From the Guitar Techniques archive, we ask a great guitarist all those little questions you really do want the answers to. First up, Paul Gilbert...
GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can't live without?
PG: I've been using lighter picks for the last few years. They sound better overall and the pick-scratches are way better. My favourites are the orange .60mm Tortex brand. I love the tone and the feel.
GT: If you had to give up all your pedals but three, what would they be?
PG: That is a painful question. I cannot give up my pedals. I suppose my most stomped-on pedals at the moment are a HomeBrew Electronics CPR Compressor, a Fulltone Soul Bender, and a Korg Pitchblack tuner.
The CPR makes the guitar more sensitive, so I can play lightly and still have the notes come out loud, even with a clean sound. The Soul Bender has the most unique character of any distortion box I've tried. And the Korg tuner is the easiest to read and most accurate tuner I've used.
GT: Do you play another instrument well enough to be in a band?
PG: I've played drums in a band before, and even on a couple of albums. I love playing drums but I don't practise every day, so my meter isn't at the level of a pro-drummer. But my fills are cool! I've taken lessons from some of the best drummers in the world - the guys that I've played with!
GT: If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
PG: I can read chord charts fairly well. If I see C#m7b5, I can find a couple of voicings quickly. But I'm very slow at reading notes on a staff, so I always memorise single-note lines or improvise.
GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
PG: I love my coiled Bullet cables. They look cool, are impossible to trip over, and sound great. I use DiMarzio straight cables to go from my pedalboard to my amp. They are super high quality. And I get my small patch cables custom-made, so they are the perfect length for my pedals.
One bad cable will ruin your tone, so use the good ones!
GT: Is there anyone's playing (past or present) that you're slightly jealous of?
PG: I'm jealous of singers because I can't go to a store and buy a high vocal range. I can buy a John Scofield guitar and get a world-class instrument, but I can't buy a Robert Plant or a Freddie Mercury voice.
I would give almost anything to add a 4th to my range. For guitar playing, I'm mostly jealous of people who are better looking than me. Damn you, John Mayer and your model girlfriends!
GT: Your house/studio is burning down: which guitar do you salvage?
PG: My korina Ibanez Fireman; but since the guitar is called a Fireman, maybe it would grab a hose and save my 1979 Ibanez 2630 Artist hollowbody and a couple Ibanez PGMs too.
GT: What's your favourite amp and how do you set it?
PG: My Marshall Vintage Modern 2266C is my favourite amp! I keep most of the knobs around '6', except for the Master Volume, which is all the way up, and the Reverb which is all the way down. I run a THD Hot Plate between the head and the speakers to keep the volume reasonable. Also the Mid Boost is 'on', and the Dynamic Range is 'high'.
I just played a tour of big theatres with this amp and it was more than loud enough with just two 12" speakers. It's the perfect amp to match the volume of a drum kit.
GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars?
PG: My action is low, but I use very tall frets so bending is still easy. This is one of the reasons I love Ibanez guitars. They are very easy to play, but still keep a big, clear tone.
GT: What strings do you use?
PG: It depends on the scale-length of the guitar. My Ibanez Fireman and '79 Ibanez 2630 Artist are shorter scale, so I use 10-46. My Ibanez PGM guitars are longer scale, so I use 9-42. I always use Ernie Ball RPS strings; they are reinforced at the ball end - this is great for non-tremolo guitars, which is what I use.