Q&A re: Gear and Tunings

Updated July
19, 2010
5/5/10 I know you use 008s on your electrics... as a bassist who learned guitar as a second instrument I pull them out of tune simply fretting a chord... but: because I've spent lots of time listening to the likes of you and Martin Carthy and Bert Jansch, I decided to add in CGDGBE to my tuning repertoire. Aside from the usual learning curve, it's working well for me. Still, on my guitars (primarily a well maintained 1982 57 reissue strat), a set of standard 010s or 011 is more than a little flabby on the C and the G... even with the suggested additional windings on the peg. Playing with a thumb pick, as I do, has had me venture into heavier strings for the low end... which has helped. My question simply is: how do you do it? (is your touch really that light? 'cos when I watch you play, it doesn't seem so)... and have you experimented with heavier gauges on the 5th and 6h string?
I use 008s, 009s and 010s on electric, and 012s on Jazz guitars. It depends on the instrument and what you want to do with it. I like to do whole tone double stop bends, which require something lighter, but you do need a light touch with both hands to keep it all in tune. Coming from the bass, you've probably got arms like a blacksmith, so 010s will feel very thin. You have to be careful not to go too light on top and heavy on the bottom, or you upset the volume balance of the instrument.
What is the tuning on "Hope You Like The New Me"? So far I've tried tuning the A string up to a B (to make the bass pattern simpler to play), but I'm not sure that's all there is to it yet.. Thanks!! PS- finally saw Richard (and Loudon) for the first time ever at Goucher college in Baltimore this past Oct 13th...definitely one of the best guitar / singing performances I've ever witnessed! Ha! Nevermind... I think i just figured it out! In addition to tuning the A string up, I also tuned the D string up to an E (which makes it EBEGBE) and it worked for the entire song! Thanks anyway, but please let me know if this isn't the same tuning.. it's working for me, though... Thanks, Alex

I play it in drop D, capo 2. In this tuning, it's comfortable to play the harmonics and reach the fretted notes.
If you were forced to buy a brand new Fender Stratocaster - is there a particular model in their current production line, or from their custom shop, that you have experience with that you would consider employing?
Please look at the Gear and Tunings page on this website - the penultimate entry shows the Strat the Bobby Eichorn assembled for me, with a description of the parts. This is a very good guitar that suits me well. You could go to the custom shop and tell them all the things you like, and get something made up. The quality of the components would be higher than stuff off the assembly line, I’m sure.
3/6/10 When you use a whammy bar, is it screwed so it is tight to the body so you can only "wham" down? or is screwed looser so you also can "wham" up? if so, how much? one whole tone, half tone? do you (also) "wham" by bending the guitar neck?
Yes, I keep it screwed mostly down, and only glide down. Occasionally, I bend the neck - still not sure if this is kind to the guitar.
I've seen pictures of your old Stratocaster and noticed that the neck pickup, especially under the bass strings, is screwed down very low/far from the strings. How come? Best regards, Jim.
The magnetic pull from the p/u was causing the 6th string to play sharp.
Re: Damn those Dano's! That Dano your pictured with on the site looks like one of the "Convertible" models - Hard to tell from the way your standing. If it is, any tips on keeping it tuned/intonated from one second to the next? Those darn cheesy "floating bridges" a la Danelectro...I love my Covertible but for this....any awesome luthier to the star mods being done? Thanks! Michael Krebs
Being in tune is not a virtue of the Dano range. New tuning pegs help a lot, and I have yet to modify the bridge, but it must be done by someone.
I saw you recently in Portland, OR, and was blown away by your performance. Thanks! Question - do you ever play guitars live or in the studio that contain humbucker pickups? Or are you strictly a single coil player? If so why? Dan Sekerak, Oregon City, OR
I have a humbucker or two, but I seem to prefer single coil. No real prejudice against them.
3/3/10 On the recent band tour, you mainly relied on a Strat with a rosewood fretboard. I know the details of the guitar from Beesweb, but can you tell us how using the Strat on this tour affected your playing, and how you chose when you would swap the Strat out for another electric guitar?
The blue Strat is a little darker tonally than my other guitars, but has a lot of punch, and having been noodling with it before the tour, it seemed most comfortable to play. The Ferrington has a wider, flatter neck, and is the only electric I have that can be reliably capoed, so it was used in that role. I used the Kellycaster for a bit more top end on 'Sidney Wells'.
To get even more pedantic on guitar choices - at the last show of the tour, you used the Strat on "Sidney Wells", instead of the Tele you'd been using for that song. May I ask why?
Because the p/us on the Blue Strat are so loud, I really need to adjust the amp settings to go to the Kelly, and I felt I needed more time to get those right.
1/15/10 Attended the "Loud and Rich" performance at Royce Hall last Friday. Was particularly captivated by Sunset Song...just mesmerizing Is the tuning available? Thank you for all the wonderful music. Rene Ayala
The tune and TAB will be available in the RT songbook, now due around late February.
Do you like Fender's Jaguar and Jazzmaster guitars ? They are my fetish and i think their sound might suit you ...
I like the sound, but hate the bridges.
- what software do you use for home recording? have you tried Steinberg's guitar rig? AMILCAR AMARANTE
I don't use any guitar software, just record amps. I use Digital Performer recording system.
You use a finger style technique where you use a flat pick between your thumb and forefinger and then fingerpick with the remaining fingers. What is the advantage of using this technique rather than just using the standard style of finger picking? Thanks, Gene Ruminski
You can go seamlessly from flatpick to fingerstyle, and even though it's counter-intuitive, you can up-and-down flatpick while using your other fingers to play other things. This is impossible with any other technique.
What kind of guitar did your father play? What was your first guitar? What was your first "serious" guitar?
My Dad had an f hole arch top up in the attic - I only saw it once at our old house in Ladbroke Crescent, so I was 5 at the most. To my young ears, it sounded fabulous, but it was probably something like a Hofner. When we moved that year, 1955, it was sold, I think. Serious guitar? How serious? My Hofner V3 was serious at the time, and so was my Gibson 175D.
What does your home studio set-up consist of? (One would imagine that you have a state-of-the-art system with Pro-Tools or something similar plus tech assistance from Simon.) As a self-proclaimed "techno-neutral" do you enjoy recording at home? Did you find the learning curve on the Mac to be steep? Douglas Alan Feinstein
My system is minimal, and my space is tiny - basically 8 x 8, but I can use the guest house if I need to spread out. I use Digital Performer, a bit more user-friendly than ProTools. I have a nice Peluso P12 copy of a C12, a couple of Russian large diaphragm condensers, and a pair of Neumann 184s for guitar/mandolin. I have a Universal Audio mike pre/limiter, and a few other bits and pieces. If I was going to mix at home I'd have more outboard gear.
On the recent Spectacle show, I see that he is using a beautiful sonic blue Fender Telecaster with three pickups, and an extra toggle switch. This guitar appears to have his favorite combination of neck P90, bridge tele, and strat middle pickups. Do you mind giving details of the particular pickups, as well as the custom wiring?Thanks kindly, Gary Carr
The guitar was borrowed from guitar tech Bobby Eichhorn. He says:

The Pickups are all Kent Armstrong


Bridge/Vintage Hot TL4R

Wiring is standard 5 position switch: 1 Bridge, 2 Bridge/Mid, 3 Mid, 4 Neck /Mid, 5 Neck.
Toggle switch engaged/ Position 1 Neck/Bridge, Position 2 all 3 pickup active.

Folks who are not familiar with Kent, Back in the day when Bill Lawrence had his shop in NYC, (Perhaps Bill was the first one offering his own boutique replacement pickups at that time as well as repairing and rewinding pickups) there were 2 guys working for Bill in that shop, One was Larry Dimarzzio and the other was Kent Armstrong!

11/7/09 I recall in 'Solitary Life' that you record at home. Now, be honest, do you ever use Autotune, even just to tidy up a recording?
To be honest, I don't possess Autotune.
How do you improvise solos, do you use specific keys or modes or something like that? Dan Part
This is a big subject, not easily broached here. I’d recommend a book like Getting Started With Improvisation by Ned Bennet. It's amazing how few classical musicians can improvise, and how surprised they are that I can't sight-read The Rite Of Spring.
How did you get the quasi-sitar sound heard on 'Book song' from Fairport's second LP - a piece of ivory in front of the bridge/underneath the strings, just like a real sitar, maybe? Max Cuthbert
Not so much of the quasi, Mr. Cuthbert. Just like a real sitar? How about a REAL SITAR?? I took sitar lessons for a while ('67 - '68), in a class with Andy Somers - well, you had to, didn't you? Our teacher was Nazir Jaurasboy (sp) of London University Dept. of Oriental Studies. He had house concerts at the weekends, featuring all the cream of Indian touring musicians, which were stunning, and really stayed with me.
I'm looking forward, patiently ... very patiently.... to the release of the songbook but the thing I'm really after right now won't be in it....I'm usually ok at working out melody by ear but, for some reason, am completely stumped trying to work out your mandolin solo on John Martyn's "Over the Hill". There's a geezer at my local pub session, in Sheffield, who does a great rendition of the song and is desperate for me to play mandolin on it. Any chance of some tab or even a pointer or two? Cheers! Mark Pugh, Sheffield
I'm not set up for mandolin TAB just now. If I remember, I was playing a simple riff based on a C chord. 1st finger, 2nd fret 3rd string, and 2nd finger, 3rd fret 2nd string. Keeping the first finger still, lift the second finger leaving the 2nd string open, playing the 6th part of the chord, and fret it at the 5th fret, 2nd string, playing a 9th part of the chord. Sounds way more complex than it is.
10/6/09 How do you maintain a dependably firm grip on the plectrum when your right hand gets sweaty? (Given your use of teardrop jazz style picks one would imagine this to be especially important during an uptempo tune like Valerie.) Have you ever lost your grip on a pick during a show, and if so, how did you handle the situation given your droll sense of humor?
Some embossing helps. I used to get Gibsons, with the maker's name on one side, and with my signature on the other - excellent! They don't do those any more, so now I use Fenders, only embossed on one side - not so good. Sometimes I do drop picks, and the choice is whether to carry on fingerstyle or grab for the nearest spare, in pocket (solo tour) or on mic stand (band tour). Neither is perfect, but may elicit guffaws from the crowd, and help to generate a relaxed air of bonhomie.
I saw Richard at the Kate Wolf festival this past June. I've seen him several times over the years and it was the highlight of the festival to see him again.

This prompted me learn (or re-learn) several of his tunes. I had a pretty decent acoustic version of "I Can't Wake Up". What seemed to work best was CGDGBE. I was wondering if this is what he plays it in. I'm asking because, with the advent of YouTube, I spotted an electric performance he did on TV in the UK a while back. The key was the same, but I would have expected to see a capo for it to work the way I do it. Is the Strat tuning different from the Lowden? Thanks, Paul Henry S.

