Andy Summers’ Guitars and GearPublished : - Author : Dan Kopilovic
Andy Summers Bio
Andrew James Summers was born on 31 December 1942 in Lancashire, England. After years of piano lessons as a young child, he took up the guitar at thirteen. By age sixteen he was playing in local clubs. By nineteen, he had moved to London with his friend Zoot Money to form Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band.
The group eventually began playing rock, and they renamed themselves Dantalian’s Chariot.
After the demise of Dantalion’s Chariot, Summers joined The Soft Machine, and after that, he was a member of The Animals for a brief time. He even recorded one album with them – “Love Is”.
After The Animals split up, Andy went to Los Angeles and dedicated himself to studying classical guitar. Five years later he went back to London, and after playing with various artists, he was invited by bassist Mike Howlett to join his band Strontium 90, along with future Police mates Sting and Stewart Copeland.
He recorded five albums with The Police, from 1978 to 1983, and wrote/co-wrote some of the band’s greatest hits. Andy released his first solo album in 1987 and has since engaged in touring, recording, composing for films, writing books, and exhibiting his photography.
Andy has well over 100 guitars in his private collection, and most of them are listed on his personal website. In this article, we will focus on a few of his favorite ones, and the ones he’s best known for.
List of Guitars, Amps, Effects, and Accessories used by Andy Summers
Andy Summers’ Electric Guitars
1963 Fender Telecaster
Andy’s main guitar with the Police, and one he was using almost exclusively on stage and in the studio for their first four albums, is a heavily customized 1963 Fender Telecaster.
The origins of this guitar are a bit confusing – two sources tell two different stories. Andy mentioned in the 1997 issue of Guitar World that he got this guitar from Eric Clapton after Andy gave him his Les Paul.
This is most likely just misinterpreted because Andy mentioned in his autobiography (One Train Later: A Memoir) that he was almost broke when the exchange happened and that he actually sold the Les Paul to Eric Clapton.
He used to hang around with Eric who at the time played a Telecaster. Gradually Clapton became interested in Les Pauls, so he was told by Andy to stop by the store where he got his since there was still one guitar available next to the one Summers bought.
Clapton bought the guitar and used it in early Cream, up until the point it was stoled in the middle of the “Fresh Cream” studio session.
Andy ended up selling his Les Paul to Eric so he could finish the album, and use it on the following tour.
The second version of the story, which is most likely the truth, is that the guitar came from one of Andy’s former guitar students, who sold it to him for $200.
Mike Eldred, who helped build a signature replica of this Telecaster, interviewed Andy about his 1963 Telecaster. In that interview, he was told that all the modifications were already installed on the guitar when Andy bought it, but this is not completely correct.
The guitar has a slim C-shaped maple neck, Gibson PAF humbucker in the neck, and a stock Tele pickup in the bridge position – which is actually mounted and screwed to the body. It also has a built-in preamp, which is controlled by an on/off switch, and a knob that adds or subtracts the gain.
The preamp was added sometime in the 1970s, and at that time it was just sellotaped in the back of the guitar. The out-of-phase was also added, which basically reverses the polarity of the pickups. The original bridge was replaced with a Brass bridge with 6 individual saddles.
1961 Fender Stratocaster
This was Andy’s second most-used guitar with the Police. He started using it more often than the Telecaster around the time of the 1981 album “Ghost in the Machine”, and continued using it on “Synchronicity” in 1983.
Yep, the red Strat. That was always with me. I started playing the Strat more than the Tele, which some people didn’t like.Andy Summers discusses the making of Ghost in the Machine
The guitar is finished in red, and it features a rosewood neck and three original Fender single-coil pickups.
More recently, Andy has been using a replica of his Stratocaster, made by Dennis Galuszka of the Fender Custom Shop in 2008.
1958 Gibson ES-335
This is Andy’s third favorite guitar, or the third most used one.
