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Dave Arcari – instruments & equipment

My main touring instruments, from left: custom National Style O, custom National Delphi, National ResoLectric Jnr. and banjo pick up detail.

FOR touring in the UK and when travelling by car Dave uses three National guitars and a Deering Goodtime banjo all DI’d via a specially designed pedalboard. Here’s the lowdown…

The two metal bodied resonators are custom made by National – one based on a bell nickel plated brass Style O (open C tuning) and one on a steel-bodied Delphi (the ‘black guitar’ in open G tuning).

Both have M2 necks with flat headstocks rather than slots as Dave uses heavy strings and any replacement following a broken string on stage needs to be dealt with quickly…the flat headstocks make it easier and quicker to replace a heavy gauge string.

Both guitars have similar custom pick up systems. Dave never liked the external power boxes for the Highlander piezo pickups. Not only were they something else to carry about and/or lose –  he left many behind on dark stages – but they require a stereo cable and are incompatible with wireless systems. In addition, Dave wanted a magnetic pickup option for the songs on which he uses overdrive. A piezo/acoustic pick sounds horrible through overdrive/distortion!

National put together a system with onboard (the guitar) power for the Higlander piezo in the biscuit bridge, a Lollar magnetic humbucker pickup in the neck position and a blend/switch system. This is featured on both of Dave’s metal-bodied guitars.

The ‘black’ custom Delphi has a silver dollar on the front – a good luck gift from a great pal who I hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years and turned up to surprise me at a special unplugged show 🙂

Dave’s signature strings from Newtone Strings

Both guitars are strung with custom heavy gauge ( .056, .045, .037, .026 plain, .019, .017 ) strings from Newtone Strings  and he uses his own signature guitar slides developed in conjunction with Diamond Bottlenecks. Signature string sets and bottlenecks are available in Dave’s online store. Thumbpicks are Dunlop medium and fingerpicks are a mix of medium brass ProPick and steel Dunlop .0225.

Dave is proud to be part of Reunion Blues‘ official artist family and uses Continental Voyager gig bags to keep his instruments safe while touring the UK, Europe, Scandinavia and the USA. You can see his testimonial video here.

For regular tuning songs in his set Dave usually uses a National ResoLectric Jnr (no longer made…current equivalent is the Resotone) with a single P90 in the neck position. For acoustic shows and on some other shows he uses a Collings 0002H instead of the ResoLectric. Regular tuning guitars are strung with Newtone Nickel Masters.

The banjo used both live and in the studio is a Deering Goodtime 5-string banjo – tuned to open G – with a Kavanjo head which has a built in humbucker pickup behind the skin. The sound is remarkably natural.

When travelling to the USA Dave can only take his two main metal-bodied National guitars. So, in storage in New York, he has a Gold Tone 5-string banjo (which he got from pal and fellow musician Charlie Parr) with K&K Twin pickup and a National ResoTone solid body resonator for regular tuning work.

All instruments are DI’d via Dave’s pedalboard case custom made by Condor Cases to (a) fit within airline hand baggage size restrictions and (b) to keep weight under airlines’ common 10kg limit including the pedals inside.

Custom effects case/pedalboard

The pedlaboard case contains…

Damage Control Liquid Blues dual valve overdrive pedal with two stages of overdrive. This is how Dave manages to get a decent overdrive sound when DI’d straight into the PA without using a guitar amp. The only drawback is that it requires a whopping 2amps of AC power. Sadly it’s no longer made. Luckily Dave has a backup!

T C Electroniocs Polytune2 – this replaces a string of Boss tuners that only ever seemed to last a year or so. The Polytune is smaller and saves space in the case, features direct bypass and is more accurate that the Boss.

Line 6 Relay G50 wireless receiver. Constant lead breaking, no matter how good the leads were, led Dave to investigate wireless. All the systems, no matter how high end, he tried out worked fine on overdrive/electric sounds, but seemed to compress and ‘kill’ acoustic tone….until he found the Line 6 digital system. Not a fan of Line 6 or digital gear in the past, he was surprised to find the perfect solution for his wireless needs!

Boss DD3 digital delay. Used solely for slapback effects. Overkill, but his beloved £20 FabTones proved unreliable and not up to the rigours of the road, even in a bombproof case.

Circuit Innovations custom power supply. No over the counter power supplies offered the 2 amps of AC required by the Liguid Blues pedal….some of the more expensive ones went up to 1 amp. The rest of the gear runs on 9v DV. Although big and heavy, this specially made power supply ticks all the boxes for Dave.

On stage Dave also uses a Wazinator minbi kick for foot stomps on a occasional tracks. It’s small, light, no batteries and makes a heck of a thud. Importantly, the ‘tongue’ that acts as the trigger is flat and thin, so it’s much more comfortable to use standing up. Other stompboxes (and indeed Wazinator models) are wedge-shaped or raised which is fine for performers sitting down, but cramp inducing for those who stand up.

Inter-pedal connections are via Lava Cable Piston solder-free cables – the low-profile, right-angled jacks let pedals sit closer together on the pedalboard. There’s also a wee box with spare batteries for my radio beltpack transmitter and a wee clock – which along with all the valves and cables int he case, causes chaos when going throuhh the x-ray at airports!

Retired/studio inventory includes National ResoLectric solidbody with Highlander piezo and P90 pickups (no longer made…current equivalent is the National Revolver), a US standard Telecaster with Fishman TriplePlay, National vintage steel Delphi, National polychrome tricone – with a brass body and beta Highlander magnaphonic pickup system, Epiphone Bluesmaster acoustic, Mesa F30 combo guitar amp, HK Lucas compact PA system, Mackie mixer, AER compact 60 acoustic cube and an un-named lap steel.

Studio equipment is Mac-based and includes a Euphonix desk, Avid/Digidesign ProTools rack and a range of mics, DI boxes.

Accessories – signature bottleneck slide, finger/thumb picks, Line 6 radio pack, Wazinator stomp box