Acoustically, I did play in CGDGBE. On electric I was in standard tuning.
Hello Richard,
I have an inane gearhead question that I've been wondering about for a while. I have been a big fan since I first saw you with Danny Thompson in the early 90's. (I think the opening act was Chris Smither in Portsmouth, NH. Great double bill.) Having heard the rarities and many different acoustic recordings on the last box set, I was wondering if your guitar tech/sound person raises the pole pieces of your Sunrise on the first three strings to make your lead parts on those strings stand have a little more volume in live performance. I have had a Sunrise since 1979 and with it set up like Kaufmann suggests in order to have a balanced response across the strings, I have difficulty getting the melody notes to articulate as clearly and prominently as you do. Or is simply your right hand technique that accomplishes this. Sorry for the boring gearhead question, Charlie Ortolani
I have adjusted the pole pieces on Sunrise pickups to suit different guitars. You have to trust your ears, I think, and do whatever makes it in balance for you.
Since you use many fingers on the right hand when you play, how come you use a flat pick instead of finger picks? How did you develop that style?
I learned flatpicking and fingerpicking, and would forget to put the pick down when switching.
My last question. How did you develop your rhythm playing? If I'm not totally wrong you often play few strings and don't strum all of them.
Thanks again. All the best, Thomas
I don't strum much, mostly hybrid flat/fingerpick for rhythm.
Is there any chance of the tuning/chords for Waltzing for Dreamers that you do at your solo shows? I think it is normal tuning with 3rdfret capo but I cannot recall exactly. I could wait till Oct 9th when the songbook will be out but just in case there is a delay...
Capo 3 drop D


|| F / / | / / / | / / / | / / / | C / / | F / / | Bb / / | F / / | rpt

|C / / | C over Bb / / | Gm / / | C / / | Bb / / | / / / | C / / | / / / |


| F / / | Bb / / | F / / | Bb / / | Dm / / | G / / | C / / | F / / || rpt

Also you did an arrangement of Brights Lights on the last tour (New Brighton Aug 2009). I expect this is too much to tab but any info would be useful, unless of course it is all in the book! Has it always been that arrangement when you do it solo? It just struck me on that night. Totally invigorating!!!! Come back soon to NW or even North Wales...still got good memories of your gig on Anglesey! Dav Devalle
I'll need to TAB it another time - tuning for solo acoustic is CGDGBE.
On your website you're quoted as saying you like your Ferringtoncaster best of all. I dearly love the deep warm sound of your old Stratocaster on your 70's records and would choose it over the brighter sound of the Ferringtoncaster any day. Do you prefer the Ferringtoncaster's sound or how it plays? Fred Hughes
I prefer the sound and the playability of the Ferrington, and I find little tone difference - they're all vintage pickups. Maybe the amps changed.
In a recent interview you referred to the pickups in your Ferrington electric being glued in. Do you mean this literally - the pickups are glued directly to the body? Or do you mean "just not mounted on the scratch plate"?

I'm thinking that if the pickups are actually glued to the wood then life must get difficult for whoever maintains your instruments. Regards. Bob Dubery, Johannesburg, South Africa

Yes glue as in 'glue', and yes, tricky to change pickup positions, but a chisel comes in handy.
9/22/09 I just watched the documentary, "Dreams with Sharp Teeth", and noticed that Richard Thompson was listed in the credits under music, composer, and performer. I had just a couple of questions. Which guitar or guitars did you play? Could I get the soundtrack? Thanks, Tim Fees
I used my Lowden RT signature model. The soundtrack is not yet available. 'Harlan’s Bounce', the main theme, is available on Catch Of The Day, if you scroll down a bit.

Catch of the Day: Harlan's Bounce.mp3

Having recently begun to wrestle with the pedal steel, I wonder if you have ever tackled the instrument? Most country and western steel players work in pretty much the same conventional idiom, but there are obviously a lot of harmonic possibilities there -- it would be intriguing to see what your steel playing would bring to a song like When We Were Boys At School. Are there any steel players whose music has caught your notice? - Incidentally, hope we can see you in Toronto soon -- it's been a few years. All the best, Ash
I spent formative years listening to steel players - Leon McCauliffe, Buddy Emmons, Lloyd Green, D J Maness, etc. - trying steel licks on guitar is a way of stretching one's technique. I don't find at this point a lot of cultural application for me. B J Cole has done some wonderful work outside the genre, which I would heartily recommend.
What kind of pick do you use when you play acoustic?
Teardrop shaped Gibson/Fender/Guild medium
What kind of thumbpick and what size do you use? My thumb tend to feel a bit strangled sometimes…
The little white Nationals - my favoured brand are out of business.
first, what ever happened to your sexy les paul gold top standard with the P 90 pick ups? did u trade it off for the strat or is it somewhere in the attic??
I sold it to John Martin. He had it stolen about a week later.
second, and i think i asked for this before, i found your version of Adieu Adieu to be the best, what chords are you using if you don't mind me asking. i paid for a Martin Simpson tab but as good as he is, he uses too many notes sometimes that can detract from the piece and its lyrics, so i didn't enjoy using that tab for that song.
My harmony is based on the Watersons' version of the song. I don't have TAB for it, because I don't have a standard way of playing it.

||G / / / / / | / C / G D / | G C / G D | G Em / C D / / | G / / C D / | G
Em / Am D / / | G / / C D |G

Note extreme irregularity of bars, which I can't render very well in this format. At the end of bar 3, there is an extra half-beat on the D chord.

7/1/09 I'm getting to a point in my sixth year of playing guitar where I'm beginning to be able to work out songs of my own accord, usually with the aid of chord charts, however, I've not been able to find anything on "Take Care the Road you Choose". I wondered whether you might be able to help. I've worked out that when you play it with a capo at the second fret you start with a D, then go to Em, but I could be totally wrong about that. So, I thought I'd better ask the master. Any help would be much appreciated, Casey
I play it in normal tuning, open position:

|| E / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / | B / / / | / / / / | E / / / | / / / / | repeat

| A / / / | / / / / | / / / / | E / / / | / / / / | repeat

| B / / / | A / / / | B / / / | A / / / | B / / / | A / / / | / / / / |

| E / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / ||

I'm wondering if you would be able to help me. My Dad, Charlie, is a massive Richard Thompson fan and has seen him live many times, both during his solo career and with Fairport Convention. My Dad has set me a rather tricky task and that's to learn 'The Pitfall/The Excursion' on the mandolin. I can't find any tabulature for it anywhere on the Net, even for guitar, so was hoping if you could pass on the tabs???? I'd love to master it before November as it's my Dad's 60th birthday and would like to play it for him then! If you can help in anyway, we would be very grateful. All the best, Eleanor Ketley
I don't have TAB for it, but the notation is now on Catch Of The Day - hope this helps.

The Pitfall/The Excursion.pdf

Greetings. I'm sorry if you've answered this before, but I couldn't find it anywhere on your site. I would love to know the tuning for "Tim & the Bears" from "Grizzly Man." Michael Colin, Santa Barbara, CA
The tuning is CGDGBE. This is just a short improvised piece.
5/10/09 I've been searching everywhere to find the chords and picking sequence for Matty Groves on the Lieg & Lief everything I've read doesn't seem quite right. the closest I've got is Dm and C. Please Help! Ross Cockburn
You've got it - Dm and C. I don't think there is a set sequence on the guitar for the left hand. I've played so many versions of it, in so may keys, I play it different all the time. For fun, you could try picking the vocal melody as you're playing those Dm/C changes.
Don't you use the whammy bar nowadays?
Less so. I have it on my new Strat though.
Sounds like your open to tabbing out 'So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo' that would be so cool. For all the people who look forward to your songbook it would be great to throw us a bone now and then. Oh please oh please oh please. Thank you. Jennifer Howell
See Catch Of The Day for notation and TAB. So Ben Mi Ch'a Bon Tempo.pdf
Just wondering how you come to decide which tuning you will use when you are composing new material. Cheers, Antonio Bachini
Either you start in a tuning, and things about that tuning lead you to certain musical avenues that are fruitful, or you get frustrated in a tuning, and decide to explore another one that may suit the song idea better. This also applies to keys and fingering - changing the left hand shapes by picking another key can have a big influence on your ideas, and how a song sounds and develops.
I wonder if you could tell me the guitar Richard uses on the studio version of "Cavalry Cross" which is my all time favourite song of his. I am convinced it is a Fender Telecaster as the bite seems more pronounced than that normally heard with a Strat. I am considering adding a 52 reissue Tele or Nocaster to my collection precisely because I think that is the sound I am hearing on the track and it blows me away. Thanks for your time and best wishes. Shaun
This was my 59 Strat through a blackface 1960 Pro Reverb, though in no way would I wish to deter you from spending money.
3/03/09 Where on the web can I find the correct chords of that amazing song Farewell, Farewell? Piet Buunk
The tune is the same as Willie Of Winsbury. The usual chords are:

|| D / A / | / / E / | D / E / | D / / / | A / D / | A / | F#m / / / | D / E / | D / / / | / / / / ||

Note the bar before the F#m bar has only 2 beats. This is in a baritone key - transpose to suit.

So when do we get to hear Bobby's new Strat? Also, any plans to release live CD of the "Sweet Warrior" tour and, if so, will anything from the show at Kentucky Theatre in Lexington be included? Thanks, Robert Jordan
The next time the band goes out, the Strat should be out there. 'Live Warrior' is due for release soon - I don't know where individual performances of songs came from.
Have you ever tried using a partial capo? To me, they seem to give the option of the modal feel of DADGAD without the limitations of open tunings. Tom - Chilton, Hungary
It's not the same as a modal tuning, but it gives you different options, for instance, you can't fret the 'open' string where the capo is placed, but you can do things like fret BEHIND the capo - very cool. I've tried a couple, and I think for recording they are a truly useful tool, but live, they take a bit of setting up to get in tune.
Please forgive the length, but I have several questions for Mr. Thompson. First, are there any country guitarists (Merle Travis, Roy Buchannan, Jimmy Capps etc.) that you count as an influence on your playing style? Second, what kind of plectrum(s) have you found to suit you the best? Thank you for your time,-- Andrew Sovine
We heard Chet Atkins in the UK from early days, about 1960, and I heard Hank Garland and Grady Martin without really knowing who they were at the time. James Burton, of course, and later on I heard Jimmy Bryant and Thumbs Carlille. I'd say all of those were influential.

I use equivalents of the old Les Paul teardrop pick, which I can't find any more. Fender make the only one I seem to get these days. Medium gauge. For recording sometimes, I use heavy picks for better tone, especially for flatpicking.

Richard, please excuse this guitar geek question. You've explained before about the design of your blue Ferrington guitar and I'm interested in how you use the various tones and pick-up combinations available to you, especially during live performances? I've seen you play live on many occasions and it sounds/looks to me like you're most often using the bridge pick-up alone. Could you give some examples of the pick-up settings you use for specific songs? Also, how much do you vary those settings night after night? Many thanks. Paul Solman, Surrey, England
My default setting is middle and bridge p/us. I use just the bridge for a couple of things, and middle and neck, and just neck here and there. The Ferrington is wired with a volume pot on each p/u, so backing off one pot when you're mixing 2 p/us gives an infinite variety of tonal possibilities. Night after night, the settings on the guitar don't change much, but the amp settings do - more or less bass or treble, more or less volume.
After reading your reply to a question about how to play interesting solos and seeing some you suggested, I'm left wondering: How do you make all of those bizarre scales fit so well? They seem like they should make a dissonant mess but somehow they don't. I suppose my question is "How do you know how to apply them?". Yours sincerely, Liam (an aspiring young insomniac musician)
Notes that are not contained in the underlying scale of the piece you are playing will sound like wrong or 'out there' notes unless there is a pattern to their use, and a logical conclusion. Of course, there are forms of music - some jazz, modern classical - that throw out all the rules of harmony, but I don't think that's what you're asking about. One brief example: You are playing a piece in the key of D. You reach an A chord, which is going to resolve to a D. Instead of playing the notes of the A 7th scale, you could use notes from the C# diminished scale. This is a 4 note scale - C#, E, G, Bb. Observe that 3 of these notes are also common to the A7th scale - C#, E, G, so they will sound 'right'. The note that rubs is the Bb, but it works in context, because the ear accepts the diminished pattern over the underlying chord. Resolution is important: say your run starts on the C#, and ascends E G Bb C# E G Bb (2 octaves), you could then resolve by dropping a semitone to A as you hit the D chord. This is a very basic version of using a 'substitute' chord. Any good jazz primer will deal with this in detail.
I'm in my twenties and only discovered your music a couple of years ago when you played at the Lewes Guitar Festival and completely blew me (and the rest of the audience) away. I can tell you that your performance that night was the talk of the town for days afterwards.

