Jan Akkerman: The Dutch Master of Guitar
Jan Akkerman, a legendary Dutch guitarist, has had a long and storied career that has left an indelible mark on the world of music. As a founding member of the progressive rock band Focus and a prolific solo artist, Akkerman has influenced countless guitarists and pioneered many unique guitar techniques. In this blog post, we will delve into the life and career of Jan Akkerman, exploring his biography, the guitars he has played, and the equipment he has used to create his signature sound.
Jan Akkerman was born on December 24, 1946, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. At the age of five, he began taking music lessons on the accordion before switching to the guitar a few years later. Akkerman’s father was an amateur guitarist, and he was introduced to a variety of musical genres at a young age. This exposure to diverse musical styles helped shape his unique playing style that would later become his trademark.
In the 1960s, Akkerman started his music career by joining various local bands. His first significant breakthrough came in 1968 when he joined the Dutch rock group Brainbox. With Brainbox, Akkerman began to showcase his immense talent as a guitarist, and the band quickly gained recognition.
In 1970, Akkerman, along with Thijs van Leer, formed the progressive rock band Focus. The band achieved international success with hits like “Hocus Pocus” and “Sylvia,” which featured Akkerman’s extraordinary guitar work. Focus’s innovative blend of rock, jazz, and classical music set them apart from other bands of the era. Akkerman left Focus in 1976 to pursue a solo career.
Akkerman’s solo career proved to be equally successful, as he released numerous albums showcasing his innovative guitar techniques and compositions. Over the years, he has collaborated with various artists from different genres, further expanding his musical horizons.
Throughout his career, Jan Akkerman has played several different guitars, each contributing to his unique sound. Some of the most iconic guitars he has used include:
- Gibson Les Paul: Akkerman’s primary guitar during his time with Brainbox and Focus was a 1958 Gibson Les Paul. This guitar is known for its rich, warm sound and has been a staple in his arsenal throughout his career.
- Fender Stratocaster: Akkerman also played a Fender Stratocaster during his time with Focus. The Stratocaster’s versatility allowed him to explore different tones and techniques, further shaping his distinctive sound.
- Framus Akkerman Model: In the late 1970s, Akkerman collaborated with German guitar manufacturer Framus to create a signature model. The Framus Akkerman Model features a semi-hollow body, a unique headstock design, and a blend of Gibson and Fender elements. This guitar has become one of his most recognizable instruments.
- PRS Private Stock Jan Akkerman: In 2016, Akkerman partnered with Paul Reed Smith to create a limited edition Private Stock model. This guitar is inspired by his original 1958 Gibson Les Paul and features a mahogany body, a curly maple top, and custom PRS pickups.
1. Over the years, Jan Akkerman has utilized various amplifiers and effects to achieve his distinct sound. Some of the most notable equipment he has used includes:
Amplifiers: Akkerman has mainly used Marshall and Fender amplifiers throughout his career. He favored the Marshall Super Lead 100-watt amplifier for its raw power and tonal clarity. Later, he switched to Fender Twin Reverb amplifiers, which are renowned for their pristine clean tones and lush spring reverb. In recent years, Akkerman has also incorporated AER acoustic amplifiers into his live setup, enabling him to maintain the natural sound of his acoustic guitars.
- Effects: Jan Akkerman is known for his tasteful use of effects to enhance his guitar sound. Over the years, he has used a variety of effects, including wah-wah pedals, phasers, and echo units. The Cry Baby Wah pedal, in particular, has been a staple in his setup, allowing him to add expression and character to his solos. Akkerman has also used the EHX Electric Mistress Flanger/Filter Matrix and the Roland Space Echo to create spacious, atmospheric tones.
- Strings and Accessories: Jan Akkerman has always been particular about the strings he uses on his guitars. He typically prefers medium-gauge strings for their balance between playability and tone. Akkerman has also been known to use custom-made brass picks, which he claims provide better control and a brighter sound than traditional plastic picks.
Jan Akkerman’s unique blend of rock, jazz, and classical influences, along with his exceptional guitar technique, has made him one of the most respected and admired guitarists in the world. His innovative use of guitars and equipment has resulted in a signature sound that continues to inspire generations of musicians.
Whether he’s playing with Focus, collaborating with other artists, or performing as a solo artist, Jan Akkerman’s passion for music and his dedication to his craft shine through in every note he plays. As we celebrate his incredible career and the impact he has made on the world of guitar, we can only hope that he continues to inspire and amaze us for many years to come.