EMAIL THE BEEKEEPER

Gear and Tunings
Updated 09.29.13

 
The purpose of this section is to provide general information
regarding
the various gear and tunings of Richard Thompson.


Answers to specific questions available here.
Please click the 'envelope' icon at the top of the page to submit your question.
 
Well folks, I mainly play on stage a Lowden L32C (L27FC is the old model #, now changed to L32C.) I own a spare of the same model, but with Walnut back/sides and cedar top - used on Old Kit Bag. I also have a baby Lowden, currently in London, so I can't check the model number, and three Ferrington acoustics, and my old Martin 00018, which is a bit bashed about. The main stage guitar has a Sunrise magnetic soundhole pickup, and a Countryman Isomax Condenser Mic in the soundhole. These both run through a 2 channel Gas Cooker Pre-Amp, made by Ridge Farm Studios. The Sunrise also goes through optional effects - a Line 6 Delay Modeller and a UniVibe rotary effect (Dan Armstrong?). From there into the P.A. - RT
 

Photo credit: Neil Emond

 

'59 Sunburst Strat (maple '55 neck - serial #38309)

Since RT was a founding member of Fairport Convention, this Strat was his chief electric guitar, and was the tool used for the harrowing guitar work on '82's Shoot Out the Lights, which Rolling Stone magazine rates as one of the best rock albums of all time. RT purchased it in 1971 on London's Denmark Street, having previously used a mid-'60s Strat.

When I started playing Fenders in 1968, it was unfashionable because everyone in England was playing Gibsons and trying to get a big, fat sound like Eric Clapton had in Cream. I just wanted a little more bite. After ten years the first neck was literally worn out, and replaced with a 1955. The original bridge was another casualty. (See below for 2013 update.)

Photo credit: Ron Slenzak
 

Ferrington Custom Guitar
(with a mixture of pickups)

I like my blue Ferringtoncaster best, although the top string could be louder.

The blue Ferrington has a P90 at the neck, an Alnico Strat in the middle, and a Broadcaster at the bridge. It has a 5 position p/u selector. Each p/u has a volume control, but no tone. In the blend positions, this gives infinite tone combinations between p/us, by backing off the volumes.

Photo credit John Swanda
 
Lowden L32C
(L27FC is old model #, now L32C)

I get confused with the numberings, but I think I play L27FCs, medium body, single cutaway. George Lowden, the founder of the company, has just taken back the rights to Lowden Guitars, after concerns about quality, and his new production line is up and running; I was at the factory in Northern Ireland this summer, and witnessed the first guitars of the new era, and I must say - they are absolutely superb! They will be in short supply for the next couple of years, I suspect, so put your name down early.

Photo credit kellyguitars
  Kellycaster Blackguard
(modified by Bobby Eichhorn)


And fab in a whole other way is the Kellycaster, a 3 pickup Tele-type, which really screams. This guitar was a gift from my guitar tech, Bobby Eichhorn, who used to work at Kelly Guitars.

The specs as far as Bobby remembers are:
Scale is 25 1/2 inch
12 inch Radius
1 inch 5/8 's at the nut
Medium Jumbo frets
I believe an alder body
Swamp Ash is also a very good choice
Your particular Kellycaster has a Strat headstock.
Otherwise it has pretty stock fender measurements.
Pickups: Neck & Bridge are Vintage Tele
Middle Pickup I believe is a Lindy Fralin Strat pickup.

See cover of Front Parlour Ballads.

Photo credit: Ron Slenzak
  Eastman Uptown AR805-CE

Scale Length: 25"
Neck Width at Nut: 1 11/16"
Bracing: X
Body Width: 16"
Back & Sides: Solid Maple
Top: Solid Spruce
Neck: 3-ply Maple
Fingerboard: Ebony
F-Hole with Cutaway & Pickup
 
I bought my hurdy gurdy as a kit from the Early Music Shop in the UK, in the 80s. At the time, it only cost 120 Pounds, I'm sure it's gone up since then. The key box was preformed, and the wheel was cut, but everything else needed some, or a lot of, work. The Early Music Shop rated it as 'difficult' (but not as hard as a harpsichord). It took me well over a year to make it, because I would get frustrated, curse the poor diagrams, and throw it in a drawer for months at a time. Danny Ferrington seriously baled me out on several occasions, sprayed on the lacquer, and cut out the little cutesy moons and stars. I would say, it's not as easy to play as a dulcimer, and far, far harder to keep running. It's crucial that the wheel is revolving accurately, and rosin is required to keep the strings biting properly. Mine is currently suffering from a knock, and the wheel has shifted. If it is possible, geared tuning pegs will save huge amounts of frustration. To play a basic drone and a simple tune (about my level) is not too hard, but to play like Nigel Eaton will take great application and dedication. If you admit defeat, and just hang it on the wall of your living room, it's a fine conversation-piece.
Ferrington custom

This instrument was featured in the asymmetrical coffee table classic,' Ferrington Guitars' (never off MY coffee table) page 67 et seq. Since the book, a third pickup has been added.