Ever since then I have been trying to get to grips with your guitar style on both electric and acoustic guitar. Your hybrid picking technique creates for me such a unique sound which I am nowhere near mastering. I can manage songs like Beeswing and Cold Kisses at about 80% speed, but songs such as 1952 Vincent with that fast alternating bass line (although I know you use a thumb pick for this) are still a long way off.

I wondered how long it took you to develop such a technique? I read somewhere that you said using a flatpick and fingers just came about naturally and out of laziness practising whilst watching the TV. Was there anything in particular you worked on, or was it simply an organic process? Also, I wondered how long you keep your nails on your right hand? It doesn't sound (or look, as far as I can see) that you have long nails, but I am experimenting (I'm also a classical guitarist, you see), and I have found that nails get easily worn down by the steel strings so I have to keep them very short. Any comments and top tips on the above would be greatly appreciated! Kind regards, Luke Anthony - Guildford, UK

I've enjoyed reading Malcolm Gladwell's new book, The Outliers. In it, he looks at reasons people are successful in their fields, and his findings are frequently at odds with commonly held beliefs. He quotes from a study of high-achieving classical music students, which found that without exception the most successful musicians, who went on to have high profile careers, were the ones that did the most practice. It was nothing to do with being 'gifted', although that may ultimately distinguish the brilliant from the excellent. Studying various fields, Gladwell found the magic number of 10,000 hours - if you did something for that long, you would master it. Now that's about 20 hours a week for 10 years. So I don't think there are short cuts, just play what you want to end up playing, practise your scales, and if you want to play something fast, slow it right down first, and look at the mechanics of what you're doing.

I keep my nails short because I prefer the tone, but it is true that steel strings beat the heck out of your nails. It's tough playing steel and nylon, because nylon really does require longer nails for tone and technique, so I don't know what your solution will be!

How did you come upon the rather unusual chord progression that makes up "God Loves A Drunk." Song's title ...many fans are unlikely to know that it has been written of Sufi masters that they have, at times, dressed in rags, referred to rapture as being "drunk," and to each other as "Kings." Regards, Bruce Young - Santa Cruz, CA
The chord sequence came from a desire to have a key change between verse and chorus - not very 'folky', but it seems to work for the mood. Much spiritual Arabic poetry deals in tavern imagery, as an allegory for the knowledge of God. I would say God Loves A Drunk is not of that school, but is a song about the need to drink being close to the need to connect with The Great Spirit, and get past the physical world.
Another astounding show, the 1000 years at Salford Lowry last night! Any chance of your tunings and chords/tab for Shenandoah and also thanks for a beautiful version of Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime (any chance of your chords and tuning for that too)? I'll leave it there. Thanks for the music! Dav Devalle
I play Shenandoah capo 3, drop D:

|| D / / / | / / / / |G / / / | D / / / | G / Asus / | Bm / / / | D / / / | F#m / / / | Bm / E / | Asus / | D / / / ||

Note the penultimate bar of Asus is 2 beats.

Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime we play in A minor:


|| Am7 / / / | Am6 / Am4+ / || play x 4

|| Am7 / / / | E7+ / E7 / | Dm13 / / / | Gsus / / / ||


|| Em7 / | F / / / | (Dm over B) / || play x 2, third time:

| Em7 / | F / / / | (G over B) / | C / Cb5 / | C / Cb5 / ||

More 2 beat bars!

Went to see you/him in Glasgow a few nights ago and, excuse the ancient medieval Italian, but it was fucking magical. I am now entirely in love with the song so ben mi ch'a bon tempo now, being a big lover and in fact studier(better than 'student' yuk) of italian and italian culture old and new. I've been looking everywhere online to try to track down the guitar tablature for this so I can learn it myself for my acoustic nights but can't find it anywhere...and unfortunately I am not musical enough nor have the spare time (lie really) to work it out for myself, don't suppose you could post it on your site? That would be rather very awesome. Thanks for your time. Catherine Larkin, Glasgow
I put together the guitar part from the arrangement for 4 crumhorns. TAB would be the best way to convey this, but I don't have the time to do it now. I shall endeavour to get to it in the next few months - meanwhile, a quick chord chart:

Dm || Dm (A over C#) Dm Bb | A / / / / || Dm (A over C#) Dm Bb | A / / / | Am / (G over B) / | C / / / | Dm6 / Esus / | Am / / / | G / A / | D / / / | Am / (G over B) / | C / / / | Gm / (Dm over F) / | Em / Dm / | Bb / A / | Dm / / / | / / / / | / / / / | / / / / ||

First Dm is the pickup beat (on the word "SO")

12/05/08 Where would someone get an acoustic Ferrington, like the one you have on the cover of Hand Of Kindness (Great album)? Do they sound good, or do you just use them for writing? Your guitar crazed fan, Patrick
Patrick, I have sent you Danny's phone # by email, he'll be happy to hear from you. I'll be glad to do the same for anyone else who has a genuine enquiry. Yes, they are great-sounding guitars, and can be very stylish if that appeals as well.
Your web page says 'Gear & Tunings' but I don't see any tunings - I assumed that you meant the string-by-string tunings used in/on/for your songs?! ...and at which fret the capo was on. How about a website section giving your lyrics, string tunings, and maybe some TAB? Allan
There is a lyric section which is fairly comprehensive. The Gearhead section tries to give a rough idea of guitars, amps, strings, etc. The songbook, forthcoming, should take care of most of the musical questions, although it will not be wall-to-wall TAB - just where we think it necessary.
I have been trying to find a transcription for the instrumental "Flee as a bird" on the Guitar, Vocal album. Is it going to be on one of the forthcoming books please? If not does anyone know where I can get it please? Thanks. Raymond Noble
I wasn't intending to transcribe this, but if I can find it, I'll put it up on the site. It's in a collection called Kerr's Merry Melodies, in any one of the four volumes, published by Kerr's of Glasgow, who I think might be out of business. They also did the definitive Bothy Ballad collections.
Are there any guitar techniques you are still trying to master? Cheers, John Golbach
I'm trying to rediscover some classical guitar technique, which I've neglected, or at least modified, to suit steel strings. The 'bounce' of a steel string is so different from nylon. I developed a two-finger tremelo to deal with steel, which can be effective, but I need to go back and learn three and four-finger again. I'm always trying to improve as a flatpicker, I think my technique is basically unsound.
I have been admiring the marvelous (but expensive) Lowden model in your name, and wondered if you could give us your thoughts on tone woods, say Sitka or Cedar tops, and bodies of rosewood, mahogany, maple, koa or other exotics, (while they last.) Thanks, Nigel Johnson
Well, to me it's surprising how many wood combinations seem to produce great guitars, but probably the old faithful spruce and Brazilian rosewood combo is the most consistently successful. I currently like Ziricote because it is so punchy, and I like the slightly more mellow sound of the cedar top. George Lowden has excellent notes on woods and their properties at

McCabes guitar shop in Santa Monica, CA, has the RT model on sale right now!

You've had some time with your signature Lowden with the Ziricote b/s and Cedar top. What do you think of it? How does it compare to other Lowdens you've had? Any changes you could imagine for a second run? Daniel Dorogusker
See above, and I'd say that it works superbly, and I wouldn't think about changing anything. This is a guitar that is still opening up, and I'll see what it sound like in 5 years.
I am hoping to build a replica of your blue Ferrington, not being a luthier, and it being my first project, we'll see how it goes.. But my question is for the 5 way switch, is that wired to the same combinations as a normal Stratocaster? In that case all 3 pickups can't be active at once? (continued)
5 way is wired like a Strat, yes.
I was watching an old interview where you talked about your Fender. You said the guitar was pretty much stock except for a "trade secret". Has that been exposed? Does the Ferrington have it as well? Thank you in advance. Paul Novak
The Ferrington has no tone controls, but a separate volume for each pickup, which creates endless combinations of tone when the knobs are backed off. Also, the pickups are glued, not screwed, to the body, to give a tighter fit, and potentially more sustain. It also has an extra wide fingerboard.
Is Beeswing played in a tuning? Or maybe Richard just plays the guitar better than me!
It's in Drop D, Capo 3.
Do you remember what tuning you used for "Valerie" on "Daring Adventures". Saw a youtube clip with an acoustic version and it looked like maybe drop D with a capo on 3 fret. The footage isn't that clear though. (continued)
On the record, it is played in straight tuning, key G. Acoustic, I play it in F, capo 3, drop D.
Getting quite technical but I saw that you have a Broadcaster pup on the blue Ferrington guitar, is that a Seymor Duncan Broadcaster? I play a tele custom '72 where I've kept the humbucker near neck, put the original bridge pup as a middle and a SD Broadcaster at the bridge. So I got a sort of Stratocaster sound. I loved the sound from the Broadcaster but it felt a bit too weak when using together with the middle pup (ie ex-original bridge pup). I've now have a Budz handwired bridge pup and moved the broadcaster to middle position which partially solved the problem. Do you have any sort of compensatory mechanism on your guitar(caps or such) or don't you need that when using you Broadcaster with the Alnico strat pup? Many thanks for you time and hope to see you in Sweden or Scandinavia some time! Mats Holmqvist
I think mine is an original Broadcaster, in which case they were not wound very scientifically, and all sound a bit different. I've found the output about the same as the middle pickup without changing the wiring.
10/05/08 I notice you have some sort of rosin bag on stage with you that you use from time to time. When I get on stage I get a bit nervous and clammy, so I was wanting to find out what that is and what helps you with that. Thanks, Robert Steel
You need seats nearer the front, or a new prescription for the bifocals. What I have, dear Robert, is a small container of Johnson and Johnson baby powder. This helps, if it's hot or humid, to dry up the moisture or stickiness on the fingers and fretboard.
Although I really like the sound of your Lowden guitar, I wonder if there are any other acoustic guitars that you favor? Although you don't seem too keen on them, I play a Taylor 914ce and I'm really knocked out with the responsiveness and tone. Great for fingerstyle! Bob Seymour.
I think you can find a great Martin, or a great Taylor, and Collings might be the best of the 'factory' guitars out there. In the 60s, you could go through a stack of 30 Yamaha 50 quid guitars and find a really good one. What I love about Lowdens is the consistency - they're all good, and some are great, and this is only achieved by obsessive and relentlessly applied production standards. 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!
Having ploughed my way through dozens of highly technical guitar Qs ...I eventually found your response re the Gibson A question is what type of soundhole pick-up do you use with it?...and if you know, what mandolin pickup Pete Zorn uses with his Flatiron?...thanks, Dave Dick in Moffat.
I don't use the Gibson A2 on stage, but I have an Eastman with a Fishman p/u which works very well. Pete's Flatiron has a Sunrise p/u, specially cut down by Jim Kaufman to fit the hole (and has 4 poles).
Sir, You're a casual bugger aren't you! Fancy not having the model numbers of your Lowdens exactly right! Do you realise there are thousands, nay millions, of Lowden nerds out there globe-wide who are at this very moment frothing at the plectrum at your description of your gear on the nerdy gear page.....L27FC??? What I think you mean, m'sieur is f25c (rosywood back and sides and cedar top?) or maybe F32c (rosywood/spruce) . 'course, I may be wrong and there may be an L27FC out there, but forgive me I have not heard of such a thing. And, what about your very own namesake model - do you actually own one ?? George will be upset if you don't buy one that's named in your great and worthy honour. For that matter, you'll be upset if he hasn't given you F35cRT signature model if I'm not very much mistaken.

