Excerpts from a Bob Miller conversation with Andy Kimbel from live Masters Workshop Session.
Andy, what kind of guitars do you play??
I truly love the quite remarkable Collings guitar. It’s not just the quality of the build and sound, but also the complexity of the overtones that I find impressive. Yep, I am pretty much in love with the Collings. I hear things that continue to inspire me all the time. It is just amazing.
I do still sometimes tour with Yariri Alvarez DY88’s, one black (Mandy), and one blue, (Randy). They are just so much fun and have a pretty unique sound that I often take advantage of. These guitars have really been the tools of my trade, mostly in the early stages of my career. They are very dependable, very brilliant stage guitars.
In the band, I sometimes switch it up and play a 1970 or 71′ maybe cherry sunburst Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar that my father bought for me at the time. It has been with me since my high school bands. Love the guitar. I don’t play it much but what an amazing instrument. I named that guitar “Elizabeth”.
Then, on occasion, I sometimes utilize a Tacoma DM9. It is a nice sounding guitar and offers the agility of an electric guitar, for me anyway. It is really easy to get around on the neck of this instrument which makes it a lot of fun to play. It offers a cool unique tone. The more I think about it, the more I should get it out and play.
I owe a very special thanks to the Three Rivers Folksong Society In Richland Washington for the Tacoma.
I have a fleet of guitars but the one that I think grabs the most attention I think is the National Resophonic guitar. Audiences really seem to enjoy the sound and experience that we seem to generate together. I do a lot with it, not just slide. I guess I should take it out more often. The guitar is just plain fun. I use several different tunings to generate lots of interesting music, never a dull moment.
Touring with three or four and sometimes five guitars has been enjoyable, but a bit cumbersome. It is really nice to have a full palette on stage. I tend to fly airlines more often these days so it is just one guitar in the overhead and retune as needed.
Do you see a real difference between different brands of strings? Do you prefer a particular brand?
I really haven’t tried them all. I am not a string expert by any means, but I do know what works for me and generates the most consistent tone and playability. There are some great brands out there. My string brand of choice is John Pearse. They deliver a consistently brilliant sound and are very dependable. I have on occasion used other brands such as D’addario and Eric Schoenberg Soloist.
I do change my strings on all five performance guitars very often really, almost for each show to allow a fresh crisp sound at each performance. Yes, I go through a lot of sets but the reward makes it so worth it. In so may years of playing, I can barely remember ever breaking a string on stage. Just about never happens. Switching brands seems to throw me off a bit so I do my best to stay with one for extended periods of time.
Can’t help but notice your use of a Capo. For the aspiring picker’, how do recommend one in selecting a Capo?
When do you use a Capo? Is it to accommodate a comfortable key or to change the sound of the guitar?
I sometimes use the capo to project a song a little better, maintaining
the integrity and “feel” of the root chord shapes. That is what it is about, the certain shapes and specific tones and feel. If I were to just change the key chord, I would lose that so, on goes the Capo.
You had mentioned to me that you actually had started out playing the piano before you had picked up the guitar and have sat in with a few bands on the keyboard over the years. Why don’t you combine some piano songs in your shows? Are there any particular piano influences we should know about?
I do enjoy the keys and don’t play that much these days. Every once in a while when the staging permits, and there is a grand piano that I can bang around on, I’ll make the switch. My occasional backing band, The Andy Kimbel Express, features two keyboard players. When I hear those guys, I am convinced that I should stick with the guitar. I pretty much keep my own keyboard work as simple as I can and focus on the impact and styling. I like the New Orleans Barrel House flavor and have also taken a liking to Jackson Browne’s piano style. I am somewhere in there I guess. I really don’t play as much as I used too so each time becomes that much more special. I have an Ensoniq Keyboard, very outdated but it is really all I need for as much as I play these days.
* Andy is conducting a series of workshops in conjunction with some of his performances offering tips on performance, guitar technique, and songwriting.