Electric Guitar

Q: What's with all the electric guitars? I see nine(!) electrics and only one acoustic listed on the website.

A: I went through a period of "burn out" on acoustic guitar, after several years of trying to balance recording and performing with my full-time job as a high school teacher and raising a young family. In 2010, I decided to take a short break from playing music, and although I'd originally planned to step away for just a few months, it ended up stretching out to a few years where I barely touched a guitar.

Once I started playing again, it was difficult to avoid falling back into the same routines that led to the burn out. Every time I picked up an acoustic, I started writing songs and thinking about recording again, and it was hard to step back and just play for fun. So I switched to playing electric guitar, and there was suddenly no pressure to record or perform—and that freedom from expectations (mostly my own) allowed to to play strictly for enjoyment.

I actually started out on electric guitar back when I was 14 years old, and spend a lot of time playing in rock and blues bands in high school and college. I was still primarily an electric player up until the mid/late 90's, when I started focusing on being a singer-songwriter and then an instrumental fingerstyle player.

So when I started playing electric again, I started acquiring multiple guitars to cover a variety of styles/tones, and it just got a little out of hand. I certainly don't need nine different electric guitars, but it's fun to have a variety to play. And I'm fine with being more of a collector than a player these days.

Q: Any plans to focus on acoustic fingerstyle guitar again?

A: Not at this time... but you never know. Right now, I'm thoroughly enjoying the electrics, and playing just for my own amusement. I think part of the reason I'm able to enjoy it so much is that it's so different from playing acoustic fingerstyle (for example, I almost always use a pick when playing electric). There's no temptation to take myself too seriously, and I'm branching out into new styles that bring back the wonder of learning something new.

Q: What kind of music do you play on electric guitar?

A: Most of the time, I'm playing blues and jazz. I'm very comfortable playing blues, since it was the first style I learned and I carried those influences throughout most of the years I spent playing in bands, etc.

Jazz, on the other hand, is totally out of my comfort zone. I'm still just a beginner, so there's plenty to learn—which keeps things interesting for me. I enjoy learning new things, and starting to play jazz is challenging not only because I'm learning new chords and sclaes on the guitar, but also because it's expanding my overall knowledge of music theory.

I'm leaning mostly toward smooth jazz (I love the guitar tones, and the funk/blues/pop influences make it very accessible for a jazz newbie), and chord-melody arrangements of standards like Autumn Leaves, Summertime, Fly Me to the Moon, etc. I'm still acquiring a taste for the purer forms of jazz.

Q: What electric players influenced your playing?

A: The single biggest influence on my playing—and the electric player I've most enjoyed listening to for almost forty years—is Mark Knopfler. I love his tone, and his phrasing is always so tasteful and instantly recognizable. I don't sound much like Knopfler, but I admire his playing and try to incorporate some elements of his style without directly imitating it.

Other rock players that I enjoy listening to tend to share common characteristics—in particular, a big, clean, warm, glassy Stratocaster tone with reverb and a laid-back style. For example, I love the work James Calvin Wilsey and Hershel Yatovitz did as part of Chris Isaak's Silvertones, and Robbie Blunt's playing with Robert Plant. I could listen to songs like "Wicked Game," "I Wonder," and "Big Log" all day long. I also really enjoy Jimi Hendrix's playing on his slower/cleaner tunes.

For blues, my earliest influence was Eric Clapton... which led me to discover the three Kings (Albert, Freddie, and B.B.). In the late 80's, I started listening to a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robert Cray. A more recent player that I really enjoyed was Michael Burks, who often reminded my of Albert King.

When it comes to jazz, the first players I listened to were Wes Montgomery, Larry Carlton, George Benson, and Lee Ritenour. When I started paying more attention to smooth jazz, I gravitated toward Chuck Loeb, Ronny Jordan, Norman Brown, Paul Brown, and Chris Standring in particular—but generally, I just fell in love with the tone of hollowbody or semi-hollow guitar with a warm, clean neck humbucker.

Q: Any plans to record on perform on electric guitar?

A: Nope. Partly because I want to keep playing for fun, without any of the expectations or pressure that go along with being a more "seroius" player. But also because I'm simply not good enough as an electric player. My blues playing is passable, but nothing special. My jazz playing is... well, let's just call it emerging. :)

Q: Why so many similar hollow/semi-hollow electric guitars?

A: I think it's just an addicition. :)

I started with the Ibanez AS93FM, because I wanted a 335-style guitar without the price tage of the actual Gibson. I was impressed enough with that one to add the Ibanez AF95FM to give me a full hollowbody to go along with the semi-hollow. I could have stopped there, but I kept findinding reasons (or, more precisely, justifications) to add more to the collection.

The next addition was the Ibanez LGB30, which is a hollowbody with a spruce top&giving it a different sound then the AF95. Then I picked up the Ibanez GB10SE because it was a small-bodied hollow guitar with floating mini-humbuckers, which gave it a very different sound than any of the others.

To round out the Ibanez collection (or so I thought at the time), I got an AM93QM, which is a small-bodied semi-hollow (similar to a Gibson 339)—since I didn't have one of those in the collection yet.

Then I had an opportunity to pick up a Guild T-50, which is a slim-bodied hollowbody guitar with a P90 pickup and a big acoustic sound. It quickly became one of my favorites to play—especially if I'm playing late at night and don't want to play through an amp.

The latest acquisition is the Ibanez AS113, a new model for 2022. It's a 335-style semi-hollow with a spruce top and upgraded appointments, so I had to add that to the collection as well.

In addition to the hollowbody/semi-hollow guitars, I own a pair of Fenders— a Strat and a Tele.

Q: What amps and effects do you use?

A: For amps, I currently own a Fender Tone Master Twin Reverb and a DV Mark Jazz 12. Both are very lightweight amps with great clean tones. The Tone Master Twin is a fantastic digital modeling clone of the classic tube amp, without the weight and the tube maintenance. The DV Mark Jazz 12 is a little darker sounding, and nails the traditional jazz tone.

I'm almost exclusively a guitar-straight-to-the-amp guy, although I have a strong preference for amps with spring reverb. I'll also use tremolo occasionally if it's built into the amp. I play clean almost all the time as well, although every once in a while I'll get in the mood to use overdrive for blues.

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