Rig Tour: Deep Pur­ple

Gui­tars with four pick­ups and the im­por­tance of midrange, Steve Morse re­veals all with his Deep Pur­ple rig

Total Guitar - - CONTENTS -

Whether play­ing in Dixie Dregs, Fly­ing Colours or here with the leg­endary Deep Pur­ple, Steve Morse has proved to be one of the most unique gui­tar voices in rock. He’s also used that cre­ative mind to col­lab­o­rate with Ernie Ball and Engl on some new approaches to ver­sa­til­ity with his sig­na­ture gui­tar line and amp. As Deep Pur­ple headed out on an arena tour in sup­port of lat­est al­bum In­fi­nite, Steve showed us around his rig and the ideas be­hind it with a spe­cial pre­view of a new pro­to­type model too.

Ernie Ball Mu­sic Man Steve Morse Sig­na­ture

1 “This is my num­ber one – with se­rial num­ber one; Ster­ling [Ball] gave me se­rial num­ber 2 at the NAMM show last year. I’ll be us­ing this for three or four of the songs tonight. It’s got a new neck with stain­less steel frets this time. The other neck had 10 re­frets and was just worn down too much, be­cause each time they had to shave it when they pulled the frets off and level it. It was just too low.

“The idea was based on my Tele­caster with four pick­ups. It’s a bet­ter ver­sion of that; more in tune, bet­ter har­mon­ics and, more im­por­tantly, it can be the clos­est thing to mass pro­duced. They’re hand­made but they’re made in a fac­tory so I can get one off an as­sem­bly line and play it in five min­utes.

“When I was a kidi learned that elec­tric gui­tars are pieces of wood screwed to­gether... the pick­ups were kind of the mag­i­cal part. I had to un­der­stand elec­tric­ity to know more about them, but once you do there are lots of things you can cus­tomise. Let’s dive in and see what we can do to make it sound dif­fer­ent. I wanted a clean sound, some­thing I could fin­ger­pick, some­thing that sounded a lit­tle coun­try and south­ern rock, clas­sic hum­buck­ing and maybe some clas­sic sin­gle­coil. I wanted all these sounds avail­able to me and there was no gui­tar back then that would do it.

“A big part of these gui­tars that makes the sound is the spac­ing be­tween the pick­ups. The neck pickup has to be where it is. That’s why my gui­tars don’t have 24 frets, if I did the neck pickup would be in­side a bit and it would sound so much more typ­i­cal and have that generic high-end neck pickup sound. I like the warmth that it has here and when the two pick­ups are blended to­gether there’s no phase dis­tor­tion. They sound very clear it’s just the per­fect spac­ing, in my opin­ion.

“I also keep the sin­gle-coils away from the strings and one of the rea­sons is if I’m play­ing through a tube amp with dis­tor­tion, I can go to the sin­gle-coil pickup, turn the gui­tar down to about two and now I have a frac­tion of the gain but it’s very clear be­cause the sin­gle coils have more har­mon­ics.”

Ernie Ball Mu­sic Man Steve Morse Y2D

2 “There are more pos­si­bil­i­ties on these gui­tars be­cause of the pickup switching sys­tem. Not ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity is rep­re­sented, just the ones that I would use. How­ever, dur­ing the course of play­ing live shows I dis­cov­ered there are five sounds I con­stantly use. Those are my go-to sounds and they’re com­bi­na­tions. With a reg­u­lar five-way switch I couldn’t reach them. We used a multi-pull switch, so you could change the wiring to

what­ever you want in the po­si­tions. It was Ster­ling Ball’s sug­ges­tion: ‘Can you make it sim­pler with the switching sys­tem?’ Dud­ley Gim­pel, the gui­tar luthier at Mu­sic Man sug­gested a multi-pull switch [us­ing di­rect wiring] for this. This is the per­fect battle con­di­tions gui­tar for a rock player who needs dif­fer­ent sounds.

“We have a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent tun­ings – we’ll shift to a drop tun­ings for a cou­ple of songs so then there’s a whammy-bar ver­sion in drop tun­ings, as well as a straight one. Then there’s a reg­u­lar tun­ing whammy-bar gui­tar.”

Ernie Ball Steve Morse 30th An­niver­sary Pro­to­type

3 “This is the most sim­pli­fied ver­sion. For the first time ever it’s got an ac­tive cir­cuit. I’ve been re­sist­ing this for a long time, but I know John Petrucci and Steve Lukather’s gui­tars have these and they al­ways sound great. So I agreed to try it and it gives me a dif­fer­ent sound, a more mod­ern sound. And I agree I’m not the most mod­ern guy. I use it dur­ing the show and there’s noth­ing else that will get the sound. It’s two hum­buck­ers, and Dud­ley at Mu­sic Man made these. Again with the mul­ti­ple switch it’s pos­si­ble to do any­thing [with coil split and com­bi­na­tions]. The trans­par­ent [plexi] plates were orig­i­nally a plastic like my other mod­els but when I saw the fin­ish I thought it was crim­i­nal to cover it up.

