Frequently Asked Questions (from our previous site! circa 1999)
Here’s the last update to the previous site’s FAQ section. Thanks for your interest and your questions.
Check out our new online Forum. This format is intended to replace the “FAQ” section on the old site, and is better suited for handling questions and answers. The forum is a place where you can ask questions about my tunings, recording methods, guitars, arrangements etc. and discuss pertinent matters with me and other users. I ask that you keep it relevent and try to peruse the forum before posting a question- you may find it has been asked and answered before. All registered users may post new topics and questions on the forum. I promise I’ll try to answer questions in as timely a manner as possible. I greatly look forward to the opportunity to chat with you soon. Check it out!
Q: Ed, I got your Nightbirds CD for Christmas, and I love it! In particular, I’m really nuts about the song “No. 11.” I’m hoping to work out a decent rendition of it, but the tuning listed on your website is a little off-the-beaten-path for me. Is there any chance the song could be rendered effectively in another tuning?
Thanks! -Bill, Springfield, IL
A: Hi Bill, thanks for your note. As for “No. 11” in a different tuning, I guess you could try it in another tuning, but I don’t think it would sound quite the same. The first thing I play in the tune is a strummed harmonic at the twelfth fret which makes an Fmaj9 chord. But hell, go ahead and try it in another tuning. I often work up several versions of tunes in different tunings. It’s a nice challenge and there’s no law that says your version has to sound anything like mine. One guy told me that he had worked up a tune of mine (“The Handing Down”) in DADGAD (the tune is in EADEAE) and said, “Man, some of those stretches are a bitch!” Good luck!
Q: Ed,I understand that you cap the nails of your picking hand with acrylic. Have you been doing this for a long time? How thick of a coating do you put on your nails? Do you do your nails differently for performing -vs- recording?
A: Hi Mark- I don’t slather the stuff on too thickly, and I don’t change anything for recording. I try to keep the nails absolutely as smooth as glass especially when I’m recording. I’ve been using the acrylic for about ten years now with nary a problem.
Q: I am a 12 string fan, so I’m a little curious as to how you set yours up. Mine is a Lowden O32/12 (rosewood/spruce) & a O12/12c (mahogany/spruce). I tune to DADGAD (my “standard” tuning) & then take the whole thing down one step. I find that I like the sound of the D’Addario EJ39 (12string-med) but the are rather hard on the fingers. On the other hand the light set (EJ-38) is easier to play but loses something tuned that low. Any advice? By the way, I don’t own a six string.
A: My twelve string is set up pretty low, and I use a D’Addario medium set, but I’ll replace the B and high E strings with .017 and .013s. You may want to look into having the guitar set up a bit lower. Sometimes a few thousandths off the nut and/or saddle is all it takes. Also, check to see if you’re getting excessive bowing of the neck- you may need to tighten the truss rod a bit if the bow is severe. Good luck!
Q: ED: I’m trying to locate the tab for Duet. I can’t find it within the products offered here on your site. Did I miss it or is it not available? Looking forward to meeting you at the Elderly Instrument clinic/performance in Lansing, Mi. in March 2001.
A: Hi JB- thanks for your interest. The TAB for “Duet” should be there on the website under “Miscellaneous” in the Gift Shop. As for Elderly, I was there in March 2000. When time travel becomes possible I hope you’ll stop by- we had a great time. I hope to get back to Elderly again soon. We’ll keep you posted.
Q: Hey Ed, Happy Holidays to you and Kelli. I was just sitting here trying to work and listening to the Live Album. I was fortunate enough when you were in the Loveland/Fort Collins Colorado area to not only catch your show but also take a private lesson from you (I was the nervous one with the Breedlove). While I can only imagine that these lessons and clinics provide you with countless horror stories and bad music jokes, I just wanted to tell you that I had one hell of a good time and your patience and insight was very much appreciated. It was definitely one of the cooler things I did for myself this year. Thanks for the good time and I hope you’re back in the area next year! Looking forward to the new album! Mark
A: Hi Mark- Nice to hear from you. No, I don’t really have many horror stories from lessons, I do too few of them to rack up a litany of terror. Teaching at clinics and workshops is an inspiring thing for me. Hope to see you next time in CO!
