Indispensable Information in a Letter from Ted
Recently Dan Sindel, (humble webmaster, miracle worker), forwarded me this email. Below is the ensuing correspondence and Ted’s reply to Philip’s inquiry. I expressed my utmost gratitude to Philip and he responded that he was honored to be able to contribute to the Ted Greene Archives.
Thus you have it; for all to benefit from as in Ted’s prescient request for a Xerox in his reply.
Subject: I have a letter from Ted Greene
Hi, I have a letter I received from Ted from 2002. I had inquired about his set up, string gauges and tuning on his album. The letter is a full page with lots of detail. I could try scanning but I don’t know how readable it would be or I could type it out and send it if it is something you are interested in.
Best, Philip Brown
From: Barbara Franklin
To: Philip Brown
Dear Philip, That sounds like invaluable information. I would be so happy if you would try to scan it so it would be in Ted’s handwriting. I can usually decipher Ted’s writing as I’ve had lots of practice. A letter like this would mean so much to me, and others as well. My email address is:
Please try to scan and send the “original”. I can’t express how much this would be appreciated. Thank you so much for contacting me. May all be well with you.
From: Philip Brown
To: Barbara Franklin
Here is the letter, notice at the bottom right: p.s. If you think of it could you send me a Xerox of this in case anyone else ever asks? I am glad to be able to add something to the Ted Greene archives. I did a phone lesson with him once and also met him once in a music store around 1980 as he was checking out a particular Stratocaster he had his eyes on. The envelope has the return address 17348 Burbank Blvd. #8 Encino Ca 91316- it is so obvious what a wonderful human being he was!
Best, Philip Brown
To all: Please let me know if this is readable. If not, I will type it out for you below. Thanks, Barbara
Out of thoughtfulness and kindness, here is a transcription done by Mike T.
Please excuse the huge, months-long delay in answering your note. I won’t even bother to explain. But to respond to your questions:
1.) String Gauges & 2.) Tuning:
as best I can recall: on the songs “They can’t take Th.Aw.Fr.Me”,“Send in the Clowns”, “W.W. Happens”, “A Certain Smile” and “Danny Boy”, I was definitely tuning down one 1/2 step (or within
shouting distance) and using:
13 16(or15) 22plain(or 24) 32(or 34) 42(or 44) 54(or 56)
All in standard tuning, just down 1/2 step – except on “Danny Boy”, following Johnny Smith’s lead, the bass str. down to D, i.e. an additional wh.step (to Db concert). On the tunes “Summertime”/”Necess.So” (fragment), “Ol M. River” & “Just Friends”, the pitch of the guitar was down a small 3rd [3 1/2 steps] or again, within sight of same. And the gauges were now (expressed here a bit more formally),
.014 .017 .024plain (or .026) .036 .046 .058 (or .060 Single Wrap, not the much quieter double wrap. strings).
The guitars were all beloved Fender Telecasters, a ’53 for the 1/2step down tunes, and both a ’51 and a ’66 or ‘67 for the really low ones. All had Gibson Humbucker pickups in the neck pos., usually sunk down pretty damn low, with the screw pole pieces extended up at various heights (for nice string balance). I like to hear the wood of a good Tele, & lowering the P.U. “hides the magnet” from the strings quite a bit – warmer tone, less signal (2 coils is a tough call for an amp when combined with big strings). Raising the pole pieces also gives back some of the definition you lose by lowering a pickup so far. In the 80s, I used a single coil sound from the Gibson humbuckers (any year – stock humbucking) to get even more definition, although in many rooms, the noise without the humbucking feature is too rowdy if the crowd is not. I’ve tried hundreds of combinations of circuits in days of olde (the 60s & 70s), to find what I liked & there’s so much to say about this, but here is not the place, but a few things: 250k, 500k or 1Meg Vol. Pots all have their own sound. Try each if you’re curious. I think they had me wide open on that record, so I couldn’t use the pots internal resistance to mellow out the sound. They did record me right into the board – I fought with them but their board did the job & let my Teles speak with the voices I had worked all those hours to find them. They (the engineers & producers) were right & I was not. My amps were too noisy, so we had to go this route. I still play & cherish the ’51 & ’53. Also a stock ’52 with 11’s that sounds breathtakingly beautiful, even in solid state amps. But so do new $300 Teles if you set them up well & set the controls in guitar and amp to create the most beauty.
Other things you asked about: Fret size: stock at the time. Neck relief: VERY little -neck radius: I love hugely curved fingerboards on top (=small radius). Why tune down?: Many reasons. I also love concert pitch, and for Bach & such, I love to tune up – 1/2 step, whole step, or more. Harpsichord sounds if you set the controls certain ways. For organ sounds: lots of Reverb, lots of ringing voices.
I also love Strats, Jazzmasters, Les Pauls, ES-345s, ES-355s, all kinds of Jazz guitars, my Martin DX-1 (what a sound!!!!! – like a $40,000 pre-war Martin, well maybe not quite but…close…for $450).
Well that’s about it. If you’re ever stuck, I do give phone lessons – same price as in person, $25 per hour – maybe going up – my bills have to be paid – many say, charge $50, $100. No, no. Sliding scale may be the way to go some day if I have to.
Anyway, best of everything to you Phil,
P.S.: If you think of it, could you send me a Xerox of this in case anyone else asks.
(On the side) Album on CD? I’m still waiting… promises but no result… ‘S alright. Life is imperfect. We’ll see what happens.!