Andy Summers’ Guitars and Gear

Short bio: Andrew James Summers was born on 31 December 1942 in Lancashire, England. During his early childhood, his family moved to Bournemouth in the county of Dorset. After years of piano lessons, he took up the guitar at the age of 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 to 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 artist, 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 greatest hits. Andy released his first solo album in 1987, and 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.

Andy Summers’ Electric Guitars:

1963 Fender Telecaster

Andy Summers 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 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 miss-interpreted, 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 (more on this bellow).

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 a on/off switch, and a knob which adds or subtract 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

Fiest Red Stratocaster Frusciante This was Andy’s second most-used guitar with the Police. He started using it more often for the 1981 album “Ghost in the Machine” and on the “Synchronicity” in 1983. The guitar is finished in red, and it features rosewood neck, and three original Fender single-coil pickups.

He also had a replica made by Fender, which he used for The Police reunion tour in 2007.

1958 Gibson ES-335

Gibson ES-335 This is his third favorite guitar, which he also used on some of Police’s late albums. The guitar has a tobacco burst finish, and it’s kept completely stock.He also has a red one, which he used on the intro and some of the songs on his Guitar Instructional DVD – and he uses it quite often nowadays.

Gibson ES-175

Gibson ES 175 Andy is also a big lover of Gibson ES-175 model, and he used a couple of them on the Police record. His favorite ones are the one from 1958 and 1964 – both arch-top, equipped with humbuckers.He was also photographed with an earlier model (pre 1953), with a single P-90 in the bridge position.

1957 Gibson Les Paul Gold-top

Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Andy owns a couple of vintage Les Pauls, with his main one being a gold-top model from 1957 with two PAF pickups.He acquired this guitar prior to “Zenyatta Mondatta” in 1980.

Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop

Gibson Les Paul Red One of the most recent addition to his gear is the red-colored Les Paul, which he used for most of the work with Circa Zero.

Roland G-303

Roland_G303 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 no longer in his possession.

1959 Gibson Les Paul Junior

Gibson Les Paul Junior Andy used this guitar for slide on “It’s alright for you” and “Next to you”.

Hamer Standard

Hamer Standard Used in the “Can’t Stan Losing You” video.

Hamer Fretless

Hamer Fretless This guitar was custom made for Andy, and it’s been featured on the cover of May 1981 issue of Guitar World magazine.

Klein Custom

Klein Guitar 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 drastically different design from a standard electric guitar. 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 couple of standard – wood neck models.

Andy slowly began changeling 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. It’s is impossible to list them all, but here are some of his favorite ones:

Gibson Chet Atkins CE

Chet Atkins Gibson 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. 

Gibson B-25

Gibson B-25 Andy used one of these while working on Invisible Threads with John Etheridge.

Martin 000C-28 Andy Summers Signature

Martin 000C-28 Andy Summers 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 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.

Fleta and Fritz Ober Nylon Guitars

Fritz Ober Nylon Andy has many nylon guitars in his collection, but these two seem to be his favorite.Some other guitars that he has are: Manuel Reyes, Paulino Bernabe, David Daily, Gerundino, Rubio, Plazuelo… (all can be seen on his personal website).

Martin D-28

Martin D-28 Andy owns more than a few Martin guitar, but one that stands out is the D-28 which he often used to write on back in the Police days.

Guild JF30-12

Guild JF30-12 This guitar was featured on the album Invisible Threads, on songs “The Big Gliss” and “Radiant Lizards”. 

Andy Summer’s Guitar 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 towards the last two albums.

Also some combo amps, like the Fender Twin Reverb & Roland JC-120.

Nowadays:

– 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 the Andy’s sound with the Police are the Maestro Echoplex tape delay, and the Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress.

Here’s an interview with Andy recorded around 1981, featuring his pedalboard setup at the time:

Nowadays Andy’s been using a somewhat simpler rig. He has a Ernie Ball volume pedal, Klon Centaur overdrive, Menatone Red Snapper OD, Fulltone Ultimate Octave, 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 specially for Summers by Sean Michael.

Here’s another 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:

– Dunlop Jazz II (with Police)
– Dunlop Delrin 500 2mm (currently)
Contributors: mwalthers