Q: Hi Ed, no question, just a comment that I caught your performance of The Water is Wide on WUMB today (11/29/00) and it was the most captivating piece of guitar work I’ve ever heard on that station. Just an incredible arrangement and performance. OK I guess I do have a question. Can I buy a recording of that somewhere?
A: Thanks for your nice comments. I’ve recorded “The Water is Wide” twice; on “the live album” and on “Counting the Ways.” If you’re asking about buying a recording of the radio show, I don’t think it’s available.
Q: Knowing that you tune down a half step, when you work with other guitarists do you tune up, capo up, or do they tune to you?
A: All of the above. It depends, really on the guitar, the tune, etc. It helps to be flexible. If I’m sitting in with someone I’ll usually tune to whatever works best.
Q: Dear Ed, One of the most hotly debated issues in my classroom is the Napster controversy. I always think of you when the subject arises because it seems to me that an artist who records for a relatively small, independent label (whose hallmark is impeccable production quality) might have some pretty serious objections to having his work pirated. Care to weigh in with a response that I can pass along to my students? I’m really curious about what you’d have to say and I think it would be great for them to hear directly from a person who actually earns a living playing music.
A: Oh, man, what a can of worms. There’s no easy way to answer that. It’s too early to tell what kind of impact it’ll have. The record companies are screaming because now they’re the first in line to get screwed. Like an arsonist screaming “FIRE!” I’m very curious to see how the whole matter is resolved. As long as artists are getting paid fairly I guess it’s okay. Artists are always the last in line to get paid. There’s no reason the delivery of music online can’t be done in a fair and equitable way for all parties.
Q: Dear Ed, I am currently waiting on the production of my Breedlove guitar. Through the years I’ve used dozens of capos, some better than others. Which do you use with your Breedlove?
A: I always use the Shubb capo. Never found another one I’ve liked as much.
Q: I’ve tried playing with my nails and they seem to wear down quickly. Do you use Acrylic Nails? Have you ever tried a nail hardner on top of existing nails? What’s your secret? Please come to St Louis!!!
A: I use acrylic and Krazy Glue. No secret! Hope to get to St. Louis soon. I’ll keep you posted.
Q: Just picked up a Weissenborn and would love try and tackle “Shallow Brown” and “Homage”. Could you tell me the tunings? Love your music!!
A: Both tunes are in open D (D A F# A D) but are pitched at about B. Thanks!
Q: Hi Ed, I’ve been doing some simple recording lately and the results have been quite a bit better than I though they’d be – and good enough to make me think of completing a CD (just for me, Jean, and our two Cocker Spaniels!). I’m using a Roland VS880EX hard disk recorder, a Mackie 1202VLZ mixer, and a stereo X-Y pair of Neuwmann KM-184 microphones placed about one foot in front of the soundhole, one pointed towards the bridge, and one pointed towards the 14th fret. I’m at the stage now where I’m trying to see if reverb and/or compression will help. I remember you saying that you’ve used the Lexicon reverb. Do you add any reverb while recording, or record dry and add reverb during mixdown? How much do you get from the ambience of the room, and how much reverb do you add? Have you used compression in your recordings? If so, do you use compression during recording (analog?), or during mixdown (digital?) It seems that my playing is not controlled enough to keep a constant level, so in the little bit I’ve played with compression (only digital at this point), it does seem to make it more listenable. However the resulting sound also seems to lose some it’s “closeness” or “air”. Thanks, and hope to see you in a workshop again soon.
