How to get that Smooth Jazz tone


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Use what Earl uses?

Brian: Talk about your guitar and gear.

Earl: I’m pretty straightforward. I have a really decent collection of pretty nice classical guitars. I have a couple of guitars made by David Rubio. He made instruments in the ’60s for Julian Bream. I have two Velasquez guitars, which I really love. I’ve recorded with one of them probably more than any other instrument. I did my first four albums with it, and I’ve used it periodically right up through everything else.

On the road there are several guitars I use. For about eight years now I’ve been using guitars made by Del Langejans, he’s out of Holland, Michigan. He’s primarily a steel string builder and they’re really nice instruments. When traveling I take a couple of instruments, because a lot of times they get banged around, the electronics. I want to make sure something works when I show up. I have to check at least one guitar all the time.

I was having problems with this, so I spoke with him and he was able to build some really road-worthy guitars that sound great through pickups in an amplified setting, but at the same time were sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of the road. I’ve never had a problem with any of his instruments, so that has worked well for me. He was kind enough to listen to my particular situation and build some instruments that work for me, and they work well. I’ve got about five of his instruments and I always take two on the road. They’re equipped with L R Baggs pickups.

Also, the person I’ve had even a longer association with, dating back to the late Eighties, is Paul McGill out of Nashville. He’s a great builder too. He specializes in classical guitars. He’s a fine builder, one of the best. I have eight or ten of his instruments. We’re good friends and he builds instruments specifically for me.

One of his instruments I have equipped with a McLish pickup. It’s totally a classical guitar with no modifications. I use it quite often, and I try to take it on the airplane with me. Even when it’s amplified it has no amplified tone to it. Especially when I do the trio shows, that’s what I use. The guitar is just more exposed and I need that fullness of sound.

In the past I’ve used Takamine guitars, which are great; they work wonderfully. I was lucky. I got one in Japan many years ago, a beautiful instrument. I’d travel with that. Now I keep it at home.

I use D’Addario strings. I really like them.


It's all about practicing the correct technique. And I'm still working on getting the right results. Gear is secondary.

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