We al­ways keep the scale and length the same and it will fit into a stu­dent-size gig bag, Ihold it un­der my arm and it will fit right on board in the over­head [lug­gage]. It’s not a huge gui­tar but it’s got every­thing you need. In fact, it’s longer scale than a Fire­bird.”

TC Elec­tronic Hall Of Fame Re­verb

4 “I’ve used these kind of ped­als con­stantly, and I al­ways have since the [Dixie] Dregs days when I had an Echoplex through a sep­a­rate amp. There are two ef­fects loops on the Engl. One has the re­verb and the TC re­verb al­lows me to make my own set­ting and pro­gram it into their data­base. You can then re­trieve it on­line as a Toneprint, trans­fer­ring it via your pickup with your phone.

There’s lots of de­tail, it’s not a spring re­verb but some­thing more like a stu­dio re­verb. The TC ped­als are also great be­cause on the back there’s a dip switch where you can se­lect what they call dry kill, it means you only get 100 per­cent ef­fect. And, you know, I re­ally love that be­cause then you don’t need much of it to hear the ef­fect. So I’m not blend­ing it with the dry sig­nal, I’m just adding it to the dry sig­nal through a sec­ond amp. So I have my wet amp that’s just sit­ting there wait­ing to do some­thing most of the night and when I press on a pedal, and that’s when it’s used.”

TC Elec­tronic Flash­back De­lays

5 “One is for my long de­lay. Again, it’s a Toneprint they let me make. It’s got some mod­u­la­tion in it and a nice fall-off of the fre­quency on the re­peats so it doesn’t stay clin­i­cally dig­i­tally ex­actly the same as it re­peats. It’s go­ing through the sep­a­rate amp so it never en­ters the dry tone. The dry tone is the gui­tar into my main Steve Morse sig­na­ture amp. That never changes.

“I have an­other one set on a shorter de­lay with the same Toneprint. It gives me a kind of cho­rus ef­fect. Also if you’re play­ing loud it’s good to bring out parts if you’re do­ing a rhythm. You can make a part stick out be­tween the vo­cal phrases. It’s some­thing I do a lot; danc­ing around other peo­ple’s fea­tured parts. If Don’s play­ing a solo he leaves a lit­tle hole for me to play. Fill in the holes and make more syn­co­pa­tion, rather than just chug­ging along, be­cause when you chug along and some­one else is do­ing some­thing, the sound­man is li­able to turn you down. It doesn’t sound so much like a band.”

TC Elec­tronic Quint­ess ence Har­mony

6 “This pedal is a lux­ury I have with Deep Pur­ple. This one is an oc­tave above that I use for The Sur­pris­ing to sim­u­late some of the 12-string over­dub I did in there. Do­ing an oc­tave up is a risky propo­si­tion so a lit­tle goes a long way! But I use oc­tave down for a few things as well.”

Ernie Ball vol­ume ped­als

7 “When I add de­lay I put it through via the wet sig­nal only.”

Kee­ley Comp ress or

8 “This is great for rhythm stuff, com­pact­ing it, but it raises the noise floor with­out any gain at all so I have to be very care­ful with it.

“elec­tric gui­tars are pieces of wood screwed to­gether... The pick­ups are the mag­i­cal part”

But it’s truly ex­cel­lent for the clean stuff.”

Engl Steve Morse Sig­na­ture 100

9 “Chan­nels one and two you can set every­thing on six, plug any­thing into it and if it doesn’t sound great, your gui­tar cord is bro­ken! Chan­nel one is clean. My medium dis­tor­tion is every­thing on six on chan­nel num­ber two. It’s very ver­sa­tile for rock ’n’ roll – I can play any Deep Pur­ple song with this.

“If you’re tak­ing a solo and you don’t want to turn up the gui­tar too much, you can bring out more midrange for the solo. Maybe that doesn’t work so great for the rhythm but this amp has a sep­a­rate chan­nel just for the midrange stuff. And that’s chan­nel three. We got the most out of it that we could with­out us­ing ac­tive EQ . The idea is to use the tube tech­nol­ogy, the old­fash­ioned, class A ap­proach, and bring the most out of it. This is very natural, it’s much more gen­tle than the midrange boost of a Vox but it’s also it’s very con­vinc­ing be­cause you can sud­denly shift the sound.

“I con­cen­trate on what is left af­ter the bass drum is play­ing, and the cym­bals and snare drum are hit­ting, and the Les­lie is ro­tat­ing. All the fre­quen­cies seem to be the low and the high end. What you’re left with is the gui­tar in the midrange. For me, the whole thing lives in the mid range. That’s why what can seem like not too much of a big change in the midrange, can ac­tu­ally make a re­ally big dif­fer­ence out front. I guess my third chan­nel is the clos­est thing I have to Ritchie Black­more’s tone. It’s got a silky sort of dis­tor­tion more than fizz.

The fourth [sound that I use] is the same thing but with the noise gate and higher gain switch se­lected. It’s more for solo­ing or lines.”

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