12-String Guitar
(Adena Productions)


I’ve always loved the sound of the twelve string guitar ever since the days of Roger McGuinn’s nimble picking on the early Byrds recordings. Even George Harrison of The Beatles used his Rickenbacker 12 string while newer bands like Israel’s Rockfour find imaginative ways to feature the 12 string electric in a rock format. However, there’s something to be said for the woody 12 string acoustic. One acoustic guitarist making the most of the 12 string format is Ohio based Neil Jacobs, who released the simply titled 12-String Guitar in 2009. Filled with imaginative originals penned by Jacobs, the fifteen cut CD also features some well chosen covers including “Peter’s Theme”—based on the theme from Peter And The Wolf and “Ghostrider Medley” (subtitled “Russian Cowboy Medley”) which combines “Ghostriders In The Sky” with Grieg’s “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” and Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” to great effect. On his fifth solo CD, Jacobs proves once again that he’s clearly a master of the 12 string guitar, which in his hands often sounds like a cross between an acoustic guitar and a harpsichord. As he states in the CD booklet, all tracks were performed on five different 12 string guitars without the aid of recording overdubs or special effects. Track by track liner notes from Jacobs sheds further light on his fondness of the 12 string guitar, as well as his extensive musical imagination and crafty fretboard expertise. 12-String Guitar is one of the finest solo 12 string guitar albums ever caught on disc.

presents NEIL JACOBS

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Musical Background

I think I began my musical career in a shoe box with rubber bands when I was quite young. I am essentially a self taught musician, and tended to create my own musical path. I formed an eclectic ensemble in the 80's, and was inspired in my opportunity to open up for some of the fusion greats of that time, including Spyro Gyra, Jeff Lorber, Herbie Mann, Airto & Flora Purim, and Weather Report. I was invited to Moscow Film Festival after working on a film score, where I became exposed to Russian Gypsy and folk music. This eventually lead to joining the Balkan music and dance troupe, "Zivili". I felt connected to the Gypsy and folk music's of Eastern Europe, and learned how to play many of the folk instruments, especially including those of the tamburitza family. I returned to the Balkans to visit and perform at the refugee camps and orphanages following the war, which had a profound effect on my compositions. In 1994, received a grant to study the music and culture of the gypsies of Spain, and lived and performed in Andalusia for a year, as my interest in the contributions of the Roma to the world's music grew.

New CD

The latest CD, 12-String Guitar is an homage to my primary instrument, the 12-string guitar. It spans 20 years of compositions that I have somehow neglected to record, and features five of my favorite 12-string guitars. The span of time helps to gives a compositional CD variety in that many styles are represented. The 12-string guitars include John Goodall, Lo Prinzi, Langejans, Larrivee, my favorite old 1975 Alvarez Yairi.

The Yairi was my first 12 string. I bought it new in 1975, and it has traveled around the world with me. I had the misfortune of giving it a less than loving toss after drinking a bit too much coffee one day, (the pesky G-sring kept breaking) and it was lost to me for many years. I haplessly sought a replacement for my "magic guitar" for years (a cautionary tale for anger management). My travels took me to a small guitar store in Berkeley, CA, where I bartered for a famous special copy of Leadbelly's Stella. I strung it up like Huddy would have, with oversized heavy strings, and it roared, until my arms gave out. After a year of physical therapy, I put away the Stella and found a luthier to glue the Yairi back together. I did originally write the opening tune, "Song for Huddy" on the Stellla, but it is recorded on the rehabilitated Yairi.

Favorite Guitars

I became fascinated with the 12-string guitar early on in my career. I have always composed my own music and the 12-string was the perfect instrument for me. The rich orchestral sound produced harmonics and overtones that proved to be an advantageous in the composing process. I could pick out complex melodies and harmonies with the lush Also, the 12-string seems to have the ability to emulate the sounds of other instruments. Often when playing the 12-string I could imagine sounds mimicking, a piano, accordion, organ, mandolin, or even a sitar.

My latest CD, 12-String Guitar is completely solo. There are no overdubs or special effects. I have a tradition of producing CDs with very few overdubs, but sometimes I will allow a few to slip in. This CD absolutely solo, and reflects many of the sounds and textures one can achieve with a 12-string guitar. The CD is a blend of styles combinations including, fingerstyle, flat-picking, and what I like to call "Spanadonian" style. Surprisingly, I tend not to use exotic tunings on this or most of my recordings. For the most part, I use mostly standard or drop D tunings (very boring), although "Song For Huddy" is in what I like to call "D minus tuning"...

I do vary the sound by using a variety of string types. For a classical sound and light guitar fingerstyle playing, I use silk and steel strings, for the more a agressive playing style, I use phosphor bronze and bright bronze strings.

As far as my gear goes, I try to keep it simple. I never liked piezo pick ups or anything under the saddle. I guess I got tired of being disappointed over the years. For live performances I use a Sennheiser 441 mic combined with a Sunrise magnetic pickup. Magnetic pickups are not ideal, but they produce a good low end, and the mic can add authenticity. It also helps to play with a super thin nylon pick (.46 or .38) Magnetic pickups certainly lose what little acoustic pretense they might have if played too strongly. In the studio, I am still looking for the perfect combination. If you are an aspiring perfectionist, the 12-string can be an utterly exasperating instrument to record. Aside from incessant tuning anomalies, it can produce any number of inexplicable noises including pings, pops, slurs, slides, and thumps. One must exercise patience or learn to accept imperfection.

Musical Influences

Although there were numerous guitarists that I listened to in my youth, I did not emulate any particular guitarist. I was not a natural imitator, and it took a long time to develop my own particular style. My travels and studies were perhaps a greater influence and inspiration for me later in my career. I combined elements drawn from Eastern European folk, Spanish, Gypsy, Russian, Balkan, and Western Classical influences in my compositions.

Upcoming Plans

It looks like more of the same this year - traveling and performing, and perhaps one new CD. I have no plans to leave the country this year, and I have been avoiding flying with instruments that past few years. As far as projects, I hope to publish a song book with at least a dozen of my favorite original compositions. I also have a few CD’s in mind, the most likely to be completed will be a solo CD entitled Balkan Memories which will feature some amazing melodies and arrangements of songs from that region.

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