It’s important to note that Andy owned at least two different ES-335s. One was a red 1960s ES-335, which he used in the early days. This was one of his first guitars, but he, unfortunately, ended up selling it.
A 335 was one of the first good guitars I got as a kid after I moved on from all the crap.
I had a 1960 335, which was in great shape, and I’ve played it for years; it became the guitar I used for every gig. It’s an archetypical guitar, but I think the slimline with the block under the bridge is a very brilliant model; it really covers everything and is a great workhorse.Andy Summers – The Next Phase
This red ES-335 also served as a blueprint for the Gibson Andy Summers Signature ES-335 model.
Andy’s second ES-335 is a tobacco burst model made in 1958. This guitar he used in the later years, and up until the release of the red signature model.
1958 Gibson ES-175
Andy is also a big lover of the Gibson ES-175 model. His favorite one seems to be the vintage 1958 model which he used on a few Police records, including Ghost in the Machine.
I had the Telecaster, and I think I had a Les Paul Goldtop. I had a Gibson ES-335. Oh, and I think I had my 1958 Gibson ES-175, which I’ve still got..Andy Summers discusses the making of Ghost in the Machine
He also owns a Steve Howe model, which is one of the few archtops that he uses nowadays. For example, he explained that he used it briefly on The X Tracks (2014), and loved how it sounded.
I tend to use the 335; the only other one I’ve pulled out a couple of times in the last few years is a Gibson ES-175 Steve Howe model. It sounds fantastic.Andy Summers – The Next Phase
1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop
Andy owned quite a bit of different Les Pauls, but it seems in recent years, he narrowed the collection to only two.
The one which he seems to use more is a 1957 Goldtop model. This guitar seems to be completely stock, with both of the metal covers present on it, as well as the pickguard.
His second Les Paul is a sunburst model, from which he removed the covers and the pickguard for whatever reason.
Prior to these two, he of course owned the famous 1959/60 Les Paul known among the rock music fans as the “Summers-burst”. This guitar he sold to Eric Clapton in 1966, and Eric ended up using it as one of his main guitars with the Cream.
If you want to read more about that particular guitar, you can do so here – Eric Clapton’s 1959/60 Gibson Les Paul Standard “Summers Burst”.
Andy used this guitar occasionally back in the Police days, paired with the Roland GR-300 Guitar Synthesizer.
He recorded the solo on “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” with this guitar. Judging from the pictures on his website, this guitar is still in his possession.
I used a Roland GR-300 for a couple of numbers every night in the Police show – “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” as well as material from the fourth album [Ghost In The Machine].
The Roland system is still my favorite. I tried a SynthAxe three years ago, and I didn’t like it. […] I was much happier with the Roland GR-303 because I could wail on that, and it had a character of its own.Interview with Andy Summers By Jas Obrecht Guitar Player Magazine June 1986
1959 Gibson Les Paul Junior
Andy used this guitar for slide on It’s Alright for You and Next to You.
Based on the photos of his guitar collection on his website, Andy owns two different Les Paul Jrs. so it’s unsure which one of these he used specifically.
One of his Les Paul Jrs. is tobacco burst, similar to the one shown here, while the other is red. Both are single-cutaway models with a P-90 pickup in the bridge position.
Used by Andy in the Can’t Stan Losing You music video. Based on the looks, this was just a regular Hamer Standard “Explorer” model with a cherry sunburst finish, and two humbuckers.
This guitar was custom made for Andy, and it’s been featured on the cover of the May 1981 issue of Guitar World magazine.
As far as for what purpose exactly it was built for Andy, that’s unfortunately unknown.
Andy was using these guitars almost exclusively from 1990, up until around 1997 – during the period in which he was heavily into effects and more advanced rig setups.
This model features a drastically different design from a standard electric guitar.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is the absence of a normal headstock. This is because all the tuners are located behind the bridge.
It also styles a very uniquely shaped body, and some of the guitars came with a graphite neck.
