Instruments and Gear
In each update to my site I endeavour to add to the information here.
So, what do I use?
My primary instrument is the guitar, and although I have a selection including a Vintage Gibson SG style one, a Squire Telecaster (handed down to my daughter), a Fender GA-43SCE electro-acoustic (Hank Marvin Signature Series) a Burns 40th Anniversary Hank Marvin Signature Series, and the Hank Marvin Signature Series Fender Stratocaster (the last three also being hand signed by the man himself), my main choice is the Stratocaster. My main workhorse is a Burns King Cobra for use live on stage, although I still use a choice of two Mexican models; both cutomised by me. More recently, I've invested in a used Revelation RJT-60:
The main guitar I use now is the Burns King Cobra. Although it looks and feels similar to a stratocaster, the tone is unique to those 60s days. It produces a warmer sound and maintains a nice low end, even on the thinner strings, but also adds power and definition to the overall sound (if that makes sense). It copes effortlessly with todays' modern sounds too, and can really kick when overdriven. The neck is very slightly narrower than the strat, but it doesn't take long to get used to it. I rarely put this down now on stage, and it has become my main workhorse, saving my trusty Fiesta Red Strat for those authentic nights of instrumentals. However, don't get me wrong, this baby can realy reproduce the Shadows sound too; sometimes better.
The latest guitar I've invested in is the Revelation RJT060. I like the tone of the guitars in The Mavericks and Matchbox, and wanted to have the tools to reproduce these sounds. Research led me to the Silvertone guitars and then the Revelation guitars. I know someone who bought a new Fender Jazzmaster a while ago, and he was always having tuning and buzzing problems from the bridge assembly (not to mention the hole in his wallet), so I broke the mould again and looked for another make, hence the Revelation RJT-60. It wasn't that old and needed new strings and setting-up, but the tones available from this guitar were just what I was looking for. The added bonus with this guitar, apart from its classic appearance and playability, was the addition of the tone-shaping knob. This enables a further 5 tones from each pickup selection. This makes it a very versatile guitar; ideal for my music styles. It is usually a spare on stage, but I'm starting to use it more regularly now; giving the Burns a rest every now and then.
The main Strat is in the classic vintage fiesta red, which I bought with chrome hardware and a standard maple neck. I changed all the hardware to gold, fitted a white pearl-effect scratchplate housing the Kinman noiseless pickups (Hank Marvin set with wiring mods, of course) and replaced the neck with the custom flame maple one, which was originally fitted to my second Startocaster (got it at the standard price for free, compliments of Fender making a mistake). Some setting-up with 10 gauge gold strings and intonation adjustment and she sings like the real Hank model.
I strugghle to put this one down because it feels and sounds so authentic. But when it comes to saving the frets, the vintage tone, and I want something to hammer-out heavier stuff, I swap for the second Stratocaster.
Now this one has been through several changes. As mentioned above, it came new from the Live Music Exhibition that used to be held at the NEC with a custom flame maple neck fitted. When I said I wanted it they called the Fender CBS chap over from America, who admitted that this should not have been fitted to a standard Mexican Stratocaster, but a price was displayed and they had to abide to it. Result!
In short, the neck was beautiful to play and looked amazing in the light. But it was swapped with the one above and this one still plays and feels natural to me.
As for the electrics, well, a burgandy pearl-effect scratchplate with three vintage Wilkinson pickups was tried. Then a couple of Wilkinson twin humbuckers were tried (see the Photos section) on a white scratchplate. Now, as seen here, I've gone for a black scratchplate housing three slightly overwound chrome pickups, but controlled by Brian May style switching with one volume and one tone pot.
As for sound, it gives me all the tones I need from 60s through to modern cleans, and when required, some awesome overdriven sustain (just right for Parisienne Walkways). A great all-rounder but keeping that 'feel' that I like.
On the acoustic side of things, for live use I have a Gear4Music Deluxe Roundback Electro-acoustic in Flamed Maple. Admittedly, it was a relatively inexpensive guitar intended to absorb the rigours of gigging. Plus I thought it looked nice. After some setting-up and tweaking the factory settings it plays like an electric with a nice thin neck. The tones are fairly acceptable, but played through my Fender Acoustasonics amp it sounds great, and the built-in tuner is very handy on stage. Then I came across the Ibanez AW20ASE-NT Exotic Wood Series guitar, Almost new condition, but had been professionally set up. I got it for an absolute bargain complete with hard case and leather strap. This is now my main acoustic, which sounds amazing and looks good too.
Due to the differing genres of music I play, I need a great array of effects. For this I used the Boss GT-6 Guitar Effects Processor, which I've had for years now. Not only does it give a great selection of effects and control, but I connect it up via MIDI to my rack-mounted Alesis Quadraverb, which is programmed with the "Echos From The Past" sounds that were produced for Hank Marvin to replicate his vintage echoes. Armed with this pair of beauties I can replicate almost any guitar sound, but my favourites will always be the Hank Marvin & The Shadows tones, which these reproduce with easy.
The GT-6 was superseded by the GT-10 and the Quadraverb remained in the rack, but only there as a spare. The GT-10 has improved delays and reverbs allowing me to reproduce the Hank echoes good enough for live use, as well as the other features like a sound-hold function and a looper. It's slightly bigger than the GT-6, but it is more user-friendly with less knobs to catch by accident, and a larger display with bright LEDs showing the selected effects. Also, as I don't connect it to the Quadraverb, there's less cables to trip over.
And now I have the GT-100, which blows the other two predecessors away big time, although I still have all three. This one sounds more natural and has additional features, but I've now removed the Quadraverb from the rack. It's been replaced by my old Zoom 1204 Effects Unit for more variation with vocal reverb and delay effects via the PA mixer.