For those of us sad fellows who dote on your every sniff, and dote equally, if not more so (dare I venture to opine) on George's heavenly creations, how's about having a little look at the label inside the offending item and then getting one of your many minions to make the necessary change to the nerdy page? Yours BertWeedonly, John Brewins, Brighton.

L27FC is the old model #, now changed to L32C. Yes, I do own a signature model, and fab it is. Teddy has the prototype.
Hi Richard, I have a question for you about the Martin 000-18 guitar. I know that you played one of these in your earlier days. I purchased a 000-18 back in ’69 for $200 - I picked the 000-18 mostly because it’s price matched the number of dollars in my pocket that day. I still own and play this guitar, and I have sort of a love/hate relationship with it. The guitar has a rather "small" sound that is perfect when I am sitting around noodling by myself but very challenging whenever I am playing with other musicians. But…this guitar has almost 40 years of history with me now, and all the scratches and worn spots are….mine. I have tried lots of other instruments, they have come and gone, but the Martin 000-18 remains.

I'm just wondering how deep a bond you form with your instruments, and how you reach a decision that it is time to set a loyal friend to the side. I'm also very interested in any personal comments that you might have on the 000-18 model. Why did you play it, and its suitability for different styles and venues. Thanks! Rich

The 000 size is very well balanced between treble and bass, and records really well. Mine needs a lot of restoration work after a hammering on the road - the sides are very thin mahogany, and are quite damaged.

I've lost or broken a few guitars, so I try not to get too attached. I love them as working companions, but don't go for the tree of life up the fretboard, if you know what I mean.

08/09/08 Could you be so kind to tell us what the tunings are for "Mingus Eyes" and "Bathsheba Smiles"? I suspect the latter is in standard, but the former has me quite stumped. Cheers, Tim Hart in Chicago
'Mingus' is in CGDGBE, then capoed to 4th. And played in B.'Bathsheba' is drop D.
Looking forward to seeing you play again at Trowbridge. First of all I'd like to say what a brilliant inspiration you are to all aspiring guitarists/songwriters. Like many people I know, I have recently taken to doing open mics and I love the camaraderie they generally engender. OK, this is a bit guitar-technical but I attempt (rather feebly) to do several of your songs but was puzzled to see you playing Sibella in drop-D on one of your DVDs (Live in Austen). I have learnt it off Semi-Detatched in DADGAD and it seems to fit perfectly even down to the open string pull-offs in one of the breaks. Did you originally record it in DADGAD but play in drop-D on the DVD for the convenience of not re-tuning or am I incorrect in my original assumption that it was in DADGAD.
I play Sibella in drop D, acoustic or electric. It will work in DADGAD, generally speaking, because of the forgiving nature of the top 2 strings ringing modally over each chord. DADGAD is not a practical tuning on electric unless you use way heavier strings, or tune UP to EBEABE.
Do you know which guitar with what strings were used in Mr. Thompson's "Bee's Wing"? Thank you sincerely, Tom Victor
The guitar was my rosewood Lowden L32FC, and I can't remember the strings; probably D'Addario Phosphor Bronze.
06/01/08 I am an amateur musician who regularly embarrasses myself at open mike nights. I would like to make "Hots for the Smarts" part of my repertoire. Are the tabs/chords/sheet music available anywhere?
Not yet. As this song is unrecorded, I've not really thought about anyone else doing it.
I would also love the guitar tunings for "She moved through the fair" I can hear that it is in Open D, but the inner string tunings escape my tin ear. Kindest Regards, Rob Wachs
The tuning is DADGAD, played in the key of D. The song is built around three chords, D C and G, and works best if you can find voicings for those that leave the top two strings ringing over.
Giving your new album lotsa playtime. Tremendous! Can you tell me what tuning you use on "Dads Gonna Kill Me"? I'm really keen to cover it in my little blues trio. Regards, Paul Nickless
I play it in drop D, so I can get the low D at the start of the 4 note guitar riff (D E A B).
I would like to ask Richard if he composes his songs in standard notation (did he study music?) or if he uses a computer program. I would also like to ask him which of his songs he most pleased with. Regards, Bob Seymour, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK.
I write out melodies in a way that I might remember them, which is usually melody line and chord symbols, which will give me enough information to recreate it. I studied formal music a bit as a kid, and I've slowly learned more over the years, Part 2 of your question is unanswerable - it would be a different answer every day, perhaps every hour, and some days I hate them all.
At your concert in Hamburg this May you played one of my all-time favourites: Pharaoh. Did my ears deceive me via my brain or did I hear some strange flute sounds in the reverberation of the strings, probably produced by some wicked technology unknown to me? The concert was fab by the way. Thanks a lot. Stef Baumeister
On that song, Simon Tassano, sound ace, has licence to crank up the reverb in a couple of places, as the song has so much space in it. What you heard was probably guitar or voice in deep echo.
And also, will Fender ever release a signature a Richard Thompson Strat? I'd love to have one like yours.
Because I don't regularly play a Strat as my number one guitar, Fender may frown upon me as a signatory. Also, I play a fairly stock model, nothing very custom about it.
03/25/08 Re: Right-hand fingerpicking:
I know you use your thumb, index, and middle fingers on your right hand; do you use your ring finger as well? Deanna Bourg
If I'm holding a flatpick between thumb and first finger, I also use second and third fingers. Using a thumbpick, I use first, second and third fingers.
Is "The Poor Ditching Boy" played in an open tuning? Sounds like open G. Thanks for your time. Deanna Bourg
I can't totally remember the tuning for the record - it was 1972! I think it was drop D, capo 5.
Watching a youtube of an old Fairport clip of "Sir Patrick Spens". Saw you capoed at 3rd fret, yet it sounds like you are using an alternate tuning. Could you clear this up for me? Thanks, Randall
This must have been some experiment to get a better fingering, which I don't remember. I mostly played Sir Pat in normal tuning, key of A.
Just wondering what tuning you used on "Taking My Business Elsewhere"? Very nice song, but I've been confused in figuring out the guitar part. Thanks, Dan Beetcher
This is drop D capo 5.
I'd be most grateful if you could let me know what guitar tuning RT uses on Vincent Black Lightning I've seen a video where he uses capo 3rd fret but am lost as to where to go from there. I'm used to open D, G and DAGDAD . Please tell RT I'm the new proud owner of a Lowden 35C RT signature -which is a wonderful guitar, and best wishes to him for the future. Kevin Howcroft
This is written up in the nuts and bolts and frets section, but I'll reiterate:
Vincent tuning - CGDGBE, capo 3.
Glad you're liking the signature model!
On the recent tour the only time Richard used the Strat was on the Mingulay Boat Song. Why was this? Tuning? Sound? Or a bit of a change ;-)? John Edwards
It was the backup guitar in case of string break. 'Mingulay' requires a capo, which is tricky to tune with light gauge strings, so the wonderful Bobby has it ready tuned backstage to save time.
I am the proud owner and listener of thirty or so RT albums. Continually amazed by RT's guitar work. Has RT ever picked up the Chapman Stick? It seems like a natural with his left hand work carrying the bass line when he plays solo. John Barnes
I picked up Tony Levin's, but it's a scary beast. I think pianists would have more natural affinity for it. I'm not really in love with the sound of everything hammered on, anyway.
I know questions about gardening are probably much more interesting but I was hoping you could answer a guitar question. In the "1000 Years" show, early in the set, I think it's the Italian song, you used this great effect on the guitar - what was it? It sounded beautiful back in row W. Thanks! Ted Looby
This effect is specially processed to have maximum impact in rows T - Z. It is a DejaVibe rotary speaker effect, made by Fulltone, which sounds remarkably good on acoustic guitar. The Dunlop UniVibe might sound slightly funkier, but the oscillators crap out in about 6 months.
My question is simply this, why don't you play slide guitar? Thank you, I am, Rick Johnson
I can, but I rarely feel it's culturally appropriate, me not playing the Blues, or Country, and all. I've played it on other peoples' records.
What tuning are you using (if any) on Ill tag along? Id like to do it. I live in Florence, Italy now and am performing around Italy mostly blues and country stuff. Loren Zagandaglia
Tuning on 'I'll Tag Along' is regular, key B. The fingering makes as much use as possible of the open B string.
I've got two gear questions for you.
1. How come that you bought the goldtop Les Paul? Was it because of Mike Bloomfield playing one?
2. Did you use a 50 or 100 w Marshall in the early days of Fairport? Cheers! Sebastian
I bought a gold top because it was there - someone over from the US had 2 to sell, and it sounded great. Mike Bloomfield played the flametop, which was out of my price range. In 1967, I used a Marshall 50 watt with Fairport, only for a few months, I think.
I see that you've been using an Eric Barber overdrive. I've got a TM5 which I use in the studio (and is not usable plugged into a guitar amp due to hum caused by the high gain), but it would appear you have one of his boxes on your pedal board, presumably going through your amp. I'm wondering what model it may be, as it would be useful (occasionally!) to achieve that rude pentode sound in a live situation. Great to see you going from strength to strength, and please excuse the geeky question! Graeme Taylor
I use a Barber LTD pedal, which is a very smooth, natural-sounding overdrive, sounds like cranking up the amp, and I'd recommend it if that's what you're looking for. All the Barber pedals seem very well made, but the noise level on the TMS is something other users have commented on, and seems to be what you get.
I am interested in tracking down two guitar sounds. On Bonnie Raitt's 'Luck of the Draw' CD Richard is (I think) credited with playing electric guitar on the song 'Luck Of The Draw'. There are also some different guitar players credited with electric guitar on the album in general. There are two distinct electric guitars on the 'Luck Of The Draw' track, and any info as to who played them and what gear they used would be appreciated. Thanks, Chad Books
I think I played the 'lead' guitar on that track - I don't have a copy to check it out. I think the guitar was a Ferrington through a Fender Vibroverb amp. Mark Goldenberg was one of the other guitarists on that track.
I am a longtime fan and very fortunate to be amongst that elite number of people who own The Guitar of Richard Thompson, put out by Homespun tapes some years back. I still love listening to it and have learned a lot from it. You may have answered such a question before, but do you ever envisage doing something similar in the future, perhaps including insights into your guitar playing as it has developed since then and with reference to your more recent recordings? I realise that it must be way down the list of your priorities but it may at least serve to put a stop to so many guitar questions on your site! Would you ever consider coming to New Zealand ? We'd love to have you here with your band or solo. And if so, would you be good enough to sign for me the booklet that came with the tapes. Thanks for your time in answering these questions. Best wishes, Colin Dowsett
Thank you for all the years of listening pleasure. I have a question/request. Would you consider doing a DVD/video version of the 'The Guitar of Richard Thompson' instructional tapes you did a long time ago? I like them so much I've bought both tape and CD versions... but seeing your fingerings would be a service to the world. Or, at least to me. Patrick Morrison
At some point, I'd like to do a more updated instructional video, but I'm too busy just now. Hope to see you in NZ. I want to bring the band.
11/14/07 Richard, what type of pick do you use? I am interested to know what your preferred shape and thickness is. Does it change when you switch from acoustic to the lighter gauge electric strings?
Thanks. John Hatton, Nashville, TN.
I use Gibson teardrop medium gauge, what used to be the 'Les Paul' pick. These are harder to get now, but Fender make an equivalent. I truly prefer a heavy gauge pick, and sometimes use Fender heavies in the studio. I find that the tone is better, but playing with that for a whole show tires my arm out. I sometimes use a thin on mandolin, but the tonal trade-off is rarely worth it. I don't change picks going from acoustic to electric.
Could you tell me the tuning and capo position for Honky Tonk Blues and Gonna Need somebody? I have been watching footage of them, but I can quite get the tuning(I haven't been playing guitar very long, almost a year now) so please forgive my ignorance.
Sincerely,Victor Brewer
As far as I remember, and it's been a while since I played either of these, HTB is tuned open G, DGDGBD, and YGNS is standard, both in open positions.
ronniehek wrote:
Can you please help me. I am trying to find the chords for Mole in a Hole by Richard and Linda. Thanks.
This is a Mike Waterson song, but as I remember:


| A | A | A E | A | A | A | A E | A |


| A | B | D E | A | A | B | D E | A |

When you're playing with pick and fingers, are you using your pinky to grab the highest note in the chords or triple-stops you're playing or are you brushing upward with your middle and/or ring fingers? Or do you do both? Just curious.
kyle s., syracuse, NY
I don't use my pinky at all. I do sometimes brush the strings from high to low with the fingers, to get fuller chords.
The dynamic range on most 'Sweet Warrior' tracks has been reduced to pitifully small values by brick-wall limiting, ripping the very backbone out of the music on the album. Was this mastering decision made by you as the artist or was it outside of your control?
Regards, Peter Walker
I suppose limiting is a matter of taste, but SW sounds about right to me, less limited/compressed than some previous records of mine. Some Fairchild on the voice and guitar, some tape compression from 1/4 inch mastering - that's about it. If you listen on the radio, some stations will compress the bejasus out of everything, so maybe that's where your impression comes from, but it sure sounds all right to me coming off the CD.
When i try picking with a pick and fingers I find that the notes that are picked with the plectrum (what a funny name) are louder than that of the notes picked with my fingers. It tends to dominate the others.

Did you encounter this problem early on? How did you fix this? Any tips on this problem? thank you, jb barot

Most players who use flatpick and fingers, or thumbpick and fingers, like the fact that the pick gives a sharper sound, principally because the pick is more often working the lower strings, where more definition is desirable. If you play with longer nails, the difference will be less pronounced. Chet Atkins always has a great balance, using a thumbpick to keep the bass and rhythm going.
I'm trying to clear up a question from my cousin in LA regarding the make and spec of the light blue electric guitar. We bought them a copy of Live From Austin TX as a present as a reminder of a gig we took them to in San Juan Capistrano in the mid nineties!
Regards, Tim
The guitar was made by Danny Ferrington, of Santa Monica, CA. He had the neck already, and we threw in a selection of pickups to see what it would sound like. The pickups are wired with individual volume controls, no tone controls. There is a P90 in the neck, Alnico Strat in the middle, and Broadcaster in the bridge.
Saw your show in Vancouver during September and you played a lovely acoustic rendition of Sandy Denny's hauntingly beautiful "Who Knows Where the Time Goes". Could you please tell me which tuning this is in?
Thanks, Barry Pither
I play it in open C/G, that is, CGDGBE. Sandy played it in DADF#AD
8/21/07 Richard,
I'm working my way through the 5-CD set "Life & Music of..." and am sure that you must use a special tuning for "Meet on The Ledge" - or maybe it's just mere ability...? In any case can you let me into the secret please (if there is one)? I sung it out loud in a blizzard halfway down a mountain in Switzerland in Feb., but somehow it was not a truly convincing reading of the piece... And when playing it with conventional tuning I always have problems with the fill between the verse and the chorus - can never make it really work.
On the box set, I play it with a drop D, capoed, I think, to 2nd fret. This gives you a bit more 'twang' on the run into the chorus. Just think Duane Eddy. Back when Sandy and Iain sang it, it was in A, which is, of course, less Duane.
Could you give an update on your current pedal set up for electric guitar? You rattled off a few things to me post show: red repeat, hum debugger, mojo something...many thanks. Paul McCray
A picture is worth a thousand words in this context, I think. I'll put a snap of the board up on the gear page of this site, with notes. Give me a week or so, my pedal board is in storage somewhere.
Richard, the band playing on 'Sweet Warrior' is exceptional, and I particularly love Michael Hays' guitar playing. What guitars did he use? Stephen, Ireland
I'm glad you can tell who's who, I'm not sure I can! On acoustic, he used my walnut/cedar Lowden L32FC. On electric, a Fender Strat, and I can't remember what else.
Last night I watched a documentary about the making of the soundtrack for "Grizzly Man" and it was stunning. It was perhaps one of the most beautifully filmed studio doc's I've ever seen and I fell in love with Richard Thompson's playing. I'm very curious what the 2 primary acoustics he was playing were exactly. I'd guess they were circa 1920's/1930's. One was a 12- fret slot-head parlor, but I couldn't tell much beyond this. The other was deeper and looked to be about a 0 or 00-sized body, but the headstock was unfamiliar to me and the inlays were rather unique and interesting. I was guessing this guitar was rosewood back and sides, but I'm not certain. Regardless, they proved to be the perfect tools for this session and watching Richard play them was enthralling. If there's any info available on these guitars I'd be very interested to know more. Lee Howard
I've asked Henry Kaiser to answer this question: "Both guitars belong to me and are from the 1890's. The Nashville high-strung guitar (used for the fox cue) is a parlor-sized Howe-Orme (this was HK's first acoustic guitar that he bought from Eric Schoenberg in the mid-70's). The main acoustic guitar in the soundtrack is a Bohmann. It has Brazilian plywood back and sides. Joseph Bohmann was a Chicago based luthier who built the first production x-braced, steel-strung guitars in America."
Richard, I love the dance tunes! "Tear Stained Letter", "Two Left Feet", to name a couple in this style. Your newest entry, "Bad Monkey", delivers in earnest. However, I am frequently perplexed when you take a straightforward polka-esque progression and apply a solo that sounds at once atonal, yet sits on the song perfectly. Sort of like lounging sideways in a chair. What are you doing? I am stymied at every turn. Noodling around a major scale is far to proper and stately. It's certainly not a bluesy minor pentatonic based thing. I hear sequencing up or down to follow the progression. Are we simply talking decorations over alternate voicings of the chord? Am I missing a hidden, yet critical augmentation? Am I thinking about it too much? Oh forsaken sleep, will you ever return? Paul, Carrboro, NC
There is no short answer to this, as we are entering the vast world of improvisation, and the possibilities are limitless. I'm basically borrowing ideas from Jazz and Classical music, that stretch the harmonic possibilities. A few aspects of this are: Using the upper intervals of chords, using substitute chords, mixing scales, using passing notes, using patterns that 'clash' against the chords but resolve harmoniously, etc. I could give you two small examples from 'Bad Monkey', because I'm concerned about your sleep. On one chorus, the first chord is D, the second is E major; instead of playing notes from the scale of E major over the E chord, I substitute the notes of another chord, an F# augmented 7, which has E, F#, B flat, and D. These notes also occur in a whole tone scale starting on D, and it can be thought of in that way as well. As long as you end on a note that coincides with the G chord, when it arrives, all is well. In another place, at the top of the chorus, I play a pentatonic figure in D. On my way to playing the same figure up a tone in E, I also play it, deliberately clashing, in E flat. It rubs, then resolves, tension and release. To explore further, I'd recommend listening to someone like Charlie Parker (there are many books on his style) and composers like Debussy and Ravel.
On the song "Johnny's Far Away", which is my favorite track on the album, are you or somebody in the band playing a bodhran? Or are you mimicking the sound of a bodhran with your guitar? Either way that celtic beat is what really makes this song so catchy, I find myself singing the chorus/refrain over and over everytime I listen to it. Take care, Bob Nelson
Michael Jerome is playing a drum kit, mostly on the tom-toms, mimicking a bodhran. He is something of a student of celtic music, and really makes that 12/8 rhythm swing.
Dear Richard: Have you always had the guitar-playing abilities you have now? In other words, if You in your 'Human Fly' days had met the You of today, in Borges-like fashion, would the younger You have been able to play songs like "Beeswing" and "1952" or would you think "How the heck did he (me) do that?" Just wondering, because your playing sounds brilliant from all eras. Thank you for the great show in Cleveland last week! Seeing a song like "One Door Opens" performed live is a real treat. Very best wishes, David Fedan.
I think I play better now, better technique, better harmonic ideas, better feel. On acoustic, I really developed some new techniques in the 80s, that my younger self could definitely not play. He can back me on rhythm, though, and I'd like to have a word with that young chap, talk some sense into him.
Could you tell me what key 'Cooksferry Queen' is in? The harp sounds great and I want to blow along. Thanks! Steve Schwemmer
The key is F, which I think means a B flat harp. Sadly, David McKelsey, who played on the record, passed on recently.
Hello Mr. Thompson,
I would like to know what kind of acoustic 8 string mandolin you play. Brand, type, f-holes/oval hole...? Hearing it on records, I think it's very clear and subtle, but with great sustain and power. Though I think the most part of it comes through your wonderful playing, the instrument must have a "say" in it to. Regards, Staf Dierckx
I use a 1920 Gibson A2, black finish, round hole. This is a wonderful instrument, that I bought for $100 at Music Inn in New York, in 1972. It would probably cost a little more today. It records beautifully, and I have never desired another.
Does the Rick Kelly Tele appear on 'Sweet Warrior' , if so where? Stephen Bishop
I think the only place is the solo sections on 'Dad's Gonna Kill Me'.
7/06/07 Luc Luyten:
Thanks for setting up camp twice in Belgium next Octobre. Will you be playing your signature model on stage? Or would it be possible to organize a vernissage of the instrument after the show? I am sure the Belgian Royal Society of Guitar Freaks will gather in Brussels and Bruges.
RT: I'll be playing my blue Ferrington, If you and the Society would like a look, I'm sure we could arrange that. Meet me at the signing table.
Mike Fallon:
At the recent show in Pittsburgh, you performed a breathtaking version of 'Who knows Where the Time Goes'. I remember you paused to consider what key to play it in and then retuned a string or two. Do remember if you played this in standard tuning or a modified or open tuning?
RT: I've played this three times this year, which makes a total of three times since 1972. And only solo this year, so I still don't really know what key to play it in, but G is close. I use CGDGBE tuning.
Daevid Langdon:
I have always loved the variety of musical instruments present on your recordings. On Sweet Warrior you are playing quite a few instruments other than guitar. You play some very nice penny whistle on Sweet Warrior. Did you just work up the parts for the recording or have you been playing the whistle regularly for some time? Did you ever finish the hurdy gurdy you were building?
RT: I am a lapsed penny whistlist, or whatever you call them. It took me a while to recover some semblance of chops for the recording. I built my 'Gurdy about 15 years ago, from an Early Music Shop kit. It was hellishly hard to follow the instructions and blurry diagrams. I was fortunate to be working on it in Danny Ferrington's workshop, and he bailed me out on numerous occasions. It hasn't been quite the same since the wheel was bashed out of alignment during an earthquake.
7/01/07 My good mate Steve has a 1960 Les Paul (bully for him) which I experienced for myself recently. It was quite amazing and I understood why he had always said that ‘'it plays itself'. Don't know if I am able to explain this very well but when you plug in it seems to come alive and wherever you lay your fingers on it, you get a sound through the amp and it's a pretty wild phenomenon. Steve says that the more recent models are not the same. What is your opinion regarding the old Les Pauls, say 1960s and before versus the snazzy Ferringtons and Danos that you play these days, apart from obvious technical factors? I know you haven’'t played a Gibson for decades but do you have something against them or could you ever go back, even occasionally to unleash one? Is there a Gibson in your garage or under the bed? all the best, Pete, Sydney.
The flame maple top Les Paul was quite the thing with the UK blues fraternity, but I could never afford one at the time. I loved my gold top with the soap bars though...I suppose I preferred the sound of Fenders ultimately, and have steered that way ever since. I'm not averse to Gibsons, I just don't own one at the moment. I'd love to get a gold top 295, the Scotty Moore model - Phil Manzanera has one that sounds so good.
I'm curious as to whether Richard uses nails, flesh/nails or (I doubt) just bare fingertips for playing guitar. What about wear and tear; do hard playing and a full schedule take their toll? I think we should be told. Max Cuthbert.
I use fairly short nails, and play with the flesh. I prefer the tone, and keeping a full set of nails up to scratch (sorry) is too tough with baggage carousels, hiking socks, and bowling balls.
The front page of Beesweb has a picture of RT with another guitar I've never seen him with before. This one a lovely looking light colour hollow body. Is it a Gretsch?
This is a 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.
I love the solo acoustic version of "Shoot Out the Lights." In my own feeble attempts to get the arrangement down pat, I've been getting stuck. I notice that the guitar is in drop-D, but where do you go from there? I've been scratching my head trying to figure out how you get that sound. Justin Goble
Before the big D chord, there's the big 'C with an E bass' chord - best played as a normal C chord with the thumb adding the low E. Then there's a million other things . That'll get you to step 2, anyway.
4/24/07 From time to time pictures appear (usually in advertisements or promotional material) that show you playing a light-blue Danelectro. Is this your own guitar?
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' spring to mind.
Are you a closet Dano fan?
Yes. I love the baritones and basses too.
4/22/07 When you break a string and that little end gets stuck in the body of the 'acoustic guitar',what do you do? Steph
Most of my acoustic guitars have 'through' bridges with no end pins. So none of that messy stuff.
My question is kind of dumb, but I was in the balcony and couldn't see that well, but noticed your guitar strap and was wondering what kind it was. I liked the way it connected to the head of the guitar. Thanks, Ken Hughes
It's just a boring old guitar strap. I tell a lie, it's an Elixir Strings freebee guitar strap, leather, no less. I can tell the bit you're excited about is the way it connects to the neck. This is a slightly superior version of the shoestring-type device beloved of folkies everywhere. It's made by D'Addario. It features one of those snappy nylon connectors used for belts and mountaineering things, which makes disconnecting very swift for packing in guitar case, and for untwisting the inevitable twist in the strap. It merely slips around the neck under the strings in the time-honoured fashion.
i was wondering if you ever play a nylon string guitar. do you have one? what kind? have you recorded with one? why don't you play more of it? do you hate it? too many questions, i apologize. jb barot
I don't own one, but I've used them on record. On the last few occasions, I've borrowed Tchad Blake's, which is small and antique. I'm looking for a good one.
Do you have any exercises to help develop right-hand finger independence? I find it very hard to use my thumb constantly while tryin' to pick a melody.
A little classical guitar is great for getting those fingers working independently. Otherwise, I'd say slow everything down, play it as slow as you like. Only play faster when you're in total command of the notes.
Hi Richard, thank you for all the wonderful music. You collaborated with Niles Hokkanen on an electric mandolin tutor a few years back, and I know that the instrument turns up on your records from time to time. What types have you played, and how were they set up? Thoughts on amps and speakers for the e-mandolinist? Best, Will
Although I did the tutor with Niles, that was about the first time I've played a true solid body electric mandolin, so I'm a bit of a fraud. I borrowed Niles' Fender 4-string, a fine instrument, and that tutor was about string-bending and applying guitar techniques to the 4-string version. I nearly always play acoustic regular 8-string mando. Pete Zorn, who plays in my band, plays a Flatiron with a custom Sunrise pickup, which sounds pretty good. I'm impressed with the Epiphone 'Firebird' shaped solid body 8-string. I'd say, for amps. If it's a solid body, any electric guitar amp with reasonable tone, and if it's hollow body, straight through the PA or through an amp designed for acoustic guitar.
2/10/07 My question is about your blue Ferrington. I love the sound and envy the technique. What pick-ups are installed and is the middle pick-up wound for reverse polarity? What kind of switching pattern was wired into the ax? Tom.
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.
Reading that Bert Weedon's "Play Guitar in a Day" book was initially responsible for your success and accomplishment, I invested in a copy of the esteemed epistle; however, I shall be seeking redress in the Small Claims Court on the basis that Mr Weedon's claims are entirely unrealistic , 8 months down the line, I am still struggling with the B minor chord. Should I give up now? Should I have purchased "Play Guitar in 9 Months" instead? Vivienne Jones
Few of us have mastered the B minor, so don't feel too discouraged. I do wonder how many copies of that hallowed text were actually sold, because everybody of a certain generation claims to have started with Bert. Did you know he was a member of the Quintet De Hot Club De France after Django died? Bizarre but true.
Could you tell me the tuning for "I misunderstood" please. Steve
It's just drop D tuning, capo 3.
Hello, I was wondering if you could help me. I swapped my Mosrite Ventures for a second hand Lowden Fc32c with a friend of a friend, who informed me it use to belong to your good self. Is there any way of finding out if this true? Cheers Mike
I can tell you for certain sure that it was never mine for the simple reason that I have never parted with any Lowden guitar that I have owned.
I try to see as many good live shows as possible and notice that most guitarists have multiple guitars at their disposal. Guitar techs continually coming in and handing the performer a just tuned instrument. You, on the other hand, seem to have maybe three electric and play those for several songs before changing and just the Lowden when performing acoustic. Do you even carry another acoustic with you when touring and, if not, what the heck do you do if you or Simon absentmindedly drive off with your instrument left on the roof of your rental car? This may seem a silly question but I've often wondered. Mechtild Jordan
I think, in these troubled economic times, that three guitars is enough for any band show. I only carry one guitar to solo shows, which is risky...if it breaks, as happened last year (head broke off), I have to borrow one, but flying with 2 guitars plus bag is hell, and excess.