Photo credit: Ron Slenzak
Dano

What a poser I am! Sometimes I do photo sessions with a guitar chosen for the colour only, shame, shame. The Dano is an old friend, however. I used it on many tracks on many records , 'Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen' and 'Crawl Back (Under My Stone' spring to mind. I love the baritones and basses too.

Photo credit: Ron Slenzak

Peerless
(manufactured in Korea)

Fred Walecki, who runs my local music haven, Westwood Music, bought up a bunch of the prototypes for this model at a trade show, figuring that the manufacturing standard would probably drop away once the orders were rolling in. The price was v. reasonable, and it sounds terrific; it probably cost a tenth of what you would have to pay for a Gibson Switchmaster.


Photo credit: Roy Layer

Richard Thompson
Signature Model Lowden

Yes, I do own a signature model, and fab it is. Teddy has the prototype.

George Lowden runs the tightest ship in the the acoustic guitar world, plus he has made some of the biggest innovations in recent times, some of which have been liberally copied by other manufacturers. Check out the website - you can even buy my signature model!

McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, CA, has the RT model on sale right now!


Photo credit: B. Eichorn

Attached is a photo of a new guitar I have given Richard as a gift for Christmas. It is a Fender Stratocaster that I spent years collecting and modifing parts to make Richard a guitar that not only played fantastic but was beautiful to look at as well. He already has it and loves it. -B.E. 12.10.08

'57 Fender Stratocaster Reissue
(body painted in a Deep Sonic Blue)

A modified compound radius Fender SRV neck fretted with jumbo narrow crowned frets for better intonation and string bending. Something RT likes to do from time to time! I also have another 2 modified Fender necks I fashiond to the same specs, one soft V neck with a maple fingerboard if RT prefers to swap it out for a brighter tone and the feel of maple. The other one is Rosewood with a slightly larger profile. He can choose when we get around to doing another electric band tour.

Fender Reissue Vintage bridge set up to float with three springs. It is not blocked and when tuned properly to the float it stays in tune quite well. He seemed to enjoy the tremelo but perhaps It may be blocked in the future for the purpose of live performance as he constantly uses alternative tunings. The electronics are an early set of Rio Grande Pickups fitted with pearl tops to match the white pearl pick guard. Pots are CTS 250 meg/S orange drop cap/ Middle pickup is wired open/ Neck and Bridge are wired to the tone control. Basicly a great modern/vintage Strat that wants to be played!

-Bobby Eichorn
RT's Guitar Tech/ Stage Manager, 2.15.09


UK Songwriting Festival
The blue box is the Gas Cooker pre-amp.
The green box is a Line 6 delay unit.
The white box is a Fulltone Deja-Vibe.

Photo: Paul Sudlow
This device is an additional part of the low e string tuner that drops the tuning a whole step down when engaged. This item is available at finer music stores and pretty commonly used for guitar and bass.

Photo: Tom Wasserman
White Telecaster

The white Tele is on loan from Bobby. It has a contoured body and three pickups. I don't have details of the pickups right now.


In addition, Bobby Eichhorn contributes:
"The white tele belongs to Bobby, Richard's guitar tech but I have a feeling it will become a permanent fixture in Richard's collection if he has his way about it!"
Photo: Ross Halfin,
www.rosshalfin.com


Specially commissioned for the Philip Pickett and
Musicians of the Globe
project, Richard's guitar has been made by Daniel Larson, an American luthier and historical string-maker working in Duluth Minnesota. It is based on a fabulous instrument made by Belchior Dias in Lisbon in 1581, now held by the museum of the Royal College of Music in London. Highly regarded by early music specialists worldwide, Dan has made several Renaissance violins and a smaller high-pitch version of the Dias guitar for the Musicians of the Globe. Like all the other instruments being used by the Musicians of the Globe for this programme of ballads, the guitar is pitched at A = 392, a whole tone below modern pitch.

Following his brief tour with Musicians of the Globe in Nov/Dec 2010, Richard said:

It's a whole different feel, gut-strung with very light tension, 8 strings in four courses, tuned like the top 4 strings of the guitar, but up a fourth (but then down a tone, being in early pitch, i.e. A = 392). A beautiful sound, best played finger-style. I thought it worked with the lute and bandora, being higher than both. That instrument is owned by Phil Pickett, and if I asked him nicely, he might let me borrow it for some future recording project!
I bought this guitar in London in about 1971, I forget the seller's name, but he was a guitar repairer and maker. He said that McGuinn had broken the neck on this particular instrument, and left it in the UK. The seller had repaired the neck, and sold it to me for a modest sum, around 100 quid, I think. Somewhere in '71 or '72, I broke the neck again, and left it in Fairport's lockup, or Sandy's lockup, and wasn't able to pick it up for six months or so.

Trevor Lucas found it in one of said lockups, asked whose it was and couldn't get an answer, so took it and decided it was now his, Being a handy woodworker, he put on a new neck, strangely out of oak, not a first choice guitar material, and put on the machine head configuration that you see in the picture.

