I have spent many years striving to be the best I possibly can be as a singer, guitarist, songwriter and entertainer. To help in these aims I have invested in what I believe are the most appropriate and best available tools of my trade. This is important to me as, on too many occasions, I have seen otherwise great performances spoiled by poor sound quality. I respect my audience and am too conscientious with my work to risk that.
My main guitars are made by George Lowden Guitars Ltd., Downpatrick, Northern Ireland. I've never known more responsive instruments and have never been inspired so much by any other brand of guitar, which leads me to believe they are among the world's most musical guitars.
My April 2013 Lowden O25X is Jumbo sized, six string instrument which has a sound that can only be produced by the AAA solid Red Cedar (top) and AAA solid Indian Rosewood (back and sides) and a little bit of Lowden magic! It is the most used of my guitars and has the battle-scars to prove it. It has the archetypal 'Lowden sound' and is very balanced, rich and warm sounding. It is very much a "Fingerpicker's" guitar and Lowdens are generally regarded to be among the best acoustic "boutique" guitars in the world. I had it specially customised to include a single saddle, rather than Lowden's normal two piece saddle, and Abalone rosette, instead of the standard wooden one. This is the best guitar I have ever owned (and I've owned dozens!).
My May 2016 Lowden O35x is my deam guitar and the closest thing th a 'Bruce Davies Signature Model' if there ever was one. It has a Sinker Redwood top and Madagascar Rosewood back and sides. These woods are regarded as among the best tonewoods in the world and the sound is awesome. As of writing (July 2016), I have yet to take this out to a gig, though I expect to do so as soon as is sensible for such a precious instrument. Tonaly, the Redwood top has much of the rich, mellow, softness of a Cedar top but with the clarity and 'bite' associated with the best Spruce tops. It is also VERY loud! The guitar was specially made for me with some custom changes:- Sinker Redwood instead of standard Redwood top, single saddle instead of Lowden's normal dual saddle, custom clear scratch-plate (to cover an area that I usually manage to damage on the front of a guitar) and 'Dove of Peace' inlay at the 12th fret on the fingerboard.
The volume and mellow sound of both my O25X and O35x embraces, rather than hits you and garners compliments almost every time they're played in public.
My 2009 Lowden O32/12 is a Jumbo sized twelve string guitar. The brightness/clarity of the solid Sitka Spruce top is perfectly blended with the warmth of the solid East Indian Rosewood back and sides. Its huge sound at my gigs has been described as "an orchestra in a box".
When I play a venue for the first time, I usually take my two Lowden six string guitars along and assess which guitar suits the venue acoustics best at my sound check. Both are perfectly suited to any situation but, as I am lucky enough to have the choice, it's good to try both and find which one 'speaks' to me in each particular time and place.
Normally used as a 'High String' or 'Nashville Tuned' guitar is my Recording King RD-227 Dreadnaught Guitar. This is not in the same league as my Lowdens, but is much cheaper and still a very good guitar. With normal stringing, it does exactly what a Dreadnaught should do and I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and a Martin D41! However, it's rarely seen outside of my home studio where it is a superb 'High String' guitar for recording.
In addition, I occasionally use my wife's 2005 Taylor 812CE with Expression System, which I love. However, it's a bit small, physically and in sound for me, although, it records beautifully and responds perfectly to a light touch for lead playing and light picking. I used as the foundation guitar in my recording of "The Way You Look Tonight" and it sounded stunning.
A way of describing the qualities of my contrasting guitars is to say that my Lowdens have an 'expansive', 'embracing' kind of sound (typically 'European'), while the Taylor and Recording King have a more 'compressed', 'punchy' sound (typically 'American').
My Lowden O25X O35X & O32-12 and Recording King RD-227 are fitted with the LR Baggs Anthem SL system. In my opinion, this is the most realistic sounding system available, sounding remarkably smooth and natural. Hear my own demo of this system here.
My wife's Taylor guitar is factory-fitted with the first generation Taylor ES, which, for many years, was the most user friendly system I'd ever experienced. It's still among the finest factory fitted electronics available in my opinion.
I use Elixir Strings on all the guitars. Light gauge on the six strings and light on the twelve string, which is tuned to standard pitch.
My PA system is the Bose PS1 Mark 2, which delivers a sound that is natural and appropriate in any part of a room. It works exceptionally well in everything from the most intimate setting to a hall seating 500-600.
I use the "industry standard" Shure SM58 microphones. I believe they are still the most adaptable, road-worthy mics available for vocals. I also own and occasionally use the "wireless" version of it.
In most amplified situations, I use the Shure PGX wireless system for transmitting my guitar sound to the amplifier. I also have a Shure head worn mic which I use, when necessary, in some gigs (particularly at The Spirit of Scotland Show in Edinburgh).
I mix voice and guitars with a Mackie 1402-VLZ3 Mixer. What can I say about it? It's a Mackie, enough said. Although it includes many onboard effects, I only use a slight amount of reverb (which I control with a foot-switch).
My Takamine EG522SC Nylon Strung Guitar. This is a nice sounding guitar, though so obviously not as stable as my 'good' guitars, but it has certainly played a beautiful part in some of my recording.
Occasionally on my recordings, I play the bass guitar. I have a Yamaha BB 604, which I love. It's a low-mid priced instrument, which they no longer make, and a great example of Yamaha's value for money. I DI it for recording and, for the odd 'live' gigs where I'm the bass player, play it through an Line 6 Lowdown Studio 110 Bass Combo.
At the age of 60, I got my first electric guitar! It's an Epiphone ES-339 with coil-tapping pickups. The pickups make it very versatile for tones that range from a twangy country 'Telecaster' type of sound to the mellowest of Jazz sounds. I've used that on recordings only and can't foresee me using it in 'live' situations.
Also, for recording only, I use my stepson's Dobro. I would never really call myself competent on either Dobro or electric guitars but am happy to expand my palette of musical "tone colours" with them.
In the early 1980's, I was given (on extended loan) a John Grey and Sons Banjo. I have recorded with it and it has occasionally been seen at gigs, but I've heard too many banjo jokes to be interested in using it too often!
I use a very basic Casio keyboard for connecting to the computer for arranging/sequencing using Cubase.
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Blowin' In The Wind