I have seen a few shortcuts of the Videowest "Guitar Player" (1981) on youtube and enjoyed them a lot. Would you know if that whole show has been released on video?I see that you where playing a Martin 000-18 at that time, do you remember what year it has been made?
I think the VideoWest footage was about half an hour. I don't think it's available in its entirety. I was playing my 1966 Martin 000-18, a wonderful guitar that is pretty beaten up at this point, and needs extensive repair.
I have long tried to figure out how to play Love is Bad for Business but can' t get the right sound. Is there a special tuning being used?
I think that was played in straight tuning, I kept the open G string ringing through some of the chords. That's about as much help as I can be, it's been a while since I played or heard it.
Wonderful performance at this years HSB festival in SF.

I wonder if you'd mind explaining your guitar set-up during that performance. You had a particularly good sound: crisp, harmonic, bassy but not muddy. If you'd not mind telling me your guitar type/pedals or any thing that might have contributed to the sound I'd appreciate it.

On the gear page of this website you'll find full details of onstage setups. I'll summarize the acoustic setup:

Lowden L32FC guitar with Sunrise p/u and Countryman Isomax internal mic. Both p/u and mic go through a Ridge Farm 'Gas Cooker' preamp.

I love your finger-picked version of Persuasion - can you please provide the tuning and capo position? Any tips on playing it? Also, on a totally unrelated topic, could you provide an account of your experiences recording with Nick Drake? Would love to hear any thoughts or memories you might have regarding those sessions. Do you remember the guitar you used during the sessions? What was Drake using (guitar-wise!)? Joe
On the original soundtrack of Sweet Talker, I played this in D major - opening chord is an F sharp minor (F sharp, C sharp, D, A from low to high). On stage I've played it with drop D tuning in a G shape at capo position 3, 4 or 5. This means the first chord would be a B minor shape but with an open 3rd string.

On Nick's records, I always overdubbed onto existing rhythm tracks. I played a gold top Les Paul with soapbar pickups on Five Leaves Left, and a mid-sixties Strat I bought from Ed Carter (New Nadir) on Bryter Layter. I only ever saw Nick play his small-bodied Guild guitar.

10/18/06 I would like to know which amp you have used for the recording of Grizzly Man? I would like to know which pre-amp pedal did you used for the Grizzly Man recording sessions?
I used Henry Kaiser's Divided By 13 amp. I don't think I used any pedals - oh, just a Fulltone tremelo pedal and a Barbour overdrive.
I have heard that some guitarists make their guitars 'sing' or 'speak'. I donot mean play a nice melody, or produce a lovely piece of music, but actually replicate words. Does RT do this? If so, which songs should I be looking out for? This could be a whole new way of listening to Richard Thompson, not that I need an excuse you understand! I adore the output!! Regards, James Ferguson
Steel player Pete Drake used to have an attachment on his mouth, so that whatever vowel his mouth was shaping, that tone would be transferred to the instrument. The results were pretty horrible, and thank God he didn't do it very often. Someone like Bubber Miley with Duke Ellington got pretty close to a vocal impersonation. But on the whole it's a bad idea, don't you think?
This is a performance-related question. I play guitar in a duo. A while ago, we decided that I would play Banish Misfortune (in DADGAD just like you play it) then segue directly into CooksFerry Queen (singer does is in D of course). I substitute a variation of Banish Misfortune's "A" section for where the lead break on CFQ would be, to keep it stylistically similar. Then as CFQ is ending, I segue out to a Banish Misfortune reprise, usually one time through. Some listeners like it when we do this; others say that one has to be careful mixing musical styles and periods. This rendition sounds ok to me, but I'm wondering what I am missing here? Can you please give your thoughts to a practicing musician here. What wouldn't work?Many thanks!! Bill M, Kensington, MD
Bill, I rather like the sound of this medley, and may steal the idea off you some day! It is not clear whether you are leaving jig time to go into straight time for CFQ, but either way I think it will work nobly, and to hell with the doubters and naysayers. Thank you for the cover version.
8/27/06 Any news on your Lowden signature model?
RT: We're talking about having it ready for the NAMM show in Anaheim in January. It may be two models offered - basic one with walnut and cedar, more expensive one with redwood and zircote.
8/22/06 How the hell have you got the guitar tuned for "I'll Tag Along"? I've /almost/ gotten it right but it is driving me nuts!
RT: Tuning is standard - the B modal feel of the guitar part is created by playing a B chord that leaves the top 2 strings open and ringing through.
5/11/06 You must have been asked the question many times. I'd like to know what tuning you're using in "Roll Over Vaughan Williams" on "Small Town Romance. (capo?) I'm posting from France, I'd really like to learn that song. I hope you'll get back to that style in your coming records.
RT: This is in DADGAD. I don't think I used a capo.
I loved your version of "Red Wine Promises" on the "Shining Through" tribute. What tuning did you use on this?
RT: I think it was a drop D. Whatever I did was a pale imitation of Martin Carthy's beautiful work on the original.
Inquiring home-recording enthusiasts would like to know precisely which equipment you used in your home studio to record Front Parlour Ballads. In addition to info you've already provided through the Q and A we'd like to know:

A) What converter(s) you used to send your music from preamp to Apple laptop, and back out to your monitoring system

B) If the Universal Audio LA-610 was employed for more than just the vocals, and what preamps were used to stereo track your acoustic guitar

C) What studio reference monitors you used

D) What mic(s) you employ to capture your Divided By 13 amp's sound

Obviously the equipment used is but a fraction of the end result, but it would be helpful to know what gear a professional such as yourself feels confident employing for an album. The record sounds wonderful! Thank you for a most-enjoyable listen, and the inspiration for home recording you've provided.

