The questions I seem to be asked the most are about my equipment! So here is a rundown of what I use, live and in the studio. But a quick disclaimer of sorts: While I love beautiful guitars and amps as much as everyone else, they’re still just the tools to make music, which is what this is all about! Tone starts with your own concept of it, and how you approach, touch, and play the instrument in the first place.
Everything listed on this page is here because it’s genuinely the best sounding, highest quality and most inspiring I’ve ever found, and will reproduce my playing and my music the best, for me, and very importantly, do it reliably night after night. The only gear I own is what I use every day. After more than 20 years of playing live I still only own half a dozen guitars and amps. And any manufacturer I work with and whose products I endorse is because I selected, and purchased, their products in the first place and found it to be the very best for me, and developed a relationship with them out of that. Just so you know! So, with that said…
For 10 years, my 1961 Fender Stratocaster was the guitar I played on every gig. All original, except for a refret with 6100 wire, a five way switch with the tone knob wired to the bridge pickup, and replacement vintage style saddles. It’s had a few different pickups in it over the years, but is now back to stock. It’s my benchmark guitar, and has been used on every record I have made. It only comes out to local shows, or special occasions now: Too many close calls with airline baggage handlers over the years, so it’s hard touring days are over. Luckily, for nearly 20 years I’ve known Simon Law, who has spent many hours working with me and my ’61 Strat, both on tour, in the studio, and in his “shed of tone”. After a few prototypes he eventually decoded the ’61’s DNA to build me the first guitar that ever made me consider retiring the original. I now tour exclusively with his SVL Guitars.
My main touring guitar is an SVL Sixty-One model, known as ‘Daytona’, for it’s distinctive blue paint work inspired by the vintage Ferrari of the same name. Just like my ’61 this is an alder body, maple neck, brazilian board, with 6100 frets, and all vintage style hardware and specs. The only real deviation is the fingerboard radius flattens out from 7 1/4 to 9 1/2 after the 12th fret. With the addition of the new Amalfitano SVL Daytona pickups I’m as happy as I could be with this toneful and roadworthy new guitar. Premier Guitar Magazine editor Joe Coffey, was at the Montreal Jazz festival and photographed the Daytona. See Joe’s photograph and read about ‘The Daytona’ Here.
SVL also built me a Fifty-Nine model recently. This is essentially an ash body, hard tail version of ‘Daytona’, in beautiful see-through blonde. B.B. King was kind enough to sign it for me last year! Daytona and the Fifty-Nine made their recording debut on Anything But Time along with my original ’61 Strat.
I also used my SVL Sixty-Custom guitar in several places on the last couple of records, and it often comes out on tour too. It was built as a replacement for Simon’s 1969 Telecaster that I “borrowed” for many years, and visually inspired by the early sixties edge bound Tele Customs I always loved the look of. It’s also an alder body, Brazilian board, and 6100 frets, with Lindy Fralin Blues Special pickups.
All my guitars are strung with Curt Mangan – Matt Schofield Signature nickel-wound strings in gauge 11-14-18-28-38-54. I discovered Curt’s strings by chance a few years ago, and quickly realized they were the best I’d ever tried. Aside from the great tone and feel, I’ve never broken a single one on a show. In fact, I used graphite saddles on many guitars to prevent breakage before discovering Curt’s strings, which allowed me to go back to my preferred steel saddles. I also use 1mm Curt Mangen “Curtex” picks.
For many years I played all my gigs through my especially fine sounding 1964 Fender Super Reverb amp. All stock, with the exception of the now discontinued Reverend 1030 speakers, and the tremolo being disconnected. It’s still a benchmark amp for me, and is on most of my records somewhere, but much like my old Strat, 48 year old amps don’t travel so well! For a recent recording session I treated it to a couple of Celestion G10 Gold Speakers and it sounds more magnificent than ever!
