Mokai's Real-World Rig
A stalwart of the San Francisco folk music scene for the past decade, Mokai plays a rootsy blend of country bluesâ€“inspired instrumental fingerstyle tunes, original songs, and traditional material, which can be heard on his three albums, the most recent of which is Any Distractionâ€™ll Do. Performing at cafĂ©s, small clubs, house concerts, and the occasional festival, Mokai requires an amplification rig that is easy to set up; produces a good sound quickly, even when thereâ€™s no time for a soundcheck (or no sound engineer); and flexible enough to compensate for the large variety of his playing scenarios.
Mokai (mokaimusic.com) has long relied on Fishmanâ€™s original Blender system (which combines an Acoustic Matrix undersaddle pickup and a Crown internal mic) to deliver his late-â€™80s Gibson J-185â€™s punchy voice to an audience, a choice he continues to be happy with. â€śGoing stereo from the guitar to the two channels on the amp gives the most control for sculpting the sound, which is lost on most onboard systems,â€ť he says. For many years, he used Fishmanâ€™s now-discontinued Pocket Blender preamp to mix the systemâ€™s stereo output into a mono signal to send to a PA, but he has recently upgraded to a Fishman Loudbox Performer amp, which, since it has the blending function built in, allows him to control his onstage sound and can even serve as a mini-PA for his guitar and vocals at smaller venues.
With his Gibson J-185 approaching a quarter century in age and having become a treasured possession, Mokai added a Recording King RNJ-25 (outfitted with an L.R. Baggs Anthem system, which works with a standard mono guitar cable, making setup easier) to his arsenal for use when heâ€™s flying to gigs or playing what he calls â€śsketchierâ€ť venues. While this guitar is smaller than his J-185 (itâ€™s based on a Gibson Nick Lucasâ€“style guitar), it also has maple back and sides, which he finds to be a good sonic match for his playing, and which was also used on the guitars used by some of his influences, including Reverend Gary Davis (who played a J-200). â€śThereâ€™s something about the maple that gives it a jazzier sound for playing up the neck,â€ť he says. â€śIt rings out with a signature zing.â€ť He says that when he bought the guitar, the sales person told him, â€śYou may want another guitar, but youâ€™ll never need one,â€ť which, from a musical perspective, has turned out to be true.
What He Plays
Acoustic Guitars: Gibson J-185, Recording King RNJ-25.
Pickups: Fishman Acoustic Matrix and Crown internal mic in the Gibson. L.R. Baggs Anthem in the Recording King.
Amplifier: Fishman Loudbox Performer.
Tuner: Planet Waves NS Mini.
Strings: Martin SP light-gauge phosphor bronze.
Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar January 2013
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