Thursday, August 13, 2009

Eric Johnson's Guitar Setup Secrets

This article is gleaned from a 1988 interview with Eric Johnson's guitar tech Jerry Holmes. It's pretty insightful -- Holmes details the quirks of Eric's guitar setup and even mentions his infamous Energizer vs Duracell battery preference.

On his guitar tuneup routine before a show:
"I clean (the guitar) up, restring it, play it awhile.. strobe-tune it and then play it a little more to work it in. This way I know the guitar is ready. If a string breaks or something goes wrong during the show, it's just because the musician has played it to death; it's not because I didn't do my job."

"I always stretch new strings at the 12th fret."

On maintaining consistent intonation:
"I find that if you use the same kind of strings and change them on a regular basis, your intonation starts to set in and you don't have to move the bridge pieces that much. If you only change strings every week or two, it seems like you have to move the bridge pieces a lot more."

"He uses GHS Nickel Rockers on his Strats, gauged .010, .013, .017, .026, .036 and .046."

On the number of string wraps around each tuning post:
"The low E and A strings have to have exactly two wraps -- no less, no more. One wrap goes underneath and one goes on top, and that decreases the (string) angle."

"The D and G strings have to have two-and-a-half wraps, one over and one under, so it's kind of the opposite. I have to use a little more of the string to have half a wrap more."

"I don't trim any of the B string off at all. I put one wrap over and wind the rest of the string underneath. This puts just enough winds down to the very bottom of the post so I don't need to use the string tree."

"With the (high) E it doesn't matter, since I use the tree -- just one over, one under."

On Eric's tremelo and nut setup:
"Eric's Strat tremelos have to have four springs and sit level. The nut has to be perfect. It's got to have a clean groove, the high point has to be at the very front of the nut, and it has to have a downward angle on it. We use bone, but really hard plastic seems to stay in tune a little better. To lubricate it I use Tri-Flow gun oil that has Teflon in it."

On brass and stainless-steel plugs:
"(Eric) can hear the difference between a stainless-steel plug, like a Switchcraft, and a brass plug, which he prefers."

Energizers vs Duracells:
"He can tell the difference between what kind of batteries I put in fuzz boxes; it's really bizarre. He likes Eveready Energizers the best, over Duracells or Kodaks. I believe he hears things that no one else hears."

On Eric's never-ending tone quest:
"Just little picky things, like swapping out speaker cables and different kinds of speakers. He seems to never stop trying to find something older and more difficult to find that sounds great."

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