A basic setup with big potential
There’s a lot to admire about Ed Sheeran. Here’s a guy who has started at the very bottom of the ladder, performing gig after gig on the local pub circuit with no fast-pass to the top, yet sells out stadiums and headlines Glastonbury. But what equipment does Ed Sheeran use? Well, interestingly, you could probably list the equipment used by Ed Sheeran on one hand. Acoustic guitar? Check. Loop pedal? Check. Let’s take a closer look.
Ed Sheeran’s Guitars
Predominantly (although not always) Ed plays acoustic guitars, and almost exclusively plays guitars made by the legendary American brand Martin.
- Martin Ed Sheeran Divide – Ed’s signature guitar with Martin. It follows the same path as his previous model – see below – in that it’s a small-scale dreadnought acoustic based heavily on the superb Martin LX1E. The difference comes in the visual stylings borrowed from Ed’s ‘Divide’ album. This manifests itself through natty blue divide sign fingerboard inlays and a dashing logo on the guitar’s headstock.
- Martin LX1E This mini acoustic powerhouse has proven wildly popular since its launch. Despite its small size, the guitar produces a wonderfully bold, volume rich tone which elevates it above mere practice or travel guitar status. It also allows learners and budget-conscious players an opportunity to own a guitar from one of the music world’s truly heavyweight brands.
- Fender Stratocaster. Many acoustic players find the Strat the easiest electric to work with, on account of its contoured body, thin neck and balanced tone. Ed’s main electric is actually an Eric Clapton signature guitar which he had custom painted by a graffiti artist, and he has also been seen sporting a rather dashing PRS at the 2014 iTunes Festival.
Ed Sheeran’s Guitar Pedals
- The Boss RC-30. While Ed now uses his own custom-built looping device – more on that later – he started off using the humble Boss range of loopers. This pedal has two switches to control two different tracks, but it packs in a larger memory for capturing ever evolving sounds, and a couple of in-built effects to help further colour your performance. He previously used the Boss RC20XL – Specifically the groundbreaking Boss RC20XL. The Boss RC-20XL is no longer in production.
- Boss RC300 – For the more advanced looper, you may prefer to look at the flagship Boss RC300, which offers three independent tracks with full start/stop/overdub control of each. This particular model is perfect for any performers looking to introduce a wide range of instruments into their rig, like percussion, synths, drums or vocals.
- Chewie Monsta – As Ed became more proficient in looping, he began looking for ways to develop and improve his capability. For many players this would mean looking at the top end of the range for new guitars and equipment. However Ed still largely uses the same Martin LX1E he has always used, albeit in a slightly more roadworn condition than it was, and instead looks at how he can add new features to his looping setup.
Ed Sheeran’s Custom Gear
The reasons behind building your own bespoke gear are clear. Much the same as with someone like Beardyman, Ed found that off-the-shelf loopers were great to a point. But, when your entire sound and livelihood is based upon something, it makes sense to see if it can be improved. The result of this is his custom-built looping machine, the Chewie Monsta.
Created in conjunction with his guitar tech, the Chewie Monsta is effectively the switches from four Boss RC-20Xl pedals built in a custom metal housing. It also boasts two screens showing key information Ed would need mid-performance. Where the Chewie Monsta differs is that it isn’t actually a looper in its own right. Instead, the unit is a modified MIDI controller, operating a VST looper based within a laptop running Ableton Live.
This kind of setup removes many of the limitations around loop length, track numbers and available effects. It also offers incredible potential for live performance. The particular looper he uses, Mobius, is actually free to download too for anyone interested in checking it out.
As with any kind of musical performance, there are ways in which you can improve the sound, or increase its potential, but with live looping the basic principles remain the same no matter what. The real skill is in the talent and application you use to achieve your dreams.
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Uncovering the gear behind the artist is a privilege and a pleasure. Check out our articles on The 1975, Brian May, Mumford & Sons, Squarepusher, Deftones, Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, Jerry Cantrell, Mike McCready with more to come!
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