Tim O'Brien

From Geartome

circa 2002

"For most of Two Journeys, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott play O’Brien’s 1959 Gibson J-50, strung with medium-gauge GHS phosphor-bronze strings and played with a variety of picks. When O’Brien is on stage, he amplifies with a Fishman Matrix Natural pickup and sometimes adds a mini-mic if he can carry enough gear to do a stereo mix.

O’Brien’s main instrument is a custom-made bouzouki designed by Mike Kemnitzer, who also made his A-5 mandolin. "It has the same scale-length (24 inches) as the Flatiron bouzouki, but it’s an archtop, so the tension is higher and it has a stronger thrust," says O’Brien. "It kicks ass! It’s made in the style and shape of the prewar Gibson L-5s, except shortened. Mike wanted to make me something special, either a guitar or a mandolin, so I said, ‘Let’s combine them.’ It’s got these nice little f-holes, an adjustable bridge, a carved top and back, with maple all around and spruce on top." Unlike most bouzouki players, O’Brien splits his low pairs of strings into octaves. "It wreaks havoc with the tuning," he says, "but it produces a different sound from an octave mandolin--a shimmery, sparkly, kind of Christmasy sound."

Personal tools