Dan Crary Interview

Q: I'm very curious about Taylor's Dan Crary model. What are the differences?

DC: Quite a lot. I worked with Bob Taylor to produce a guitar that sounds
good through a mic. You tend to get an uneven balance on bass if you
mike a scalloped-braced guitar [he said it, not me]. So we designed new
internal structure based on sturdier bracing and thinner top. We did this
by using a stronger, taller and narrower brace, and we got clean sound
from bass to treble. The top as a result is very thin, sort of like a
flamenco guitar. We achieved a good matching between the guitar and PA and
studio mics.

Q: Why did you work with Taylor?

DC: I really liked Mossman guitar, and he is a friend of mine.
Unfortunately they went bankrupt. When that happened, Bob Taylor talked
to me about this. I always liked Taylor 12-string guitars [he uses Taylor
655 12 string maple jumbo, I think], but I did not care for their
6-string. Then Bob said "if you got some ideas, we can design a guitar
together". We tried so many things, like adjusting EQ [maybe he meant
adjusting balance?] and trying different bridges and necks. What's
amazing was that when Bob said "if we change this to such and such, it
will change the sound in such a manner", it indeed happens. We spent
about four months, but it was worth it and we got a wonderful guitar.
Moreover, this one (the one he uses) has a long neck, two frets longer
[it has 16 frets clear instead of usual 14]. This allows me to use D note
while keeping the same tension [on 6th string]. Not many people realize
this is a long neck. The headstock is a little larger. The body size is
the same  and Bob used a computer to maintain a good balance [weight-wise].

Q: You added two extra frets in which direction?

DC: Towards the headstock. So if you capo on second fret, it's same as
standard tuning. If you take capo off, it's D tuning [one full note lower
than standard so it will be D G C F A D]. I haven't decided how I'll use
it. If you tune a normal guitar to D tuning, it changes the string
tension. I'm still experimenting with the tone affected by the change in
the tension. BY the way, this capo was made in Czecoslovachia [spell?].
It may end up as Dan Crary model capo 

Q: What strings do you use?

DC: D'Addario medium gauge. Long enough, too [for the long neck]

Q: Do you have any preference to the neck?

DC: Although I like Taylor's neck, I don't judge a guitar by the neck.
Electric players tend to choose Taylor since the feel of Taylor neck is
similar to electric's. To me, what's more important is the sound and fret
and action. As you know, a 1946 Martin D-28's neck is wide and big but
it doesn't give a problem. As long as it sounds good, it's good for me.
One thing I like about Taylor's neck is that it is adjusted very
carefully. When I go on tour, the climate changes and it is important to
have good set up.

Q: You pick-up system?

DC: I use "Fishman blender system", costing about $500 with mixer + mic +
piezo pick up. It as a pick up on bridge and a mic on sound hole. Both
signals come out stereo, fed into the blender with each having volume,
bass and treble adjustments, and come out from from the blender. The output can
be a mix of two in mono or each can be sent to monitor or house. I wanted
to surpress mid range so I  change the mic from the original Crown to an
AKG C-409, which is often used for sax

Q: When did you start playing?

DC: I was 12, in 1952.

Q: What prompted you to start?

DC: I only had a very few people around me who played steel-string flat
top, like blues players and country types. I tried to work on Hank Snow
and Dan Reno. I did not know much about guitars but I really liked the
sound when I heard it on radio. So no one in particular influenced me. I
just listened to radio and some classical guitar. Of, and Flatt and
Scruggs. I think their original recordings are still great. I had played
for about ten years when I first heard Doc Watson and Clarence White.
They are certainly great but I did not want to imitate any other players.

Q: You played in "Bluegrass Alliance"

DC: I was the original member in 1968. I left two years later but the
band is still performing

Q: What guitar did you use then?

DC: An early 60's D-28

Q: Any band before Bluegrass Alliance?

DC: In 1963 or 64, I joined "Kansas City Club Carltons", a folk band

Q: Do you teach guitar?

DC: I teach as a part of Taylor's workshop, and I have instructional
videos and books. I answer questions after gig or at the airport. Oh and
I teach Communication at University of California.

Q: Do you practice a lot?

DC: I practice a lot before recording session, but I don't follow any
disciplined exercise. Not a good thing. When someone asks for my advise,
I say otherwise  It's good to practice everyday but more
importantly I try to think about guitar in my mind always. A sort of like
a psychological exercise. In my workshop, I tell people to picture a tune
in your mind. This allows you to practice without the guitar in hand.
Also I tell them to study music theory. It does take time if you are
self-taught like me. I do not recommend a speed exercise by simple
repetition, and actually think it's a bad idea. Set up a goal no matter
how small, and work on it, even for fifteen minutes. Also try variations
of a same tune

Q: Your picking is very precise

DC: Sometimes. I do try 

Q: You are using a rounded side of a teardrop pick?

DC: Yes. I get thicker tone from plain strings. And it's easier to play
tremolo [ Dan holds a pick using thumb, index and middle fingers]

Q: You seem to use open strings a lot

DC: Yes, I like the sound of open strings. Especially in solo, open
strings have more sustain and more effective. I connect notes by mixing
in open strings. It works for me and it's one way to play guitar.