I like to change guitars all the time while recording. Also, sometimes when I’m fed up with practicing, I’ll switch guitars to get more inspiration. It is difficult to travel with multiple guitars, so if I can only carry one it will be the Smallman. Some people say that Smallman guitars are only loud and have no color—but I disagree. Smallmans can have lots of color, depending on how you play them. And the complaint that they are loud is a funny one, because when you play with an orchestra or even with wind instruments, you need a loud guitar. A Smallman may be louder than other guitars but, compared to other instruments, it’s still quiet. I played all the Chinese pieces on the album on the Smallman, because Chinese music is very lyrical and melodic, and the Smallman is resonant and really sings.
I also have a Ramirez that someone lent me last year, and I find that playing Spanish music on it is very authentic, as it has a very quick response and is a little bit dry sounding. When I play scales, the accent is an important part of getting the articulation to sound right. There are some rasgueados [a strumming technique using single digits in rapid succession that is commonly employed in flamenco music] in one of the Spanish pieces and the Ramirez sounds very crisp and quick when using that technique.
The third guitar is a Fleta, which belongs to a friend, and is very big and hard to play. I used it for “Valses Poéticos,” because of its depth and silky character. The fourth guitar was a borrowed Michael Gee with a spruce top, which I like very much. I have been playing cedar-top guitars for years, but I found that the Huang Zi piece, “Plum Blossoms in the Snow,” sounded very nice on the Michael Gee.