When it comes to musical equipment, prolific songwriter Elliott Smith doesn't need a lot of bells and whistles; he prefers to keep things fairly simple. His main acoustic guitar is a Yamaha, the model number of which escapes him. "It's a real standard-looking guitar," he says. (it is actually a YAMAHA FG-180)
"It's big and loud and made out of light wood. I don't use a pick when I play most of the time, and I chew my fingernails, so it's a good guitar for me because it's really loud." He recently expanded his collection with a Norman 12-string (La Si Do, 4240 Sere St., St. Laurent, PQ H4T 1A6, Canada;  343-5560; email@example.com).
Smith uses John Pearse medium-gauge, phosphor-bronze strings. "They seem to last longer," he explains. "I get mediums because I tune all the strings down a step. That happened by accident a couple of years ago. I didn't have my own guitar for quite awhile, and I'd play my girlfriend's guitar. I don't have perfect pitch and I didn't realize that it was way lower, so the E string was actually a D, the A string was a G, and so on. So, nowadays I just tune that way, and when I play older songs that were written in normal tuning, I put a capo on."
As far as amplification is concerned, Smith sees no need for pricey, complex equipment. "I go direct," he says. "I have one of those pickups that fits in the soundhole, a Lawrence. It was real cheap, like 40 bucks. It's the only one of those I've seen that has a metal cover instead of wood or plastic. I like it a lot better than a bridge pickup. It doesn't sound glassy or slick." (Editor's note: the Lawrence acoustic pickup is no longer available.)
(actually I have a photo of Elliot Smith playing a rare earth Fishman acoustic Guitar Pick up)
--Roger Len Smith