A: Hi Ken, thanks for writing. I usually don’t process the guitar at all when recording. Compression can sometimes help in mixdown, but if you’re using it to correct a chronic dynamics problem I think you may be better off working on that. The problem with using compression, in my opinion, is that it’s easy to use “too much:” that is, you hear the compressor pumping and breathing. Sometimes you want that, sometimes you don’t. Compression is used a lot in the mixing and mastering phases of recording and can be helpful when you want your guitar record to be as loud as the thrash metal guys’. I really don’t like to hear compressors working, but sometimes they’re wonderful at taming the odd peak or helping a bass, drum, vocal, slide guitar track sit in the mix better. As far as room ambience, I like to get a little if the room sounds good. This is where a little experimentation can pay off. Just moving the mics back a few inches can make a big difference. Just remember that once it’s recorded it can’t be removed. I always record dry, but sometimes a little verb in the headphones can be nice. Good luck!
Q: Hello there. I’ve played for many years and always told myself I was going to learn how to really play, i.e. read music. My question is do you read and can I learn to fingerpick without this skill… I have a good ear and can figure out most of what I here, but it seems I could pick up new stuff quicker with the sheet music. Thanks for any advice. Jim S.
A: Reading music is not necessary. If you pick up stuff by ear already, I’d encourage you to stay with it. Learning notation and theory can be great, but the object of all of that is to gratify your ear. Sometimes tab and notation can provide information you don’t get from listening, and vice versa. It’s all good!
Q: Hi Ed. This may not be a Q. for the web page but I thought you might be interested. Knowing that you are respected for your tone as much as your arrangements I was wondering if you’ve had an opportunity to play a Kevin Ryan Guitar. I have no affiliation whatsoever but I just had one made and received it the other day. What an incredible instrument! The neck is just incredible, the body size is perfect but most importantly is the tone. Beautiful, deep bass with balanced trebles and midrange. He builds with the fingerstylist in mind and the use of alternate tunings is addressed with a little longer scale length. Anyway. I just thought you might be interested. On another note. Any performances scheduled for the NE PA area soon? Also. If you had to pick which Christmas show to attend which one would you pick? Friday? Saturday? I thinking ahead and want to try to come up to the show. Thanks a lot for your time and keep up the great guitar music.
A: Hi, Gordon, thanks for writing. I played a Ryan a few years ago, and seem to remember liking it. Sorry to be so vague. No PA appearances are scheduled at this time, but I hope to get back there soon. I think 2001 will be a busy road year for me. I’ll keep you posted. Both nights of the Christmas concert are good (I’m not just saying that- honest!) and it’s hard for me to recommend one over the other. Hope we’ll see you at one of them.
Q: Dear Mr. Gerhard, Can you tell me any info concerning the origin of the tune “The Handing Down”? I enjoyed hearing some background on “The Water is Wide” on your Fingerstyle Summit video. Thank you.
A: Thanks for your interest! The Handing Down started as the third movement of the “Suite” on my “NightBirds” album, and was written as a tribute to a friend who had passed away. Will Ackerman at Windham Hill Records heard it and asked for a longer version for the Windham Hill Guitar Sampler album. I reworked the tune and Will liked it, so we recorded it a few months later. I was never completely happy with the way the Guitar Sampler was mastered, so I rerecorded it on my “Luna” album. A live version appears on the live album as well. I don’t play this one any more, but may revive it in the future. This piece is very special to me.
Q: Ed, Do you ever plan on coming to Ohio?
A: Maybe! Always have a good time in Ohio. I’ll be sure to let you know- thanks for your interest.
Q: Greetings Ed, can you please tell me what tuning you’re in for “slide improv” of your live album ,I knowit’s in open D but I’m hearing notes that sound as if some string is tuned differently, am I right…….Cheers!
A: Plain old open D. I’m tuned down a half step, so it sounds like C#.
Q: How to improve my guitar chords ?
A: Practice! Seriously, I don’t know which aspect of guitar chords you’re trying to improve. As far as fingerings go, it’s helpful to practice chord progressions slowly, and only press down as hard as you have to. Many of us grip the neck too tightly, and it makes the left hand work much harder than it has to. Good luck.
Q: When is your birthday? Thanks for writing down your music and making it available to us other players.
A: June 4 is my birthday. Thanks for your interest in my stuff!
