Slack-key guitarist Stephen Inglis demonstrates his fanned-fret Lowden.
by Teja Gerken
July 17, 2017
Slack-key guitarist Stephen Inglis had been playing a 1990s Lowden F-10c for many years when an idea for a custom Lowden came to him while trying out the company’s guitars at the 2011 NAMM show. While checking out a Lowden Pierre Bensusan signature model (see our video of Pierre Bensusan demonstrating the model) he wondered what that guitar would sound like with Lowden’s jumbo-size O body instead of its smaller F body. He also discovered that Lowden’s fan-fret option worked beautifully with the tunings he used for playing slack-key, so he started talking with George Lowden about building him a custom instrument that combined these elements.
Completed in 2013, the resulting instrument is exactly as Stephen envisioned his dream guitar. Built with an Adirondack spruce top and Honduran rosewood back and sides, the guitar follows the Pierre Bensusan model’s design, including sycamore, rosewood, and mahogany purfling, an abalone and pearl rosette, and an armrest bevel. Stephen had the guitar outfitted with an L.R. Baggs Lyric internal mic, which he runs in conjunction with an L.R. Baggs M1 magnetic pickup. For gigs where he can’t use a dual-pickup setup with two channels, he uses only an L.R. Baggs M80 magnetic pickup.
“The projection of the O body is really nice and big, especially for low tunings,” says Stephen, who often uses open-G tuning (called “taro patch” in Hawaii). “You can do the low bass with a lighter string with the fanned frets, because there’s more tension, so even down in C, it won’t flap.” Stephen has toured with the guitar extensively and used it on his latest album, Learning You By Heart. In this video, Stephen talks about the instrument and performs his instrumental fingerstyle piece “Redwood Slack Key.”
SPECS: Lowden O body. Adirondack spruce top. Honduran rosewood back and sides. Five-piece maple neck with fingerstyle profile. Ebony fingerboard. Pinless Madagascar rosewood bridge. Rosewood bridge with split saddles. Fanned-fingerboard with 680-mm (26.77-inch) scale on the bass side and 630-mm (24.8-inch) scale on the treble side. 46-mm nut width. Gotoh tuning machines. Made in Northern Ireland. Lowdenguitars.com, stepheninglis.com
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