Melbourne Guitar Show 2023: Phil Manning on his five favourite guitars

Phil Manning
(Image credit: Phil Manning)

Phil Manning is just one of the many renowned guitarists appearing at this year’s Melbourne Guitar Show – which returns this weekend at the Caulfield Racecourse (see here for more info). Flanked by Nick Charles, he’ll perform at 12pm on the Marsh Mezzanine stage this Sunday (March 5th), delivering 45 minutes of mind-bending musicality.

In the lead-up to the big day, we had Manning bash out some thoughts on the five guitars currently throwing him head over heels…


“My red 1988 Fender Stratocaster (the Eric Clapton model) has been my main guitar for 35 years and I love everything about it, except that with the onset of some arthritis in my left hand, the scale length of [25-and-a-half inches] has become a challenge at times. The tone control setup is the best I’ve come across as a general ‘across the board’-style guitar, it has the original pickups and the guitar is absolutely stable with holding its tuning, despite my use of the whammy bar.”


“I only received this some weeks ago and with its 24-inch scale will take some of the load from my left hand. It is 94 percent the size of a normal Strat and set up with the original pickup wiring and staggered pole piece pickups – it is also as light as a feather. I really needed something with the vibrato arm, particularly when performing with Chain. I love its tone and have wired the bridge pickup into the middle pickup tone control as the original setup from the fifties had no tone variation on that rear pickup.”

Phil Manning

(Image credit: Supplied)


“Formerly known as ‘Little Ladies’, with small bodies and a short scale of 23-and-a-half inches, they sound fabulous both acoustically and using the onboard pickup system. They have an under saddle pickup, another one attached to the face of the guitar and an internal microphone, all blended  according to how one uses the tiny control panel. The panel includes bass, middle and treble controls and the overall pickup system is absolutely the best, most natural sounding one I’ve come across too. I have three of them in various timber combinations for normal concert pitch, drop tunings and slide guitar.”

Phil Manning

(Image credit: Supplied)


“My homemade Telecaster, made entirely out of pine I mostly had lying around the home, is a cracker. Cole Clark Guitars gifted me an LL model fingerboard so once again it’s got a 23-and-a-half-inch scale. A little thicker than a normal Tele and with a pair of Fender ‘Noiseless’ pickups, it sounds great. It also has a neck like a tree trunk and that somehow suits this particular guitar… Great sustain!”

Phil Manning

(Image credit: Supplied)


“I have a wee guitar (sometimes called a Piccolo guitar) made for me by Chris Finch, who was the principal luthier for Maton Guitars for many years and a master craftsman. A little larger than a ukulele, it is tuned (or designed to be) a fourth higher than normal – A D G C E A. It has a Red Pine face with Silky Oak back and sides and has a gorgeous, almost brittle voice – it sounds so sweet and I’ve used it many times on recording for high rhythm parts, melodic phrases and creating mandolin or 12-string sounding effects. One of my favourite ‘sit in the backyard’ guitars!”

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…