I was round at Sandy's one day, and there was Trevor with what looked like my guitar. When I said that I thought it was mine, and had left it in the lockup, he was apologetic, and handed over the guitar. I thanked him for the fine repair! I used it on a bunch of recordings - 'Rise Up like The Sun', 'Henry the Human Fly', etc. I think Linda sold it when we got divorced.
Yin & Yang Telecasters

After a long and fierce negotiation Richard Thompson has managed to acquire both Yin & Yang, a pair of Telecasters formerly owned by his former friend and longtime Tech & Stage Manager Bobby Eichorn.

It is rumored that during negotiations Mr. Thompson suggested that Mr. Eichorn part with the tele's or he would be fired (Again), his girlfriend would be stolen, (Again) and if the deal was not sealed by 12 noon of December 1st Thompson's longtime bodyguard Nunzio Rigatoni would be called in to perhaps break a leg or two.

Thompson claims Eichorn is over reacting and the statement was nothing more than a show biz term wishing him luck in the negotiations.

Although these and many other rumors cannot be confirmed at this time, It is now clear that Mr. Thompson has acquired the Telecasters!
RT's new "Guerrilla Assault"

touring/studio rig designed by Bobby Eichorn to
simplify and create an all in one solution for Richard.

Bobby Eichorn: Pedals include a vintage modified DOD FX17 Volume/Wah/ TC Polytune/ Fulltone OCD/ TC Shaker Vibrato/ Malekko Tremelo/ TC Flashback Delay/ Voodoo Lab Power Supply.

The case began as a custom order light weight ATA quality uncut foam filled case. The pedal board was made by Bobby as well as the cutouts for the instrument and pedal board. The weight of RT's case including Guitar & Pedal board is 32 lbs. but will vary depending on the Guitar and choice of effects.

A limited amount of these custom designed cases will be available from Bobby. For more information contact Bobby at necessary1@aol.com

RT's coral colored Strat was made as a surprise for the 2012 Cayamo Cruise.

Bobby says judging by RT's grin of approval we should be seeing a lot more of this guitar.

Bobby assembles really great Fender-ish guitars, and sometimes I get in early and get to choose before anyone else. He already had the red strat body, and I felt I had to have an intimate relationship with it.

RT's new touring pedalboard!

Hi Folks, I designed this pedal board as an all in one solution and is used for certain studio dates, fly dates, Cayamo boat shows etc and also serves as a spare to his new main touring board. I will post a shot of his main board for all you need to know gear heads out there! Cheers, Bobby Eichorn

The resurrection of RT's old 55/59 Stratocaster!

The guitar has been restored by Richard's long time tech and stage manager Bobby Eichorn and is now ready for another 50 plus years of action.

Bobby Eichorn: The scary process of getting the old nut off without damage to the neck took several hours but was successful an over abundance of epoxy style glues were used...What were they thinking? Frets were redressed and crowned.

New but relic'd compensated bridge/New but relic'd pick guard/ custom cut bone nut/ complete modern control cavity shielding/aged pick guard screws/pick up hight adjustment grommets etc.

Because the volume pot knob they replaced in the 70's is a solid shaft it is hard to get a stock knob to fit.I found a tone knob that almost matches the old knobs and used that. I have also aged the new nut a bit so it looks the part of a 59'. As you can now see the string do not hang off the edge of the fretboard as they did and the feel is still very natural.

I have tried to leave everything as original as possible including pickups, both tone pots, 3 position switch, caps and even most soldering joints. Everything I have done is undoable as I have kept originality in mind for maintaining future value. I can not undo some of the changes performed by others in the past but I have repaired them. I had to re solder the pickup/bridge ground wiring as well as the volume pot to switch wiring as the volume was acting like a tone control instead on a volume. I have put the old mismatched screws, pick guard, back plate, grommets etc. in a package to keep just the same. I will leave the back cavity exposed because it looks cool and makes string change easier. Thanks for your kind words folks.

You might be aware that this late 1959 when new almost definitely had a maple/rosewood fingerboard. Also suggested by it's original 59' 11 hole pick guard shield and screw holes in the body that was under the former non original 1970's single ply white 8 hole pick guard this was the way to go. Same pickups and electronics.

Zak Hobbs: Work included removing the 1984 two point modern trem bridge for a reliced bridge. 50's style strap buttons were put in place too. The neck/fret and nut needed serious attention. Missing screws were also replaced and copper shielding was put in place to reduce hum. It's expected to make its debut at "hardly strictly" the other sunburst strat you've seen recently is his 66 rosewood board.

 
RT's latest guitar addition from Bobby Eichorn.

A blond on blond ash body with a birds eye maple neck. This guitar has been nicknamed "Pearly Jim" for obvious reasons. Although the electronics are similar, this guitar is a brighter, cleaner and sweeter sounding alternitive to "Big Red" Richard's main stage guitar of choice at the moment.