Finishing of my live gear on the guitar front, I use the Fender Mustang III V2 modelling amplifier. It kicks out a maximum of 100 watts, if required (not by me though), and with its numerous amp models and effects available onboard, I can get a mix of nice clean modern sounds, classic vintage Vox sounds and some really dirty ones when required. It's very light, compact and versatile, and looks vintage too. I usually link it through my PA too so that I can balance the sound through my in-ear monitors. That way, whatever balance I hear is reflected out front too. I look forward to using it in the future with recording my backing tracks.
And for the acoustic, I used the Fender Acoustasonic Junior. This 80 watt, stereo twin 8" speaker amp is very versatile and sounds nice and clean. I have played MP3s and other music through it, as well as mics and a rhythm box, and it never failed. I've even used this as an electric guitar amp when gigging in Cyprus (name dropper!) and it performed well.
However, after many years of use, I've just replaced the Junior with the Fender Acoustasonic 40. It's half the power of the Junior, but 1/4 the weight. It still has two independent channels and has a digital reverb and a line out socket. It sounds great and loud on its own, but when played through my PA this sounds awesome. Even wit a drum machine through it, the resulting PA sound is exactly what I hoped for.
Other than the occassional use of a Line-6 XD-V30 wireless unit for the guitar for those places where cables get in the way, this sums up my guitar set-up.
Okay. Onto outboard gear/PA. Having litterally putting my back out (and still suffering the side effects from the operation) from using active RCF 12" + horn tops with a heavy 15" sub (the culprit), I had no option but to go lighter on the PA front. Luckily, I came across Yamaha's range of active speakers and purchased a pair of DBR12s. These HD quality sound speakers, rated at 465 watts rms each, were perfect for most set-ups, and only weigh 15.9 kgs each. Easy to transport and lift onto tripods, these have proved their worth and sound great with plenty of undistorted power, both with solo/duo set-ups and with our sould band.
However, this year I've had the demand to play in larger venues, so rather than push the Yamahas too hard, I've invested in a pair of Samson Auro D1200 powered bass bins. Yes, I know, what about your back I hear you say (and as repeated by my understanding wife)? Well, these each kick out 700 watts of decent bass, but only weigh 19 kgs each. Yes, that's a 3 kilowatt rig that only weighs a total of 69.8 kgs!!! I naturally tried them together in store (thanks to PMT of Cambridge) before deciding on the purchase, and even the salesman was impressed with the power and quality (and that wasn't just the sales pitch). The only problem is avoiding the temptation to use them all the time. At least the bas guitar and kick drum come through well now with Soul Intention.
For mixing, I use a Behringer Xenyx 1832USB, which has built-in effects with footswitch on/off control (very handy). Some people don't rate Behringer too highly, but I have never had any problems with them. If I do, they're cheap enough to buy another to repace them. This model also has compressor controls on the six XLR input channels, which also make a big difference.
This mixer is secured in a rack system, together with the Alesis Quadraverb unit above, a Behringer Ultragraph Pro 15 channel stereo graphic equaliser with built-in feedback eliminator, a powerbank and a slide-out tray for mouse, spare batteries, song lists and a pint of beer.
The mixer is connected with the graphic equaliser to eliminate the unwanted frequencies during live set-up sound checks.
For recording, I use a Yamaha PSR 9000 Keyboard, which is an excellent workstation, even if a bit dated by today's standards. I usually download basic midi files, strip them down to a time signature, and reconstruct them with my own sounds, arrangements and styles, with the aid of a Dell laptop with Waveform 8 installed. The only downside with the keyboard is using good old floppy discs to transfer files to/from the laptop.
Occasionally I utilise the Tascam DP01 FX hard disc recorder too, which has some good effects for electric, acoustic and bass guitars. This is particularly useful when recording live guitar parts and vocals, however, I can also do this directly to the Waveform software.
The final MP3 mix is balanced using MP3 Gain software, before loading into my Winamp playback software. In addition to Winamp, I use a plug-in called Vivid Lyrics, which with some self recording, adds lyrics to the laptop screen with a scrolling leader.
My current laptop is an DELL Inspiron 5570 loaded with 8 Gb RAM and a 1 Tb hard drive, which performs brilliantly with no interference through the PA via the headphone socket, not like some do.
Lighting on stage comprises of a selection of LED spots and bars either stand-mounted or floor stood to suit the venue, but I mostly use the bars. These are LEDJ units and give an impressive amount of light output. I have some additional cheaper LED spots, but they are used to add extra light mainly when I support other bands like The Orange Rhinos.
All the stage lights are DMX linked to my Dell laptop via a Velleman K8062 interface (came as a kit from Maplins) and controlled with FreeStyler DMX software. Some of the light shows are synchronised to the music, which takes a lot of patience and time, but looks impressive in the end.
The main synch'd light show is my Hank Marvin tribute introduction, where the lights flash along to the theme from Thunderbirds, but I do other instrumentals like Live And Let Die, which also have their own light show.
Add to these a complete disco set-up with a range of different lighting and a haze machine, and I can cater for most events.
Moving onto my 'stay at home' gear that very rarely leaves the house, I have a trio of guitars that are all Hank Marvin Signature Series ones, and have been physically signed by the man himself at his tour concerts. The first is a Mexican Fiesta Red Stratocaster (only 500 made), the second is a 40th Anniversary White Burns Marvin (only 2004 made), and the third is a Black Fender Electroacoustic (only 500 made). The latter I use at home mainly for recording my backing tracks. All are collectors items and are well insured! Sometimes they come out to play if I do a dedicated Hank Marvin Tribute gig.