Guitar Player, August 1977

Leo Kottke:  His Techniques, Guitars, Slide, & Tricks of the Trade

by Gil Podolinsky

Page 5

Photo by Jon Sievert
Photo by Jon Sievert
Are you particular about your frets?

I like the big Gibson fret, the wide one.  I find it helps on the 12-string, feels more comfortable and helps you know where you are.  I had the big Bozo refretted, but the B-45 still has its original frets.

Do you use various tunings?

I try to avoid changing tunings.  I have the B-45 in standard or concert tuning.  The cutaway for slide is in either G or C.  I only change once on the cutaway onstage, or sometimes I drop the E down to D.

What kind of picking styles do you use?

I remember learning second finger-thumb, index-thumb, second finger-thumb, index-thumb, etc., and went from there. You just start throwing other things in when needed.  Now I use the thumb and three fingers.  I have two basic positions.  One is more or less classical where I just allow my hand to hang naturally.  I use that for playing even on an up-tempo or a ballad.  The other is where my wrist moves in toward the body of the guitar and the thumb is at an angle.  That works best for syncopation and allows me to be very precise on the bass strings or in a rapid piece.

You have a long thumbnail in the classical vein; do you use nails or fingerpicks?

In performing I find that I have to have picks on.  At one time it was impossible for me to play without.  Now I practice without them, and I'm trying to get to the point where I don t need them.  I can play with just the thumbpick and my fingers, like I do when I switch to the Kohno in the set.  I could play it without the thumbpick, but it would mess everything up switching back.  So I can make the transition when I have time from using picks to fingers.  I do find that technique always changes.  The more you play, the more it changes.  My right hand is not locked into anything, which is about the only thing I can point to in my technique and say is correct.  My problem is with my left hand -- or should I say, with my knowledge of the fingerboard.  I don't know it and only read music if I have to.

What sort of pickup are you using on your guitars?

A Bill Lawrence medium impedance, humbucking design pickup [L&L Sales Co., 1003 Saunders Ave., Madison, TN 37115].  I think it's very good.  I have a problem with transducers.  The Buffalo pickup, which is a mike in a piece of wood, is great for sitting around the house, if I want to amp my guitar.  They also make a low-impedance model that's placed inside the guitar and stacks like a mike.  I haven't used it onstage because it comes with a big mounting system.  To my ear the pickup sounds best way back, almost against the lower heel in the bout.  But with this mounting system it would have to be close to the soundhole.

The Lawrence pickup covers the soundhole.  How does that affect your technique?

Not much.  Occasionally I do have to move further back than I'd ordinarily be because I'd be hitting the pickup.

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