RT: Gosh, you people! Well, if you must know,

A) My midi/analogue converter is a MOTU 828 Mk.2

B) The LA 610 was used on the guitar amp. I just used the preamps in the MOTU for acoustic guitar.

C) I use Mackie HR 824s

D) I used a Russian Superlux large diaphragm condenser mic.

Loved your work on 'Grizzly Man' and it was interesting to watch you play. Do you always use a flat pick when finger picking? (Probably a stupid question since I know you like to explore variety.) Anyway, I decided to try to pick up 'Taking My Business Elsewhere' but I'm stumped on the tuning used. Can you divulge? Also, what other tunings do you use?
RT: Please see the tech section of this website for info on tunings and pick technique. 'Taking My Business Elsewhere' will be towards the back of volume three of the songbook, so I could give brief heads up:

Tuning is drop D, capo 5. TAB would be the way to read the fingering, which I don't have to hand here. First chord is a D minor shape with C#, then D minor with a B, E minor with a B flat, and A 7 sus 4 add B flat. That's to get you started.


Hi Richard! Can you tell me the individual gauges of the strings on your acoustic guitar? I use to play with Elixir strings,(012, 016, 024, 035, 045, 056), and I would like to deliver your beautiful sound (as far as my fingers make it possible!) :-) Thanks a lot
Well. I also use Elixir strings with the same gauges. Having a different guitar would be far more significant in terms of tone, volume and response.
I'm wondering whether the acoustic seen in the studio film of "Grizzly Man" is the Lowden. It has a wavy headstock (the horizontal line) and an absolutely fantastic, food-grade tone! I'd really like to know what it is. This is not the smaller (single-0 or so) Martin or Washburn-type guitar, it's the other one that he seems to use more often.
I wasn't able to take an acoustic to the Grizzly Man sessions, so I borrowed one or two from Henry Kaiser. The one I played the most was about a hundred years old, I don't think it had a name visible, but it could have been a Washburn. It recorded great! There was also an OM-sized all-koa wood guitar, but Henry mostly played that.
Greetings from NYC. I was just reading about the Buzz Feiten Tuning system - essentially tempered tuning for guitar and wondered if you have tried it out and if so what you thought. Thanks!
I was mentioning this in answers to February's questions. If you play in standard tuning, it resolves the main tuning dilemma on the guitar, which is, making some of the thirds in the chords sound in tune, e.g. getting a C major chord and an A major chord both in tune, and F major and a D major. On the trombone, it is easy to pull the thirds in a bit. Pianos have a compromised, 'tempered' tuning. (Interestingly, when George Shearing had his Quintet, he worked out a special piano tuning so that he could be more in tune with the vibraphone). If you use open tuning, the advantages are less, and there are some disadvantages. Buzz's method is, however, a well-considered system, and I would recommend checking it out to see if it's something you need.
What model of Divided 13 amp do you use?
I think it's an FTR 37...anyway, it's the bee's knees.
3/31/06 Q. Having seen you last night at the Barbican retuning the guitar many times I am asking what strings you use? They seem to stay at the required pitch no matter how often you change the pitch. I play Fylde Goodfellows and use their recommended strings but other than drop D tuning, any other retuning seems to take a while to settle. Do you use pre-tensioned strings and if so where from?
I use Elixir Light Gauge Acoustic Strings. Most strings should stay in tune, and if they don't there are usually reasons:

1) Crap strings.

2) Not installed and stretched properly. The string should be wound around the tuning peg at least three times before being slotted through the hole. It should then be brought up to correct tension and stretched fairly vigorously, brought to pitch again, stretched again, over and over until it stays at pitch. I pull the string up away from the fretboard, and avoid releasing it suddenly so that it slaps down onto the frets - this can 'bruise' the frets.

3) Temperature/humidity variation. Climate change can alter the tuning - moving from cold dressing room to warm stage or vice versa - having to helicopter in to Shea Stadium, that sort of thing - can change tuning. Sometimes the unwound strings will move, and the others stay put. Not much to do about this, unless you can hover for five minutes at the side of the stage, acclimatizing.

4) Bridge pins, etc. - string ends can fail to seat properly at the bridge. Bridge pins wear out, as does their seating, and this can lead to inconsistencies. I prefer guitars with 'through' bridges, much less fiddly, and sometimes better tone.

I find when I do a lot of retuning, the unwound strings will sometimes work themselves sharp, and will need tweaking, occasionally during a song. With a lot of retuning in a show, there are always small pitch problems that you just have to live with, and adjust as you go. Guitars are never in tune with themselves anyway! John Williams tunes his top 2 strings slightly flat, and I tend to be of that school. Buzzy Feiton has a whole different tuning system, which might be worth investigating if you have incurable problems.
You mention that you used two Neumann KM184 Condenser mics on your guitar as a stereo pair on Front Parlour Ballads.

Whereabouts were they positioned and about what distance? Heel, bridge, or were they spaced? Heel and neck heel and bridge etc... Just I'm recording acoustic guitar soon and it sounds great on your album.
On Front Parlour Ballads, the mics were set up as a crossed pair; the mic capsules are placed as close together as possible, and at 90 degrees to each other. This gives a true stereo image, without any phase cancellation, i.e. the loss of some frequencies when more than one mic is used. You can use this technique on a whole symphony orchestra! The mics were about 9 inches from the guitar, and about 4 inches below the soundhole, but pointing up at it. When recording, there is a 'boom' that comes from close proximity to the soundhole, which can be overwhelming, and give you too much low end. Being slightly off the soundhole avoids the boom, but is close enough to the main sound source to get a good tone. Trial and error will give you the best technique for your instrument.
I absolutely love the electric guitar tone on "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," especially on the track, "When I Get to the Border." I was wondering what the guitar/amplifier combination was on that particular tune. To my ears, it sounds like a single-coil guitar (a Stratocaster?) through an EL84 amp of some sort (Vox AC30/AC15? Watkins Dominator?).

Can you enlighten me as to how this tone was achieved?
This was a Fender Strat '59 through a 1960 Fender Deluxe Reverb. Probably at about half volume on the amp. This was processed through a Fairchild compressor by the wonderful John Wood. These terrific devices have a great warm tone (see Geoff Emerick's new book on engineering the Beatles for more on the Fairchild). They are getting expensive and hard to find; I think they must have stopped making them in the 60s. One can get the digital plug-in version now, but Mr. Emerick would hardly approve.
09/13/05 Q. What hardware & software & mikes have you been using to record Front Parlour Ballads?
A. It was recorded on my Apple G4 laptop, using Digital Performer software. I used two Neumann KM184 condenser mics on the guitar as a stereo pair, and a Superlux CM-H8A on vocals. The Neumanns were used for most of the other instruments. The vocals went through a Universal Audio LA-610 Preamp/Compresser/Limiter.
Q.How did you technically work with recording/mixing instruments/vocals?
A. Not sure exactly what you mean - some instruments were overdubbed, in the usual manner, and recordings were sent to Texas, to be mixed by Simon Tassano. He would put mixes in his public box, where I could download them, listen, and comment back to him. This was only slightly slower than being in the same room.
Q.What could your co-producer add to what you couldn't do in the garage?
A. Simon has a little more software, and a lot more experience and expertise at mixing.
09/10/05 Q. Could enquiring minds know the tuning used on '1952 Vincent Black Lightning'. So far, I'm using standard tuning w/ 3rd fret capo to get to concert b-flat, but I know this isn't 'correct'. Thanks for your attention.
A. Tuning is CGDGBE at third fret. This tune will be in the upcoming songbook, volume one
Q. Hi there--Hopefully this will be an easy question... Normally, I'd ask for one or two songs, but I was wondering if it'd be possible to get the tunings for each of the 13 tunes on Parlour Ballads. It's a fantastic album, and I'd like to noodle around with the songs, but the tunings would help me greatly.Thanks in advance for your help.
Boys at school – Drop D Capo 2
Cressida – Drop D
For Whose Sake – Drop D
Garden Grow – Drop D capo 5
Let It Blow – Drop D
Miss Patsy – Drop D Capo 3
Mutton Street – CGDGBE capo 5
My Soul – standard – on stage, drop E to A
Old Thames Side – Drop D capo 4(?)
Precious One – Standard
Row Boys Row – Drop D
Should I Betray – Drop D
Solitary Life – Drop D

Gosh, what boring tunings!
Q. I heard your hurdy gurdy was a kit, and was wondering who/where you got it from, and were all the pieces pre-cut or do they just give you chunks of wood and tell you to start carving? I'd like to get a hurdy gurdy some day (when the kids are outta school or when the proverbial ship comes in--they are expensive) and was curious about the one you've got. There seems to be only one manufacturer in N.America from what I see on the web. They seem about as easy to play as a dulcimer, seem tuned the same way. Do they use fiddle rosin on the wheel or do you need something else? Can you fit them with gear tuning pegs instead of friction pegs (as with the dulcimer my Dad made, I am not that much a traditionalist--I want the thing to get in/stay in tune)
A. I bought mine 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, 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.
Q.I've seen RT play solo acoustic several times (at The Birchmere) and can't recall seeing him use a capo. Does he? If not, is there a reason other than simply not needing one? I've heard some guitarists say that a capo can adversely affect tone, while others maintain that some fingerings (perhaps on "covers" with signature riffs) are well-nigh impossible without one.
A.Time for new glasses – or were you at the back of the stadium? I do use a capo, and far from reducing tone, it gives you a better platform to generate tone. Artists like Ry Cooder will capo up high on a baritone guitar with heavy strings to get a great, meaty tone on records.
7/4/05 Q. hello,
we have been to numerous live performances and have seen quite an array of pedals at your feet. could you run through them for us (we can't make them out from the gallery) and maybe say what is used on certain songs. my sons and i have discussed (argued) what was used where but we would appreciate the definative word from you.
all the best,
tom & devin & mathew Colbert
rochester, ny
A. This has been broached several times, but to be current:

Acoustic pedal board;

Ridge Farm ‘Gas Cooker’ 2-channel pre-amp – this takes magnetic p/u and condenser mic signals from the guitar.

DejaVibe rotary effect/pitch change effect.

Line 6 Echo/delay.

Voodoo power supply.

Electric pedal board:

Ernie Ball volume pedal

Boss delay

Dunlop Univibe

Divided by 13 ‘Switchazel’ selector/booster

Barbour overdrive
Q.Please pass these questions/comments along to R.T. and I'll watch the site for a reply. Richard, have you had a chance to put your Divided by 13 amp through its paces yet? They are built by my friend Fred Taccone and they are excellent indeed. I also recommend an overdrive made by Menatone called the Red Snapper. Very transparent and nice to the touch. Is there a chance we'll see you solo or with a band in Los Angeles this year? Were you ever approached by Elvis Costello to play on "Goodbye Cruel World"?