Since late 2005 I’ve almost exclusively played through Two-Rock Amplifiers, both live and in the studio. When I first discovered these amps, they instantly made me think of a much more refined and evolved version of the great vintage blackface amps I’d grown up playing. I started out with a 50 watt Custom Reverb Signature version 1, then moved on to to a 100 watt Custom Reverb Sig version 2. In 2006 they built a custom 4×10 speaker cabinet for me, which is still my preferred configuration after many years of vintage Supers. After finally meeting the guys at Two-Rock in person on my first US tour a couple of year ago they developed a modified version of their Classic Reverb amp for me, which they continued to tweak to my tastes through out 2010 and 2011. This has culminated in the new Two-Rock Matt Schofield Signature Model, released through the good folks at Premier Builders Guild. I can honestly say this is the best amp I’ve ever plugged into, and I’m honoured that it bares my name. It’s a 50 watt single channel amp, with dual GZ34 rectifiers, and the most amazing valve tremolo built in. It combines all the things I love about vintage amps with the huge Two-Rock sonic foot print, incredible dynamic response, and exceptional reliability.
I load my Two-Rock 4×10 cabinet with Eminence Ragin Cajun speakers, which are biggest strongest sounding tens I’ve found. Over the last few years of using them, they have become an important ingredient to my overall live sound. They’re toneful, well balanced and efficient, and I’ve never blown one up!
For 12″ speakers, including in my Two-Rock 2×12 I often use when recording, I usually mix a combination of older Celestion G12-80 or G12-65, or Scumback H75 speakers. However, my favourite recording cab at the moment is a Bludotone ported 1×12 with a EVM12L.
My pedalboard is very simple, and largely for controlling my rig, as opposed to adding “effects” or things that change the tone. In fact, I go to great lengths to find pedals that don’t change the direct tone and response of the guitar and amp too much, and “feel” right with the rig.
Firstly I go into a Sonic Research St-200 strobe tuner. It’s the most accurate, compact and reliable stage tuner I’ve found.
Next is my Free The Tone Matt Schofield Signature SOV-2 Overdrive. The SOV-2 pedal is my all time favourite overdrive, and has been a vital part of my rig for many years. I’m honoured to now have my own signature edition. The MS version is based on my personal favourite original early production Providence Free The Tone SOV-2 that was on my pedal board for many years. It’s been updated with a new buffered, noisless switching system that drives the cables back to my amp while sounding exactly the same as plugging straight in. The SOV is a very responsive and dynamic overdrive, and while it can be very harmonically rich, thick and textured, it always remains exceptionally clear and open, and transparent to the guitar and amp. The Free The Tone Matt Schofield Signature SOV-2 Overdrive is a limited edition pedal and is only available for 2013, so grab one while you can! Honestly, it’s really great!
After that, for a long time, I used a Klon Centaur as clean boost. For the last few months I’ve been enjoying a Vemuram Jan Ray in place of the Klon. It’s a great boost and light overdrive pedal, one of the best I’ve heard, and the first thing to come along that made me pull the Klon of the board. It also compliments the SOV very well. I’ve also been really enjoying the Mad Professor Royal Blue Overdrive or Free The Tone Red Jasper lately, for other low-gain boost/overdrive flavours.
Next are two Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay pedals. One set a little longer than a slap-back echo, with no repeats, is on for 99% of the night. The other is set to a longer delay with a couple of repeats for the occasional tune. Although it’s a subtle part of the sound, it has none the less become a key ingredient for me, and is the only stomp box delay that I like as much as my favourite tape echo units. It’s simply voiced very well. It also, very importantly, doesn’t mess up the dry signal in anyway. We recently added a second Deep Blue Delay to the board to save me bending down and fiddling with the pedal for a couple of tunes where I use a longer echo.
I’ve used Providence cables for along time, and recently I’ve also been using the new Free The Tone cable too. I use Providence H207 from the guitar, Free The Tone CU-505o on the board, and CU-6550 back to the amp.
Occasionally live, but mostly in the studio you might find me with the following extra gear: