Fred Abatelli is half of the Lori Diamond and Fred Abatelli singer-songwriter duo, LDFA. Abatelli is also a certifiable gear head. He could talk endlessly about his live rig and all of its various pieces of equipment. Abatelli plays bass guitar, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar in his live shows. He favors the less is more approach, as far as not having to lug huge cabinets to his gigs when he can easily get a good sound with smaller equipment.
For his bass needs, he uses a Michael Tobias design, which is a chambered body six string bass with 24 frets. “I like to have that is because when I’m working with Lori who is playing keys, I like to have the flexibility to be able to go to that low end with that low B then be able to go into the guitar range, per se, of a higher bass. I want to be able to do both. The six string really does the trick for me.”
Abatelli uses Monster cable, that’s all there is, as far as he‘s concerned, Monster cable. For pedal board, he has an A route and a B route on his PedalTrain. The A sequence is going to be for guitar and for bass and the B sequence is for his acoustic guitar.
The bass and electric archtop he uses for his work in the LDFA music is a Boss tuner. Then the signal goes into a fred tone, Keeley compressor and a Keeley overdrive for the guitar. “To keep a handle on things, I use a Boss Noise Gate in order to reduce the thing,” he said.
From there, Abatelli’s signal goes into a DOD DX-17 volume pedal. “It’s not a great pedal. That’s all there is to it,” the musician conceded. “But it fits really well on the pedal board and it does the job. It’s small and it fits on the board.”
Next, the signal goes into an older Ibanez CS-9 chorus pedal that Abatelli has owned since 1980. “It still runs great, so I leave it on the board,” the musician said. “That takes care of the little shimmer tone that I use for the guitar,” he said. “I can set it so it can have more color when doing bass solos so usually I will hit that.”
His signal then travels into a Boss Reverb RV-5. Out of all the reverbs Abatelli has owned, his Boss remains his favorite. Many of his musician friends give him an argument about how good the Boss works, but none of them can pass his blindfold sound test. “Nobody could tell the Boss from a Fender Vibroverb which is noted for its reverb and the black face deluxe,” he said. “I use that for a little bit of bass, just to kind of warm it up and thicken the sound up a little and that goes directly into an amp or a D.I that goes into the board.”
For the B section of that same pedal train, he uses the same tuner, the Boss TU2. That signal goes into another Keeley compressor that he sets differently for his acoustic guitar. A K&K Pure XLR pre-amp that he uses for his acoustic. The signal then goes into his volume pedal, then the CS-9 Ibanez chorus, and then into the Boss reverb and then either into an amp or directly into the board at that point.
Abatelli uses two different amps for his live gigs. For smaller gigs, he uses an Eden and an Aguilar for bass and guitar. His Eden CXC 110, which is no longer manufactured, with an extension cabinet containing ten inch coaxial speakers. For his larger venues and outdoor gigs, Abatelli uses a higher powered WT-405 Eden that can go up to 600 watts if needed. “It’s got a beautiful D.I. and it goes directly out to the PA board and it does a great job,” he said.
For speakers, he uses two Aguilar GS 112 cabinets, one with a tweeter, one without. “It gives me everything that I need,” he said. “I’ve used it in full rock situations where people were using full Marshall stacks and I had absolutely no problems at all hearing myself. As a matter of fact, the drummer was telling me to turn down.”
His pedal board is a Pedal Train. He likes it because he can simply take it out of its case, throw in on the floor, and after three plugs, he’s done and ready to rock.
Abatelli plays a Martin OM 28 acoustic guitar with a K&K pick up. “It’s a passive pick up, not active, and it literally is glued to the bottom of the bridge on the actual soundboard itself. So, it’s grabbing the vibration from the bridge and also from the soundboard. It gives a much warmer sound. The only drawback on that is that you can’t go high powered because of the way that pickup works. They’re working up the vibration of everything. When you get to a point where the volume is too loud coming at you, that whole guitar top will vibrate like crazy. So I have to have a sound deadener that goes in the sound hole and that takes care of everything.”
Abatelli also plays two arch top guitars, one an Epiphone Emperor Regent, which is similar to the old style Johnny Smith guitar. “It’s got a floating pickup that attaches itself to the actual neck and not the body,” he said. “I’ve actually used that guitar as an acoustic guitar in the studio for the new album Lori and I are doing. It’s just a great sound when you mike this thing up.”
His other archtop guitar is an Epiphone Broadway LDFA model prototype he uses often. “I like that guitar,” he said. “It has more of a Gibson Super 400 L5 kind of sound,” Abatelli said. “It’s got that deep archtop jazz box. It’s got a great feel. It’s got a beautiful neck. You fly over that thing. It basically plays itself.”
His Emperor Regent has a small Humbucker. This mini Humbucker has a little more brightness to but less depth, making it a mid-range sound.
For his studio set up, Abatelli , where he and his partner Lori Diamond are working with Andy Pinkham at Pinkham’s Mortal Music Recording Studio in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
“He’s got a bunch of vintage amplifiers,” Abatelli said. “He’s got an old black face Deluxe. I like to use the Vibroverb. It’s a heavier amplifier. It’s just a very smooth, a very creamy sound that just sounds phenomenal on anything. You can get anything from a Stevie Ray Vaughn thing to a John Mayer thing. You can get all different sounds from this old amplifier. There’s so many pedals there that you can get that high gain from and still keep your old amplifiers. There’s something about a tube versus transistors that I just really go towards the tube when it comes to guitars. I don’t lean towards the tubes when it comes to bass. It’s already got a lot of warmth already, depending which bass you grab.”
Abatelli has also been bringing an old Fender Precision bass and Fender Jazz bass into the studio. On the last Lori Diamond & Fred Abatelli CD True, he used a six string Tobias bass for a bass solo on the title track. He used a four string bass on the rest of the album because his six string’s E string is roughly about 40 hertz, so it’s more difficult to hear on the car radio. “40 hertz is about as low as you really want to go,” he said. “If that’s the case, there’s no sense in having a guitar that goes lower than that. With four string bass, that’s all I use, virtually, for the most part.”
Abatelli recently conducted a seminar at HEI Music in Nashua, New Hampshire on these topics. He helped a guitarist who wanted to get sustain without distortion. So Abatelli suggested he purchase a compressor-sustainer and mentioned that Boss, Keeley and others make them. “Having a compressor with a distortion right after it just kicks that distortion right over the edge,” he said. “You can get that high gain that people feel they need.”
Abatelli has studied how to economize, getting as much sound with less expensive gear. “I’ve recorded these results,” he said. “I can get that same tone from that three thousand dollar amplifier and I can do the same thing for three hundred bucks.”
Fred Abatelli is a knowledgeable gear head. He’s also a very in demand musician. He is on Facebook for anybody who would like to talk shop with him or invite him to speak at gear shop.