Andy had a couple of those, and a couple of standards – wood neck models.
Andy slowly began changing back to his Gibson ES-335, mainly because – as he said – he needed to get a “little more wood and air into the sound”.
Andy Summers’ Acoustic Guitars
When Andy left The Animals in 1968, he moved to Los Angeles to study classical guitar and composition at California State University Northridge.
He said on more than one occasion that acoustic and nylon guitars are his real passion, and he collected a great number of different guitars over the years.
In particular, Andy has a lot of nylon guitars in his collection – too many to list them all here. Most notably these include the Fleta and Fritz Ober which seem to be his favorite. He also has guitars from various guitar makers, including Manuel Reyes, Paulino Bernabe, David Daily, Gerundino, Rubio, and Plazuelo.
Gibson Chet Atkins CE
This was the guitar Andy used for most of the acoustic work on “Synchronicity”.
It can be seen in the “Wrapped Around Your Finger” music video.
Andy used one of these while working on Invisible Threads with John Etheridge.
Martin 000C-28 Andy Summers Signature
Andy recently worked out a signature model with Martin guitars. It is based on the well-known 000-28 model, but with some minor cosmetic and structural differences.
It features an Italian spruce top, Indian rosewood back and sides, and a one-piece mahogany neck. The guitar has a short 24.9” scale, 1-3/4” (at the nut) neck, and some custom binding and inlays that show Buddhist mudras.
Andy owns more than a few Martin guitars, but one that stands out is the D-28 which he often used to write on back in the Police days.
This guitar was featured on the album Invisible Threads, on songs “The Big Gliss” and “Radiant Lizards”.
Andy Summer’s Guitar Amps
Amps with the Police
– Marshall JMP
Used since the early days. He had two of them, and a couple of Marshall 4×12 cabinets.
– Mesa Boogie Mark II-C
Started using it towards the last two albums.
He occasionally also used some combo amps, like the Fender Twin Reverb & Roland JC-120.
Amps in the Recent Days:
- Mesa Boogie Stereo Simul-Class 2:Ninety 2:90
- Mesa Boogie Triaxis Pre-Amp
- Fishman Ellipse Matrix Blend (pre-amp for acoustic)
- Mesa Boogie 2×12 sealed-back Rectifier cabinets
Andy Summers’ Guitar Effects
In the very early days of Police, Andy was using just the MXR Phase 90 pedal, and a reverb. As he became more successful, he got himself the Pete Cornish pedalboard, which had all kinds of effects programmed into it, including Mutron Envelope filter, wah-wahs, fuzz boxes, and distortions like EHX Muff Fuzz and Distortion+, MXR Dyna Comp Compressor, Phase 90 and others. He also used the Roland GR-300 Guitar Synthesizer.
But, the two effects which were really the key to Andy’s sound with the Police are the Maestro Echoplex tape delay and the Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress.
Nowadays Andy’s been using a somewhat simpler rig. He has an Ernie Ball volume pedal, Klon Centaur overdrive, Menatone Red Snapper OD, Fulltone Ultimate Octave, a couple of pedals from Red Witch including Empress Chorus and Moon Phaser, and a couple of rack effects like Eventide Eclipse Multi-Effects Processor, TC Electronics 1210 Spatial Expander and the Lexicon PCM70 Reverb.
He also used the Lovepedal RH Eternity for The Police reunion tour in 2007, which was made especially for Summers by Sean Michael.
Here’s an interview with Andy recorded sometime in 1987, featuring his gear at the time:
Andy Summers’ Guitar Strings
D’Addario custom gauge (.012, .015, .018, .028, .038, .049) – electric
D’Addario Phosphor Bronze – acoustic steel-string
D’Addario EJ45 Pro-Arte Normal Tension – nylon-string
Andy Summers’ Guitar Picks
Andy used Dunlop Jazz II with Police, but nowadays he seems to prefer the Dunlop Delrin 500.
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