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What Guitar Does Tommy Emmanuel Play?

Updated on June 10, 2014

Tommy Emmanuel has been on the go for a very long time and as a result has played quite a number of guitars. For the most part these are electro-acoustic and typically made by the Australian guitar company, Maton. On the electric side you will typically see him playing Fender guitars - particularly the Telecaster.

As with most notable professional musicians you find sponsorship and endorsement deals. This goes some way to explain why Tommy plays so many Maton guitars. Given Tommy's stature, Maton has designed guitars specifically for him. These were tailored to his needs and playing style (not necessary the same as yours). These are the TE1 and the TE2 Signature guitars and have been opened up the the public (at sky high prices of course). Unsurprisingly these are the guitars that you typically see Tommy playing nowadays. However, you will still see him with his 808's as these were his main guitars before the TE Series was produced. Furthermore Slash (the lead guitarist of the original Guns and Roses i.e. the guy with the long hair and silly hat) has adopted the TE1 as his electro-acoustic guitar of choice.

Die hard Tommy fans may want to look at the TE1 and TE2 but as these are so expensive you may want to look further a field to some of his other guitars - particularly the older ones. Unfortunately, Tommy's guitars will come in way above budget for most guitarists.

His Old 808

Tommy playing his old guitar. This has taken a lot of punishment over the years and is often used for its percussive effects in songs like "The Journey" and "Mombasa". He got this guitar in 2003 and it has a whole in the top.
Tommy playing his old guitar. This has taken a lot of punishment over the years and is often used for its percussive effects in songs like "The Journey" and "Mombasa". He got this guitar in 2003 and it has a whole in the top. | Source

Specs

Electro-Acoustic

Tommy Emmanuel's signature (probably just a print though)

Small body typically without cutaway

Model: EBG808TE

Manufacturer: Maton Guitars

Soundboard: AAA Solid Sitka Spruce

Wood: Maple body with rosewood fingerboard (dot inlays) and Sitka spruce top

Pickup: AP5-PRO


TE2 Signature Matton

At this moment in time Tommy describes this as his number one guitar.

Unfortunately, this guitar fits in at the super premium end of the spectrum and will set you back quite a lot of money. However, for a die hard Tommy fan you will probably find that this guitar is the most "Tommy".

The guitar is apparently designed in conjunction with Tommy himself to meet his needs. Obviously this includes a great sound but also an emphasis on durability as his relentless touring schedule puts a lot of pressure on the guitar.

Unsurprisingly, the guitar has his signature on it (that's why it's a "Signature" Maton). However, I would argue that the signature is too small.

Main Guitars Summary

Guitar
Manufacturer
Identifier
TE2 Signature
Maton Guitars
EBG808TE
TE1 Signature
Maton Guitars
TE 1
1966 Telecaster Custom
Fender
110,000 to 200,000
Maton 808
Maton Guitars
Various (see series)

Specs

Weight: 7 lbs 7 oz

Wood: Maple

Pick up Resistance: 6 ohms

Serial Numbers: between 110,000 and 200,000 (check these before purchase)

Note: It is likely that many of the parts of the guitar have been replaced over time. Electric guitar players will know that the pick up and jack tends to wear out with use.

1966 Fender Telecaster Custom

Despite Tommy's long association with Maton he also has a love of fender guitars. He has had this guitar since the 70's and long term Tommy fans will be very familiar with it (it's the one he plays in the video).

Despite it's age this guitar is still very expensive as it is considered vintage and is quite rare (good luck finding one). Fender enthusiasts are quite eager to get their hands on these guitars which is the reason for the inflated price. I've seen these listed at $10,000 and expect that they will sell at that level.

Fender Telecaster Custom

An example of a Telecaster Custom similar to (though in better shape than) the one used by Tommy.
An example of a Telecaster Custom similar to (though in better shape than) the one used by Tommy. | Source

"The Journey" Showing Off Some of His Guitars (Maton 808, 1966 Telecaster and TE2 )

Specs

Electro-Acoustic

Tommy Emmanuel's signature (again, probably just a print though)

Small body with cut away

Model: TE 1

Manufacturer: Maton Guitars

Soundboard: AAA Solid Sitka Spruce

Wood (back and Sides): Indian Rosewood

Wood (Neck): Queensland Maple

Pickup: AP5-PRO

Settle the Debate...

Which of the TE Series guitars do you prefer?

See results

TE1 Signature Matton

There is a debate raging about which guitar is better - the TE1 or the TE2. Personally I prefer the TE1 as it is usually slightly cheaper and is, in my eyes, aesthetically superior. The two guitars are very similar (e.g. both have AP5-PRO pickup) anyway.

You should also note that the guitar has underwent some changes so older TE1's are slightly different to newer TE1's. The main difference is in the bracing and you will notice that the guitar is somewhat lighter.

This guitar has also become notable as Guns and Roses lead guitarist, Slash has also taken a linking to this guitar and has been spotted using it in a number of performances (for example see the video below).

The signature featured on this guitar is quite large and stretches over most of the finger board. This gives the guitar a premium feel and a sense of importance which is lacking in the TE2 808.Furthermore it has an inlay on the 12th fret with C.G.P which stands for Certified Guitar Player and is the honour bestowed on Tommy by Chet Atkins.

The TE1 Close Up

Notice the big signature on the finger board. Also the person has got Tommy to sign the guitar as annoyingly you don't get this with the guitar. You can see the whole of the guitar in the video below.
Notice the big signature on the finger board. Also the person has got Tommy to sign the guitar as annoyingly you don't get this with the guitar. You can see the whole of the guitar in the video below. | Source

Slash Plays Sweet Child O' Mine on a TE1

Maton 808

Tommy Emmanuel is clearly a fan of the Maton 808 series. It is this that is most commonly associated with Tommy Emmanuel. However with the introduction of the TE Signature guitars he has started to move away from using these as much in his concerts. Also, it is a 808 that is shown in the first picture. Furthermore the TE2 is itself an 808 (notice the similarity in body shape).

If you look closely at his work you will notice that he uses various different 808 series guitars.

What About Strings?

Another important element in getting your playing to sound like Tommy's is to use the right strings. Obviously, he does not use the same strings for every guitar (e.g. the Fender won't have the same strings as the acoustic guitars).

In general Tommy uses Martin, Everly or John Pearse strings so you could try these on an acoustic guitar and see what happens. On his Maton 808 he has used Martin 12-54's. When I tried this on my Vintage I noticed that songs such as "The Hunt", "Guitar Boogie" and "Tall Fiddler" sounded far better.

However, he has said that when people ask him what strings to use his advice is "the best strings are the ones your guitar likes". So you just have to experiment and see what works best.

A Few More Notes

If you look closely at Tommy's guitars you will often see that the hole is covered by a bit of plastic (see the image at the start). This is known as a feedback buster and gives you much more control over the sound produced by the electric part of your electro-acoustic guitar. This allows you to get exactly the sound you like - ideal for songs like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".

It may surprise you to learn that one of the main reasons that Tommy uses Maton guitars (other than the fact that he gets them free) is for the AP5-PRO pick up system. He is also known to use a Music Man 112 amp (this was the one used in the video of "The Journey" above) and he has described this as "a good amp".

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