In the two years since the release of their mega-successful album The Foundation, Zac Brown has accumulated a serious guitar collection.
The Atlanta-based musician has taken a special interest in the craftsmanship of Collings Guitars, based in Austin, Texas. Steve McCreary of Collings describes Brown as a “smart, sincere and talented guy.” The ZBB frontman has become somewhat of an institution at the company, and has started what McCreary calls a “substantial collection.” While McCreary won’t disclose exact numbers, he says that, with a few more instruments on order, Brown will have at least “one of everything,” which includes a plethora of acoustics and electrics, mandolins, an archtop and a ukulele.
Brown uses the Collings, for the most part, in the studio. But for years, as a working and touring musician, Brown came up the ranks using Fishman gear for acoustic amplification on stage. Brown and his band continue to use Fishman gear, such as the Aura Spectrum DI.
Brown’s main live ax is a Taylor NS74ce. “Zac has decided, for his own reasons, to play music on a nylon that most people play on a steel string,” says Bob Taylor, of Taylor Guitars. “It’s his take, his preference, his artistic expression. Just having the guts to flatpick bluegrass on a nylon is very inspiring.”
“You see, there was a major hurdle for him because he and his band tune their guitars down a half step to Eb, so that they can sing in Zac’s range better,” continues Taylor, letting out one of the band’s secrets. “After four hours of singing, it makes a difference.”
“The problem is with a nylon-string guitar, this leaves the strings incredibly loose. We solved that for Zac by making his guitar with a 27-inch fret scale. And to keep the guitar from having a neck that is too long, we joined it to the body at the 13th fret. The bridge moves back a little and, presto, Zac has a guitar that plays in Eb at normal string tension.”
“With the whole thing tuned down, while still under normal tension, Zac can play ballads, hillbilly, southern rock, bluegrass and country. It’s him, it’s not the guitar, that makes it special, but we did do our part to help it along.”