Q: Ed, love your music. I bought the EG Breedlove prototype #3 from the guitar shop in D.C. I had them install a Fishman matrix bridge pickup and that works OK but doesn’t quite capture the depth of the guitar. I am sure you know what I mean. I have tried various Fishman configurations in my other guitars and haven’t been satisfied. Outside of using Neuman condenser mics live, what is the best way to supplement the Fishman bridge pickup. I noticed you use a Joe Mills mic. what the hell is that and where can I get one? Or, have you ever used an Anthony Demmara direct box? Our local guitar hero, John Jennings, uses one and it sounds fabulous but I’m not a platinum producer so the $900 price tag is a bit too much for me. Help me, Mr. Wizard
A: I use Fishman pickups in all my guitars. I’m using the Matrix (Natural, I believe) along with a Joe Mills condensor mic inside the instrument. These run through a Fishman Blender. From the Blender I sometimes go into a Tubeworks direct box. Sometimes the tube stuff helps smooth out the highs, tighten the lows, and gets rid of some of the screech from the mic. Sometimes it doesn’t help. Nothing helps if the speakers are JBL (sorry but, as good as the JBLs are reported to be, I hate them.). From the DI I plug into my Mackie mixer. It can be very frustrating trying to get the natural sound of your guitar through a bunch of electronics and out of some speakers. We all struggle, we mostly fail. That being said, I’ve had a great deal of success using the stuff I use in most performing situations. I don’t believe that there’s a one-pickup solution to the problem- I think you need to find two or more sources. I’ve used the aforementioned system along with a Neumann onstage and had spectacular results. If you can’t get a 100% natural sound, that’s okay. Sometimes it helps to think of it like you’re dialing in an ELECTRIC guitar (in many respects that’s exactly what you’re doing). Know what I mean? The most current info I have on Joe Mills is Music City Audio PO Box 160371 Nashville TN 37216 615-227-3542 Now to the other questions; Never have tried an Anthony Demaria Labs DI. Nail tips? Keep them absolutely smooth. Whatever length you like is how long they should be. I use the fingertip as well as the nail, but keep my nails fairly long (had ’em all my life, actually). Good luck with your Breedlove!
Q: Greetings Mr. Ed, I was wondering if you prefer the Stripped Ebony or the Indian rosewood on your signature model? Also I’ve played a couple of Breedlove’s with Walnut back and sides, that sounds really great to me, does your model come in Walnut? I have a Marty Stuart Signature Martin but if ever I can afford it I’m a gonna get your Breedlove. Really love your CD’s especially love “The Handing Down”.
A: Thanks for writing, and for your nice words about “The Handing Down”. My favorite signature model isBrazilian rosewood/ German spruce, but I also have a stock Indian/Sitka and it’s a killer. Striped ebony does have a similar sound to Brazilian. You should be able to go to your dealer and order one in many different wood combinations. I’ve seen koa/cedar, ebony/sitka, Brazilian/sitka, Brazilian/German (mine) and I’m thinking of making one entirely out of bacon.
Q: Hi Ed, big fan of yours. Just wondering what kind of acrylic do you use on your nails and where could I pick some up? Thanks for the time.
A: Any acrylic nail stuff should work fine. Should be available at your local drugstore. Be careful with this stuff, as you could wind up Krazy Glued to your kitchen table!
Q: When you are traveling with guitars what precautions do you take, do you prepare the guitar in any particular way?
A: First of all, any guitar I fly with goes in a Calton case (the deluxe model). Calton will custom fit a case to your guitar, ensuring a perfect fit. It is absolutely essential that the guitar does not move inside the case. I just check the guitars like baggage, and have never had a guitar damaged. They will occasionally misplace one, and every year or so I have to send a case back to Calton to repair chips, gouges and broken hardware. I’m sending one back now, as a matter of fact- this one looks like someone took a center punch to two of the locks. Thanks, Delta! Some airlines are supposedly more gentle than others. Here are some general guidelines for checking your guitar:
- 1. Always remove batteries, soundhole pickups, etc. from the guitar. If it can come loose it will, and will ricochet around inside your guitar.
- 2. Remove any loose items from the case (the string pocket is a good place to store stuff as long as it will stay tightly shut). Again, you don’t want stuff moving around inside the case. Make sure that nothing is in the headstock area- if something gets lodged under the headstock and the case gets drop kicked; SNAP!
- 3. Always lock one or two locks. I always hear stories of baggage guys taking guitars out and playing them. Also make sure you have some identification on the case like a luggage tag, sticker, etc.
- 4. After you arrive, check your guitar and case for damage before you leave the airport. It’s a lot easier filing a damage report in person.
- 5. When your stuff gets lost or damaged, screaming and losing your temper makes nobody want to deal with you. The person in Baggage Services you’re yelling at is not the one who destroyed your stuff.
Q: In the last years of the 90’s you used on tour some original Weissenborn guitars or only copies by k&S??
A: I am currently using a K&S on the road. My Weissenborn Style 1 stays at home. Eventually the K&S will have to be replaced, as it is falling apart. I really like Rich Mermer’s Hawaiian guitars, and Bear Creek is also building some beauties. I’ll let you know what I decide on.
Q: Any plans to appear in the Washington DC , Northern Virginia area?
A: No plans in the foreseeable future. It’s been awhile since I played in that area and I do hope to return soon. I’ll keep you posted.
Q: Ever considered coming to Canada? Edmonton Alberta in particular?
A: I played the Winnipeg folk festival a few years ago and really had a great time. I hope to return to Canada before too long.
Q: I agree there are plenty of instructional videos on the market but do you ever plan on putting out a performance video? I’ve seen you on “All Star Guitar Night” but I would like to see an entire video on one of your shows.
A: Thanks for your interest. At some point I’m sure there’ll be a video of some kind. I just really hate having a camera on me, it’s very uncomfortable. I’ll keep you posted.
Q: enjoy your Breedlove guitar thinking of ordering a custom one have you experimented with different tops? could you tell me about them
A: Glad you like the Signature Model guitar. As for tops, they’ve made Signature Model guitars with Sitka, German spruce and cedar. Seems to me that the cedar topped guitars break in a little faster than the spruces. Cedar gives you a softer sound than the spruces, with a little less separation, but a shimmery high end and warm, woody bass. I really liked the cedar signature model I played- very sweet.
Q: My question is…. do you think a 43 year old is too old to learn to play guitar? I can read music and fiddle a bit with the piano. Used to have a guitar in the 60’s/70’s cuz everyone had one then, but it got lost somewhere in the shuffle. I only remember playing it and getting sore finger tips! We live in NH near Concord and I would appreciate any recommendations you could offer regarding teachers or instruments. Is there such a thing as a “beginner” guitar?
A: It’s never too late to learn. Any beginner benefits from getting an instrument that is easy to play and sounds good. The days of having to settle for an unplayable piece of crap are long gone. You can get a good guitar very inexpensively these days. Get out there and start looking! Check with your local music shop about lessons. If they don’t offer them, perhaps they can direct you to a teacher in your area. Good luck.
Q: Have C-22 and play solo fingerstyle in local churches and restaurants love your arrangement of Great Dream from Heaven. Can you send me the tuning for it? I’m just getting seriously into alternate tunings and it would help me a lot. Love my Breedlove it has opened a new feel for playing that I didn’t know was in me.
A: The tuning is DADGBE, good ol’ dropped D tuning. Glad you’re enjoying your Breedlove.
Q: I recently received a copy of “Fingerstyle Guitar Masterpieces”. It contained the notes/tab for “The Water Is Wide”. Is the single arrangement you offer for sale the same or does it contain more? Also, do you plan to print, in note or tab form, the music for your “Christmas” album?
Q: Ed, I am extremely interested in purchasing the tablature for YOUR version of “The little Drummer Boy” and “Away in a Manger” (the version on “A Cold Winters Night”). Are either of these available? if not, do you have any intention on doing this? I along with many of my friends are guitarists and big fans of your compositions and arrangements, and thought a Christmas tablature book would be a great seller.
A: Most of the Christmas arrangements I’ve recorded are for multiple guitars. There are some duets that would be easy to tab out, and I may do these someday. As mentioned elsewhere here, all the tab we have available is listed. If you do not see a particular title, this means it is not available.
