SETUPS OF THE STARS Jerry Garcia

By Brawer, Gary | Guitar Player, April 2001 | Go to article overview

SETUPS OF THE STARS Jerry Garcia


Brawer, Gary, Guitar Player


Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia's guitars, built by luthier Doug Irwin, are as much one-of-a-kind works of art as they are musical instruments. I worked on Garcia's guitars for years, and I still get questions about them.

This guitar is called "Tiger" because of the beautiful inlay on the battery/preamp compartment cover. The body is made up of many layers of wood including what appears to be a Cocabola top and back with a maple center section (which may be hollowed out in parts). Sandwiched in between are thin layers of paduk, purpleheart, and brass. The maple neck has a hardwood section (possibly paduk) inlayed in the back and the ebony fretboard has brass binding.

Garcia played with high action--7/64" at the 12th fret, with .030" relief in the neck. At the nut, the strings a were also quite high at about .030" above the 1st fret. The ebony fingerboard has a 16" radius and sports. 105" x .45" frets. The neck and middle pickups are 10/64" from the strings, and the bridge pickup sits 14/64" away. (The bridge was made by Schaller for Gibson, and the tailpiece was custom made for the guitar.) The brass nut is scalloped between the strings, and the spacing--as specified by Garcia--is equal between the edges of the strings (as opposed to the centers of the strings being equidistant, which is more common). Garcia used Vinci strings, gauged .010-.046. but from time to time used an .011 on the high E and a .047 on the low E.

The aspect of Tiger I am most acquainted with is its electronics. The guitar features a single-coil in the neck position, as opposed to the humbuckers you see on his other instruments.

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