I am often asked about the instruments I play, various gear I use and who I listen to and learn from myself. With that in mind, here are some links that I hope will be helpful in answering some of those questions. I have zero financial interest in any of things linked here - I just feel strongly enough about them that I'm happy to share their information.
I am blessed to own several instruments built by some of the finest luthiers in the world. Here are the links to their websites:
LAWRENCE SMART - I own one of his 'A' model mandolins along with an 'F' model mandolin and a mandola. So, you can probably tell that I am a HUGE fan of Lawrence and his instruments! Lawrence has 'cracked the code' when it comes to building instruments of impeccable quality that prominently feature flawless workmanship and astoundingly great tone. There is a reason that folks like Mike Marshall, Matt FIinner, Joe K. Walsh, Chris Thile, John Reischman, Nick Forster, Rickie Simpkins and a host of others own his instruments! I simply cannot recommend him highly enough!
AUSTIN CLARK - Darol Anger, Joe Craven and John Mailander all play and love octave mandolins built for them by Austin Clark. In fact, when I asked Darol what he would do differently if he were ordering an instrument from Austin all over again, he said without hesitation, "I'd buy two!” I've had mine for a while now and I LOVE it! It is a playable work of art: the workmanship, fit and finish are all flawless, it plays effortlessly and the sound is absolutely amazing. If you are looking to add a 'lower voice' to your collection of instruments, look no further than Austin and the incredible instruments that he builds!
KEVIN SCHWAB - Kevin retired not long ago but if you're looking to channel your inner mandolin playing rock star and get really lucky, you can still occasionally find one of his superb electric mandolins on the used market! I was lucky enough to have him build one for me. It's a really beautiful example of his work and I love playing it!
JOHN MONTELEONE - When your instruments are the subject of an exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art you must be doing something right. When Mark Knopfler writes a song about you and when David Grisman uses a picture of one of your instruments on his album cover that too, is validation that you are among the elite luthiers in the world. I used to own one of John's Grand Artist model mandolins and it was superb in every possible way that an instrument can be superb.
C.F. MARTIN - Yes. I have a guitar too. I don't play it nearly as much as I do my mandolins but when I do, I am always instantly reminded of what great instruments Martin has been producing since 1833.
STRINGS & PICKS
D'ADDARIO - I use D'Addario strings on my mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin and electric mandolin. D'Addario has been making what are arguably the best strings out there, for as long as I've been playing. They offer a wide variety of strings to cover virtually every stringed instrument or playing preference that you could imagine. To top it off, they have been incredibly supportive of the mandolin and Bluegrass communities, sponsoring numerous festivals, string camps, and educational symposiums!
BLUE CHIP - I am pretty sure that over the years, I have tried picks of every shape, size and material available. All had their pros and cons but none ever inspired me to stop my search for the ultimate pick. That is, until I found Blue Chip picks. Yes, they are a tad pricey but they are worth every penny in my book. They never wear out and they sound great.
TONE SLABS - These are new to my arsenal but I LOVE them! They sound GREAT! They look GREAT! They feel GREAT! And they just might make you forget about any other pick that you've ever played with!! Slightly darker in sound than the Blue Chips and with a bevel to die for!! These are the creation of multi-Grammy nominated, mandolin great and all-around wonderful human being, Frank Solivan and David Welch and they've really hit a bases-loaded grand slam with these picks!
MICROPHONES & AMPLIFICATION
I use and love a DPA-4099V on my mandolins and mandola. This microphone makes it possible for my instruments to sound completely like they do naturally - just a lot louder!
I use Sennheiser D1 Wireless systems for larger shows. I was first introduced to Sennheiser's technology when I played on Broadway and was amazed at how these systems free you from the mic stand while still preserving every sonic detail of your performance. They are incredibly easy to use - you're ready to go literally at the push of a single button. They have been a game changer for me and I enthusiastically recommend them.
In the studio, I typically use a Nuemann KM-84 or KM-184. These are great mics that allow my instruments to sound like themselves without any coloration at all.
I use and highly recommend QSC loudspeakers for live sound reinforcement. The quality of sound they provide is second to none and their output (volume) relative to their size, is truly a miracle of modern technology.
QUESTIONS ABOUT GEAR?
Head on over to the CONTACT page and drop me a note. I am happy to help as best I can.
Sources of Inspiration & Education
Way, way, way too many to mention ... so I won't! A few places that I do find myself continually visiting though are listed here in completely random order with no attempt at categorization or description. Trust me ... all are good. Roll the dice, give them a try. Thank me later.