Deep Purple’s guitarist answers the questions no one else will ask
From the Guitar Techniques archive, we ask a great guitarist all those little questions you really do want the answers to. Here’s Deep Purple’s guitarist since 1994, Steve Morse…
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can’t live without?
SM: I can live without my pick, but I can’t play my normal riff s without it! It’s a Music Man – normal sort of heart shape, approximately medium-heavy. I wear them out pretty quickly, but they give a nice attack without being too unyielding.
GT: If you had to give up all your pedals but three, what would they be?
SM: I think I’ve done that! I use a long delay, a short modulation sound (delay or chorus) and I control them with volume pedals going to another amp for total separation. Things I couldn’t live without in order of importance are: volume control on the guitar, multiple pickups, guitar tone control, delay or reverb…
GT: Do you play another instrument well enough to be in a band, and have you ever done it?
SM: I played bass in another band to fill in for my friend who was sick all the time (6 months later he died of cancer), and I played bass in a musical during my college years. Playing bass is a great experience for any guitar player.
GT: If a music chart was put in front of you, could you read it?
SM: Yes, but… practice makes perfect and I’m far from perfect at the moment. It would have to be a very slow tempo!
In my experience, I hardly ever needed to refer to a chart, since I preferred writing or improvising as much as possible. Even at my best, I would scan through the chart and quickly work out the busiest lines before the leader would count off the tune.
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
SM: Eric Johnson was right! Especially with these new, super low capacitance cables. They give a brighter sound, but I do notice the loss of low end, and tend to prefer a middle line cord that has a ‘balanced’ sound to me. I use a variety of cables, mostly from Ernie Ball, but some speciality cables at times…
GT: Is there anyone’s playing (past or present) that you’re slightly jealous of?
SM: Many, many guitarists have a facility that seems effortless, and I wish I didn’t have to work at it! My son can play ferociously fast and seems to have no cares in the world when he’s performing. So I’m proud of him, but wish it was that easy for me to get his speed.
GT: Your house/studio is burning down: which guitar do you salvage?
SM: It would have to be my Music Man guitar, serial number 1, because of the history. In truth, I’d be trying to stop the fire and save everything, and would end up in the hospital with burned lungs and everything would go up in flames.
GT: What’s your favourite amp?
SM: My ENGL signature model. I go easy on the ‘low depth punch’ and the presence, and start with everything at about 6 out of 10.
GT: What action do you have on your guitars?
SM: I would say, low to medium. I want to be able to hit the strings pretty hard with the pick and not rattle or fret out. The most important thing to me is to make sure the neck is straight.
My guitars get exposed to all kinds of things, since I carry one by hand with me everywhere – you know, a different climate sometimes every day, falling off the guitar stand, people putting their heavy roller suitcases on top of it, and so on. The Music Man truss rod adjustment is so easy that I never have to live with that problem.
GT: What strings do you use?
I use Ernie Ball strings. For standard tuning it’s gauges 10, 13, 16, 26, 32, 42, with a 46 for a drop D guitar. I like them, trust the company, and they’ve become some of my best friends.