Eric Roche is mostly associated with Lowden Guuitars and has been using a
Lowden almost exclusively since 1992. In fact since 1998 Eric has been the
official endorsee of Lowden Guitars in the UK. His main instrument is an original
O10 model that has been highly modified to accommodate his playing style.
The instrument has a Cedar top and mahogany back and sides.
He also plays an O23 (Walnut back and sides with a Cedar top) and an O25 custom
model (Redwood top with Rosewood back and sides). Each of these guitars is fitted
with a Fishman natural One undersaddle pick up.
Because of excessive wear on the O10 guitar top due to some of the percussive
techniques, a clear Lowden style scratch plate was applied just below the sound-hole
in 1999. The area just above the sound-hole has been reinforced on the inside with
a series of "mini-braces". This is to protect the top against some of the percussive
sounds Eric achieves on this part of the guitar with the heel of his right hand.
Some of the wear and tear on the top helped to create new percussive textures.
For example the area just below the neck on the cedar top had worn so much down below
the original surface level that it now produces a sort of "guiro" or even "record scratching"
sound when played with the nails. This sound features particularly in "Hamam/Norwegian
and his live version of " Smells like Teen Spirit".
See the diagrams for an explanation of the complex pick up systems on the Lowden O10.
As well as continuing to compose, record and perform with Lowden Guitars, Eric recently
commissioned British guitar maker NICK BENJAMIN to build a smaller guitar. After
numerous design meetings and discussions, Nick came up with a 14 fret OM model.
With a neck built to Eric's personal specifications and Nick Benjamin's usual guitar
body dimensions, the guitar is a unique blend of building traditions.
Nick picks up the story:
"Eric ordered an Orchestra model guitar in Cedar and Indian Rosewood from me in 2002.
He had been looking for a smaller instrument to suit his more intimate pieces and he
fell in love with a twelve fret Treble 0 guitar I had made but after much deliberation
decided he needed the extra two frets! Thus I set out to create a fourteen fret
Orchestra model which got as near as possible to the sound of that twelve fretter.
I varied the strutting slightly from normal and used wood as similar as I could and
the result was about as close as is possible in my opinion. A fourteen fretter will
always have a slightly quicker attack than a twelve due to the different proportions
but I think this has actually made for a guitar that is more versatile for Eric's playing;
giving a little extra separation over a twelve fret guitar."
The guitar has already been recorded for Erics transcription and recording of
Pat Metheny's "A Map of the World" for Guitar Techniques magazine (March 2003).
The Benjamin will offer an interesting contrast to his Lowden concert pieces. You can
check out the guitar on many of Eric's upcoming Autumn concerts. You can visit Nick
Benjamin at Benjamin Guitars