Reverb Soundcheck: Tommy Emmanuel

Reverb was lucky enough to catch up with Australian guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel and talk shop as he passed through Milwaukee. Emmanuel let us in on some of his trade secrets, like why he deliberately scratched up a new guitar, which electronics systems really “blow his dress up,” what gear he used as a studio musician and who he considers to be one of the fathers of the electric guitar.

Emmanuel has guts. Many players prefer the comfort of a familiar instrument on stage, but not Emmanuel — he began playing his new Maton EBG808 just recently, only taking it out on stage thrice. But just from looking at it, you might not guess that this guitar is so new. Why? Because Emmanuel scratched it up — on purpose! — for an additional percussive element while playing. To some it may be sacrilege, but to Emmanuel, it’s all done in the name of entertainment.

His EBG808 sports the new AP5 Pro pickup system, which has its mic on a swivel to help find that sweet spot. Emmanuel likes his audience to feel like their heads are directly inside of his guitar, and the AP5 does that for him, he says. But other than the AP5, Emmanuel only interacts directly with two other pieces of gear: the AER Colourizer preamp and the AER Compact 60 amp. The rest of his effects are done by his sound guy, whom he trusts implicitly.

Emmanuel got his start as a session musician, playing a ’66 Tele Custom with Bartolini pickups through a Fender Super Reverb. This experience gave him the ability to not only imitate famous musicians like George Benson, Larry Carlton and the Police, but to emulate his musical inspirations like the Beatles and Chet Atkins. He considers George Harrison to be one of the fathers of the electric guitar, and draws from some of the more unpredictable melodic runs in the Beatles’ music to inform the way he writes and arranges. The melody should sound like a vocal, he says, and the surprise should keep the audience listening.

Watch our exclusive interview with Tommy Emmanuel to hear more about his inspirations, his gear and to hear just a little bit of his exquisite playing.

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