Greeting from David Jenkins
A. I love my 'Divided By'. Great amp. I used it on the upcoming CD 'Front Parlour Ballads'. It does everything. I should be playing in LA in October, date tba. Elvis did ask me to play on something. I forget which album – the timing, alas, did not work out.
Q.I’ve seen you more than a few times in concerts break a string. On the Austin City Limits DVD you lost a string on Shoot Out The Lights. Which given that SOTL was a blistering solo, I enjoyed it just the same. I’m always wondering what’s Richard thinking, is he mentally compensating for the lost string or how does he still manage to deliver a blistering solo? When you loose a string, do you do anything different if it’s a blistering solo or a delicate acoustic solo? Do you practice for those situations?


Mark Z
A. Breaking a string is an opportunity to think differently, and can be a creative boon, in forcing the musician to use different avenues. It depends which string goes, of course – the higher strings are easier to deal with. The string I break most on acoustic guitar is the 5th, which makes such a racket as it grinds against the pickup that I usually have to stop and change it. Django broke strings all the time, and apparently never paused for a second. And it all pales besides Itzak Perlman, who broke a string a few years ago while playing a piece by Bach, and simply proceeded to finish the piece beautifully on the remaining three strings, to the disbelief of the audience. He said afterwards words to the effect that sometimes the musician has to work a little harder to earn his keep. Phenomenal.
5/2/05 Q.It appeared to me that whomever made Richard's lovely acoustic guitar had somehow designed a wider body for him. Are similar models of that instrument available commercially? Is the guitar detailed at all on your site or any other site? I'd love to get a closer look at the instrument and learn more about it.
A. My instrument is a standard Lowden FC model – I must have been looking narrower that day. Lowden make similar models. They may be Making a signature model for me in 2006 – I’ll let you know.
Q. Hello. I'd like to know what effects RT use to get his characteristic electric guitar sound I believe there is some chorus but what else is there? Thanks and keep playing. I have everything you ever recorded.
A. I’m pretty much plugged straight in. The rotary effect I use is a Dunlop UniVibe. These sound great but fall to bits, and the oscillator wears out. I’m trying a DejaVibe, which doesn’t sound as gritty, but works better.
Q. Reading about your Strat from the Fullerton Musuem of Art it says that you wore out the original neck - a problem that I seem to have with my guitar neck as well - but curiously whenever I have seen you play electric you seem to have a fairly light touch on the fingerboard - have you changed your fretboard attack to save on guitar necks or are you still playing essentially the same way now as you did pre-neck change?
On maple neck Strats, it isn't so only the top of the fingerboard that wears out, but the sides as well, so that the strings will fall off the edges. Buying used guitars, they are sometimes worn that way already, as was the case with my '59. The '55 neck is now also unplayable. I think it’s just years of rubbing your hand against the wood that slowly eats it away.
2/20/05 Q.How does Richard get that just breaking up tone from his guitar, is it just a cranked amp or does he use a pedal?
A.If it's recent live or recording work, it would be either the amp cranked or a kick from a Mesa pedal. I now prefer Barber overdrive pedals. I also have a new amp made by Divided By 13, which is the bee’s knees. Can't wait to try it on stage.
Q. Richard: I am a guitar player who wonders how you keep your solos so fresh and new? I seem to hear myself playing the same runs in some shape or form despite efforts to break new ground -- I have been playing awhile, am considered by peers to be not to shabby, but can't get free of my entrenched soloing habits. I particularly admire your complete freedom from the pentatonic cage and unique timing and phrasing. Any thoughts about how one can work on expanding and improving note selection and phrasing without woodenly forcing "new notes" into solos? Thanks
1/13/05 Charlie Parker never repeated himself, but everybody else does, to some extent. I comfort myself with the thought that those clichés are really ‘signature licks’. But we all must try to expand the envelope, so here’s some thoughts:

It’s all about scales, so practice weird ones – minor 7 flat 5, 13th scales, 11th scales, whole tone scales. Try double octave scales.

Change the emphasis when you play a scale – push the off beats, put the notes into groups of 3 or 5 or 7 or 10.

Put your guitar into a bizarre tuning, and then play a familiar fingering. Write down any interesting sequences, and try to play them in regular tuning.

Try to sing a solo instead of playing it. Try to sing along with a solo as you play it.

It’s all about the heart, so at some point, if you’ve done your homework, empty your mind of everything, and let your heart, not your brain, play a solo. Your fingers will know where to go…
12/01/04 Q."Hey man, I was just wondering, could you tell me what pedal you were using to get that great lead tone on the first Fairport album please? "
A."We didn’t have pedals in those days, young person, or leastways I didn’t. It’s mostly a Gibson ES175 through either a Marshall 4 x 12 or a Fender Showman, suitably driven. "
06/29/04 Q."I am going to ask one of those equipment-bore questions now. I have long admired not only your electric guitar playing but also your electric guitar sound. I do realise that this comes about, in no small part, as a result of technical skill and the choice of guitar. I have a nice Strat, so I could be said to be halfway there on those issues. However, I do wonder what type of amplification you use (e.g. for "The Way That It Shows" or "Mother Knows Best"). It sounds like Fender. I have a POD to set up so such things are important in my little world."
A."I use mostly Fender amps, old and new, and Line 6. On the tracks you mention, I can't remember the exact amplification. Sometimes in the studio, we run 2 amps in parallel, and blend them. I have a '56 Fender Pro, '60 Pro Reverb, Reissue Vibroverb, and on record, I've used Vox, White, Fender Princeton, Fender Vibrolux, Ampegs various, etc."
Q."I've been very inspired by your playing, particularly your electric guitar work-probably your playing and that of Tom Verlaine (he played with 'Television', a US band, but he also made a great string of solo albums in the 80s) have been my single greatest influences. I was wondering if you had any tips to a young player these days on best practice. I usually flit about the various modes-mixolydian, dorian etc-and I know a reasonable number of chords, but I was wondering if there was any single technique or practice that you'd recommend to young player ie improving speed or working in more chord changes. Of course I know that relentless practice is really the best and only answer, but I'd be grateful for any insights that you might have, as so little real muscianship has commercial success nowadays and mentors are accordingly hard to find. I'm appalled and turned off by the 'shred' metal mechanics that continues to dominate most contemporary music and guitar magazines so any pointers to other sources of learning on the guitar would also be a great help. Thanks for your time!"
A."Practising scales is the basis of it all - try to extend yourself to cover 2 octaves and more. Then try to mix up the scales, randomly or with purpose. Try superimposing different triads on top of each other - C Major, CEG, then take the G as the start of the next one, say, GBD, then the D can be the root of a D Diminished, DFA flat, etc. Expression should be practised too - nuance, vibrato, attack. Listen to wind instruments to learn how to play in listenable phrases. Try to play piano harmonic voicings on guitar. Remember the guitar is a voice, so try to make it sound as human as possible."
Q."Hi, Richard! I saw you play at Irving Plaza, great show! Was wondering: is that Fender Vibroverb amp you were using ""vintage"", or a newer model? Modded in any way? "
Q."Are you using a reissue Vibroverb from the 90's on stage, and what, if any, modifications have you had done to it? It sounds great."
A."It's 'new' vintage - a reissue about 15 years old. Standard except for Mojo 10"" speakers."
Q."I'm a little frustrated by some of the riffs on ""Beating the retreat."" Tablature? Tips? I'm playing it with the E streing dropped down to D."
A."I play it in CGDGBE - capoed to fret 4, and played in B - lots of nice 'G' chord shapes rooted on the 5th string, and a good 'C' chord rooted on the 6th string. The 'D' chord is a normal D shape on the top 4 strings, and if you have no ethical objections, a mighty thumb across the bottom 2 strings at 2nd fret."
05/22/04 Q.Do you really use Elixir strings? Do you not find that the coating comes off?
A."Yes, it does eventually. How long do you leave yours on? Are you a thrash metallist? I find normal strings last me about half an hour onstage, before they deteriorate. Elixirs last at least two shows, and usually break before the tone goes."
03/23/04 Q."Back in those halcyon days, when you jammed with Jimi Hendrix, did he ever offer any advice on guitar playing? "
A."Well, having borrowed my guitar to sit in (I think it was my Grimshaw Les Paul copy) he suggested I raise the action to get better purchase on the bent strings - at the time I had it low and jazzy - good advice, which I follow to this day. James Burton told me the opposite though... "
Q."I would love to know, if you don't mind, what the individual gauges of the strings are on your electric. Whatever they are, I want to switch to them ;-) "
A."I use light gauge electric strings by Elixir, gauges:"
016 or 015
011 or 010
009 or 008
"These are pretty much what I've always used, and correspond to the old days before light strings, when you moved your so-called 'medium gauge' over one course and added a banjo 'A'. "
01/23/04 Q.Could you explain (preferrably in English) if there's any relation between this:
"I'd personally I'd love to know what the gadget/gizmo was he was using on his early '85 tour of the UK (with John Kirpatrick), and why he turned his back to the audience (as if in secrecy), and we've never seen it since? I can't find any descriptive reference of whatever it was anywhere".
and this:
"From Guitar The Magazine Vol 4 no 1 (feb '94) : He's also been known to fit a GL-2 guitar synth pickup in the bridg position of his sunburst Strat, leading to a GR-1 synth via an EV-S pedal. A Ratt pedal, TC electronics EQ, Tremulator, MXR Micro Amp, Boss delays and a Boss Chorus Ensemble complete his FX array"" and what this experiment was all about? "
A."On the tour with John K, I was probably using an EBow, but I couldn't swear to it. The extract from Guitar magazine describes my stage electric set-up from the early nineties. There is little relationship between the two set-ups."
01/19/04 Q. Always loved your live acoustic sound and was interested to hear that you are using a Line6 dealy modeler and a Uni Vibe in your effects chain. I happen to own both. Would you be willing to share your favorite settings and maybe comment on how you use them?
A."I think it's a matter of trial and error. I use an effects loop to avoid signal deterioration, and really just adjust settings till it sounds sweet. The Univibe could take over if you let it, so that needs a delicate touch to get the speed and pitch width sounding musical. "
Q." Have you played any 12-string on any of your CDs? ""Yankee Go Home"" comes to mind. "
A."There seems to be a hint of 12-string on every album I've ever done. There's a solo on 12-string on "Mr. Rebound" - that was some weird guitar of Rob Schnaps'. I used to own a Rickenbacker, early model, reputed to be one of McGuinn's old ones which he broke and left in the UK - the neck was repaired by Steven Sobell - I got divorced from it, alas. I've mostly used Fender '12's on record. "
10/16/03 Q. How often do you practice the guitar on any given day to keep your chops honed?
A."Probably a couple of hours most days, some days maybe 8 hours, some days nothing. Days off on the road, I usually won't play, to allow parts of me to heal. "
Q."On OKB, which electric is featured more prominently, the Strat or the Ferrington? "
A.It's the Ferrington and a 2 pickup Danelectro mostly...and an acoustic run through an amp.
09/03/03 Q. "Please share your secrets of ""One Door Opens”. Tuning. Key. Instruments."
A. "Nothing very secret – guitar has ‘dropped D’ tuning, and I play the line on the 4th string only, keeping the A as a drone all through the 1st section. Section 2 in D, using root, 5th and 3rd above for a close harmony sound. Section 3, more of an open, Travis-type picking pattern, playing melody and roots. Section 4, instrumental, in E min., playing melody in low octaves. Other instruments in unison are Mandolin and Appalachian dulcimer. "
Q."What strings do you use and what gauge, please.? (i.e Light , medium or heavy.)"
A."I use Elixir Acoustic and Electric strings, light gauges on both. "