Eric Clapton’s New Dreadnought 12-String Guitar

Sharp-eyed fans who watched Eric Clapton’s new release, “The Lady In The Balcony: Lockdown Sessions,” spotted EC playing a beautiful new 12-string dreadnought guitar. It turns out that Eric had specially ordered it for the project.

To learn more about this exceptional-sounding instrument, Where is Eric! went straight to the source. Editor Tony Edser spoke to Dan Dearnley, who has been Eric’s guitar tech since 2009 and on his road crew since 1998 to get all the details.

Dan Dearnley: Around July of last year (2020) I think Eric was thinking about this kind of acoustic show and he asked for his 12 string guitars but he didn’t have a 12 string Dreadnought which is the big body size , but I did. I had one that I did in college when I was 17. So I went with his guitars and left mine for a week too. Then the next time I saw him he said, “Can you make me one then, how long will it take?” I said “yes” and went to buy some tools, a bandsaw and a drill press and set up a workshop here at the warehouse, complete with a real Swedish carpentry bench.

Within weeks, Martin sent us a 12-string, a standard HD-12, and Eric loved it, so it was my go-to, to match that guitar. I got the wood from a friend of mine called Vince (Hockey), in Southampton, who for quite some time now has been building guitars and doing Martin repairs, and he dug up some 25-year-old rosewood that he had been kept, and some Sitka spruces. The spruce had some stains on the edges due to its age, which I thought would come out with sanding, but it doesn’t, so the guitar already looks a bit old!

I started making a 6-string as a prototype because I wanted to make sure I had all the specialist tools I needed, for example making the binding and rosette. So I worked side by side with them, training on 6 strings and then doing 12 strings. I did the lacquer around Christmas (2020) and then hung it up to dry.

Before we started rehearsals for Cowdray House, I was able to take it to Eric’s and give it to him, but that’s only when I saw the 2 guitars together at the same time. It was a pivotal moment to see how they compared.

We had rehearsals in the Walled Garden, which is part of Cowdray Park, a bright room next to the old ruins. So I could really compare the two guitars, but they didn’t quite match – mine wasn’t as good, sound-wise, as the Martin, it didn’t have the same low end. I realized the problem was when I had put the spacers on the belly of the guitar, I had stiffened them up a bit and made them a little too heavy (thinking about string tension). So the answer was to remove some wood wholesale, remove all the strings, reach inside and hover on touch. It’s a pretty drastic and risky thing to do, but I figured if I didn’t, Eric wouldn’t use it.

AND : Did Eric mention any specific songs he wanted the 12 string for?

NOT A WORD : Eric sent us a demo of all the songs we were doing, just him playing at home, and the first four songs had to be on 12 strings; “Man of the World” was one, it was just finger picking, it sounded amazing, haunting even.

AND : So how long did the whole process take you from day one to handover?

NOT A WORD : About 4 months, apart from the preparation of the workshop and the reception of the wood, so about 6 months in all. Definitely a containment project! I isolated myself in an American RV (motorhome) at the warehouse, it’s kind of like a tour bus, very comfortable and I could put a lot of effort into getting things done.

AND : But wasn’t it an entirely acoustic performance?

NOT A WORD : Eric also played a Gibson 335 at low volume through a Fender Champ located behind his chair. We tried another Gibson 275 arch-top, which didn’t quite work. It’s between a Les Paul and a semi-acoustic 335, almost like a jazz guitar really. We also had the Strat there but didn’t use it and an old Gibson Byrdland from the 50s, which sounded great with the Champ. I had a couple of compound choices saying Not Plugged in Again, that’s what Eric called it.

“The Lady In The Balcony: Lockdown Sessions” was released on November 12 and is available worldwide in a wide variety of digital and physical formats.

In the United States, it is available on:
DVD+CD, Blu-ray+CD, 4K UHD+ Blu-ray, 2 LPs pressed on yellow vinyl, and a Deluxe Edition containing the DVD, Blu-ray, and CD packaged in a 40-page 12″x hardback photobook 12″, digital video and digital audio. Additionally, a CD-only version is available exclusively from Target.
buy It Now

In all other global territories, it is available at:
DVD, Blu-ray, CD, DVD+CD, Blu-ray+CD, 4K UHD+Blu-ray, 180 gram 2LP, Limited Edition 2LP pressed on 180 gram yellow vinyl and a Deluxe Edition containing the DVD, Blu-Ray & CD packaged in a 40-page 12″ x 12″ hardback photo book, digital video and digital audio.
buy It Now

The Lady on the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions Tracklist
01. No one knows you when you’re depressed
02. Golden Ring
03. Dark Magical Woman
04. Man of the world
05. Kerry
06. After Midnight
07. Bell Bottom Blues
08. Highway Key
09. River of Tears
10. Rock Me Baby
11. Believe in life
12. Go down slowly
13. Layla
14. Tears in Heaven
15. Long distance call
16. Bad Boy
17. My Mojo Works

Eric Clapton’s new custom 12-string dreadnought built for him by Dan Dearnley has been used on the following tracks:
01. No one knows you when you’re depressed
02. Golden Ring
03. Dark Magical Woman
04. Man of the world

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