Q: When you were in town recently and went over The Water is Wide in detail I noticed that your TAB version was different from how you actually play it especially or specifically in the 2nd pass/verse. I seems as you play some form of A or Am chord on what would be the fifth fret albeit capoed to the 8th. Is the tab available for this short passage as I just can not follow what your are doing on the All Star Guitar Night video?
A: I’ve received numerous questions about this section of “The Water is Wide.” I will try to post a correction soon. In the meantime, I believe the fingering you’re referring to is actually as follows;
G(7) D(5) A(7). Try that!
Q: Where were you born?
A: Abington, PA
Q: Where did you study?
A: Took three guitar lessons from a music store at age fourteen, quit, taught myself and learned from friends.
Q: Just wondering how you came to start tuning your guitars down a half step? Also. When tuning from standard do you tune down as though you were tuned to concert pitch or do you make the necessary compensation.? I just recently sent a guitar out for some repair work and when I got it back I thought it sounded exceptionally good. First I attributed it to the new strings they put on but then realized it was tuned or had dropped a half step. I tuned it up to concert and thought wow, that doesn’t sound as good. Needless to say I tuned it back the half step. I think some guitars just resonate differently at different tensions. Anyway. Ignore the rambling I was just really wondering what got you into doing it. Keep up the great music.
A: I think I discovered dropped D tuning right off the bat, and tuning the guitar down a half or even a whole step sort of naturally occurred after that. I also recall hearing Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush” album, and on one song (“Tell Me Why”) he tunes the guitars down a whole step. It works better with some guitars than others.
Q: Greetings Ed Could you please elaborate on the advantages of the “HAWAIIAN NAIL FILE”?
A: All four of the grits I need, from super coarse to super fine are all there on one file. They’re cheap and last a long time.
Q: Do you have tablature available for The Beatles tunes on Counting the Ways?
A: No, and we probably won’t be offering any – securing the rights to publish sheet music of copyrighted material can be very complicated.
Q: Do you have tablature available for the intros to your tunes on The Live Album?
A: No. Ed says, “The intros were all improvised noodlings, and I never play them the same way twice. I hope you’ll experiment with the guitar the same way!”
Q: Is there tab available for Shallow Brown?
A: Not at this time. All of the tab we have available is listed elsewhere on the website. If it is not listed it doesn’t exist. We’ve gotten many requests for “Shallow Brown,” and may tab it out someday. Thanks for your interest! We will keep you posted.
Q: Will Ed be doing an instructional video?
A: Ed replies – “There are so many instructional videos on the market already, it seems that the bases are already amply covered. Maybe one day I’ll do one, but there’s nothing in the works at this point. My workshops and clinics are very interactive, and I greatly prefer that format. Hope you’ll come out to one.”
Q: After hearing you play slide I’m convinced you can play blues, so how about a blues project in the future? One more question; Has a duet album with Martin Simpson ever crossed your mind?
A: Hi, thanks for your note. My next project will most likely have some bluesy stuff on it, though doing an entire album of blues ain’t in the cards, at least for now. Martin and I have talked about doing a record together, and we may well do it if we can find the time. I promise to keep you posted.
Q: I’ve been enjoying your music for a few years now, and as a guitarist I especially appreciate the “lyrical”feel of your arrangements. How do you approach a new arrangement? Do you hear it in your head first, then try to find it or what? Sort of the same question regarding tunings. How do you decide which tuning works best for a particular tune?
A: Sometimes a tune will stay in my head for a long time before it occurs to me to try to play it. I usually have an idea before I start arranging what the tuning should be, though sometimes I come up with several arrangements in different tunings. I think it helps to really know the melody of what you’re arranging, and have an idea of the “feel” you’re after before you start. Good luck!
Q: Is there tab available for “Shallow Brown?”
A: Not at this time. All of the tab we have available is listed elsewhere on the website. If it is not listed it doesn’t exist. We’ve gotten many requests for “Shallow Brown,” and may tab it out someday. Thanks for your interest! We will keep you posted.