What Strings Do You Use? STEVE MORSE
We ask a famous guitarist all those little questions you really do want the answers to. This month, Dixie Dregs and current Deep Purple axeman, the multi-talented Steve Morse.
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?
sM: Yes, i use ernie Ball medium picks. i don’t have my micrometer with me, it’s in my shop at home, but they are roughly the same as Fender mediums. i used to use very heavy Fenders, then nylon Dunlops turned sideways to get the little grip surface to strike the strings. Basically, whatever you’re used to playing becomes the style you can’t live without!
GT: If you had to give up all your pedals but three, what would they be, and why?
sM: i pretty much did do that. right now it’s two tc electronic Flashback delays (with my ‘toneprint’ preset loaded in), and a Keeley compressor. the first delay is a long slap delay, which is controlled by an ernie Ball volume pedal into the ‘wet only’ amp. the dry amp is always on. When i want a little or a lot of delay, i just push down the pedal, the delay is always going, but only heard when i push the volume pedal down. the other delay is at the shortest setting and functions more as a chorus, so the slightly delayed or modulated sound is also only going through the ‘wet’ amp. the compressor pedal is the only one that is between the guitar and the amp, used for the country/bluegrass stuff on the clean amp setting.
GT: Do you play another instrument well enough to be in a band? If so what, and have you ever done it?
sM: i’ve played bass in a musical production while i was in college, and also was a substitute in a hard-working cover band while my friend (the original bass player) tommy was sick and in the hospital. it is a very good idea for guitarists to learn to play simply and reliably, and bass is a great start for that, unless you’re playing Dave Larue’s parts (Dixie Dregs, Joe satriani, John Petrucci, Flying colors, etc).
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
sM: Yes, i did go to a music university. But, i wouldn’t be a fast enough sight reader to make it on a tV live band, or a Broadway production without looking at all the hard parts first. Back in the day, i could read, because i had to, and practiced it. You use it or lose it to some extent!
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
sM: i have tested a number of them, and yes, they do make a difference. Particularly the low capacitance cables, offered as a high-end product. i personally like the old ernie Ball cables that they don’t make any more with the plug at one end that mutes the cord until you plug it in. i have some replacements that are very high-tech, made in Germany, that we use with Purple. i always prefer what i’m used to, which are the old, typical co-ax cables, because the guitar amps were voiced for that sound. to my ears, many of the low-capacitance cables sound too bright, and there’s the loss of some fatness down low.
GT: Is there anyone’s playing (past or present) that you’re slightly jealous of, and why?
sM: Where do i start? a while back i was onstage with Joe Bonamassa, Paul Gilbert, steve Vai, albert Lee, Blues saraceno and that’s a great start! seriously, look in almost any direction, and we’ll see amazing people, each with their own way of playing. For instance, yes, i’m slightly jealous of how easily John Petrucci can play some of the lines that he and Jordan rudess write together; or i’m slightly jealous of how easily Pat Metheny can improvise over anything and make sound heavenly; or... Bottom line: Jealousy is no good for our lives, but do appreciate the fact that every player has a unique niche that they can do like no other.
GT: Your house/studio is burning down: which guitar do you salvage, and why?
sM: My Musicman signature model, serial number 1. it has always been with me at every gig since the 80s and has that special ‘mojo’. it has lots of miles on it and has been refretted nine or 10 times since i saw it being built.
GT: What’s your favourite amp and how do you set it?
sM: it’s an enGL signature amp because they made it like i wanted it. the first two channels are the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the sound, and if you put every dial on about 6, it will sound great with any guitar. channel 3 is much more complicated, and i use that for getting a solo to stand out without getting louder, by emphasising different midrange components.
GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars - any particular quirks etc?
sM: We keep my electric guitars pretty easy to play, action wise. so, if i play slide i have to keep a light touch to keep it from fretting out.
GT: What strings do you use – make, gauge and why?
sM: i use an ernie Ball custom set: 10,13,16,26,32,42 in standard tuning. i love the company and its products because they are consistent and reliable.
Steve Morse with signature Music Man guitar