Following a period of living and playing music in London in the seventies, where I heard a lot of great guitar players like Nic Jones, I developed an open tuning on guitar EEBEBE which allowed the playing of tunes and songs in a modal style. Then I moved to a greek round-backed bouzouki tuned ADAD which suited accompaniment of traditional music keys better.
The sound was not however as rich as I really wanted, so in 1984 I went to see luthier Stefan Sobell with my friend Billy Mol – who player sobell cittern and mandolins. We had a great weekend with him in his home in Hexham Northumberland and together we agreed on a design for a ten string bouzouki tuned DADAD. Stefan wanted to make it with a short scale neck, for easier chords, but I opted for a longer bouzouki scale to get the sound I wanted. It has a great bass tone but retains that crisp bouzouki top end – which proved ideal for playing with pipers like Trevor Stewart, Richard Parkes and ultimately with the full Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band.
In 2008 needing a new guitar for accompanying singers, I took the advice of guitar guru Cliff McKenna from Ballymena and went to see Dermot McIlroy in his Antrim workshops. From a range of great options I picked an A 30 cutaway spruce top and I have found it to be outstanding both live and for recording. I keep to the standard EADGBE guitar tuning as it gives different chords to the bouzouki tunings and particularly suits jazz and blues orientated material.
Dermot has also produced some small bodied bouzouki style (gazouki) instruments and I enjoyed playing one for a couple of years – but then he introduced me to a guitar bodied bouzouki he had made and that has since become my first choice of instrument in most situations. Using the GDAD standard bouzouki tuning it is ideal both for song and tune accompaniments, with deep rich tone, great sustain and lovely quality of sound right up the fretboard. Go raibh maith agat Dermot!