tube amp for me--versatile, and incredibly well-made and great sounding. I also have a Fender Super Champ X2 which is ideal for smaller venues, and an Egnater Tweaker 40 for when I need more headroom. For solid state, I use an Evans AE100 (made
right here in North Carolina) and the incredibly small and powerful ZT "Lunchbox" which is about the same dimensions as a loaf of bread! For acoustic amplification, I use a Roland AC-60. I also have several other small amps that I use for teaching, recording or occasional gigs.
As far as toys, doo-dads, and stomp boxes go, I have more than enough—let’s
just leave it at that. The two sounds that I like the most are compression and delay.
If you would
like to see a photo of something not pictured here, feel free to