Guitar Q & A with Don Felder
If you listen very closely to Don’s tinkering in the above video from the 1990s, you may recognize the raw melody of a song which ended up on his latest solo album, ROAD TO FOREVER (2012). Can you tell which one it is?
Don, how many guitars do you own?
I suppose I have around 300 or so. One I’ve had the longest is one I got when I was about fifteen.
Which of your guitars at home is at arm’s length?
Since I have a studio in my home I keep about 20 guitars at arms length. One or two in every room. The two that I have in hand most often are a Taylor Acoustic and a Gibson Les Paul. I use the Taylor for writing and acoustic work as well as for practice before I go out to do shows and I use the Les Paul to work out most of the electric guitar parts in the studio. Once I have them sketched out I’ll change guitar combinations until the balance between all the guitar parts fits well.
Do you maintain your guitars yourself or do you have them regularly checked by a technician?
I do very little maintenance on my own guitars. I design and have them custom built in some cases. I have a personal technician (guitar tech) as well as two master luthiers here in LA that do more custom work on my instruments for me. Custom wiring, fret jobs, paint jobs, routing hidden cavities, etc. are very specialized skills and I leave those talents to the pros.
What was your first priority as far as choosing the gear/amp set-up when recording Hotel California?
I used basically the same electric guitar setup on HC that I used on One Of These Nights. I wanted to use a recognizable sound/tone that would remain somewhat consistent from album to album. I used an entirely different setup for the acoustic 12 string part. It was a Takamine acoustic 12 string with a DeArmond pickup in it that was run into a Leslie and recorded both acoustically and from the turning Leslie in stereo. It results in a very unique acoustic sound.
If you were designing your own guitar, what would be the three most important features it should have and why?
The three most important things in an electric guitar for me are TONE, TONE, TONE. I can fix action, replace the neck, bridge etc. but if the TONE is not good I’ll pass no matter what it LOOKS like.
What expectations do you have of yourself as far as continuing to develop as a musician?
We are all continually developing as humans. This is reflected in the music we write and how we express ourselves in our music. I hope I will continue to develop both as a human and as a musician for the rest of my life.
Which piece of musical equipment would you like to see under your Christmas tree this year?
I would like to see the red Gibson 335 that was stolen from me in Florida in 1965. That would be a great Christmas gift and make me very happy!
Heavy Metal sounds like a fun song to play. Does this resurgence in its popularity mean we’ll be seeing you out playing it live more often?
I have been playing that song in my solo show for over a year now. I used to hear the fans at Eagles concerts yell it out and thought people might like to hear it. It goes over very well.
Were you aware at the time you wrote the song [...Heavy Metal] which sequences in the original film would accompany it and did this have an effect on your composing it?
I wrote this song based on the title opening footage. There is a Corvette flying through space and an explosion in the end of the scene. The lyrics follow the opening footage. I had no idea where they would use the song but thought that the opening set up the entire film very well.
Do you remember which guitar model and effects you used laying down the original recording 28 years ago?
I used a 59 Les Paul with a Fender tweed deluxe amp. I also had an old echoplex and a boss chorus unit in line.
What was your mixing secret in order to get that “spacey” sound on the album track?
We recorded and mixed the track at Westlake recording studios in Hollywood. Michael Jackson was recording with Quincy Jones in the studio next door. We used some of the echo units (EMT’s) that they had brought in for their session.
How do you best achieve this unique sound playing the song live?
I use very close to the same equipment that I used on the record. It’s pretty easy to recreate the sound and effect.
Would you be open to making the sheet music or guitar tabs available to guitar players over the internet?
I prefer not to release these over the internet as they are controlled by my publishing company which is distributed by Warner Brothers Music. They are copyrighted and can not be distributed over the internet that way.