Fernandes Sustainer guitar
The guitar is a Fernandes Sustainer, which, as the name suggests, has a special pickup that can give you a pure sustained note that doesn’t decay. There’s a knack to playing it, but it’s a great pleasure to do so. Using a classical vibrato (along the fretboard rather than across it) gives a lovely singing tone.
I got this guitar on eBay; it felt risky to be buying a guitar without playing it first, it’s turned out to be a beauty.
Roland Guitar Synth
The guitar has another extra pickup fitted to it – the Roland GK2, which drives the Roland GK20 Guitar Synthesiser. This gives a range of good synth and sampled instruments, although I only use a fraction of the ones available. The piano part on Crying in the Street (Romantic Fiction 2) was played on guitar, not piano!
Zoom Guitar FX
There’s an out from the synth to the Zoom Guitar FX pedal, a simple and cheap pedal with a range of customisable FX. The special pickup on the guitar lets you switch from synth to guitar or to mix the two, so you can have, for example, a chorus effect on the guitar from the Zoom combined with a strings pad from the guitar synth.
The out signal from the guitar synth goes to the Boss DD-20 GigaDelay; as well as conventional delay effects, this is the actually the first of my two loopers; the settings here let me set up a decaying loop, which gradually fades, unlike the Loop Station which plays back at the same volume forever. I can set up a few notes repeating and gradually fading for the beginning of a song, then switch it off and play ‘normally’. I use this pedal more than the Loop Station now.
Finally the signal from the GigaDelay goes to the JamMan, which I can use to set up non-decaying ‘permanent’ loops with a kick drum beat. I can also use it to record preset loops which I do more and more for songs – for example for Nicole, I have a preset loop of 4 bars with a thumping kick drum and a bass note on the first note of each bar on a baritone sax sound from the guitar synth. I’ve also used these preset loops for Roadblock and Forest Trail in Autumn, with varying degrees of success. The challenge with the JamMan is to hit the pedals at exactly the right time.
I carry the lot around in a hardwood case, with the exception of the JamMan, which doesn’t fit in. The case contains a power extension for the four pedals.