What strings do you use, Phil Hilborne?

Guitarist and long-time GT collaborator answers the geeky questions

From the Guitar Techniques archive, we ask a great guitarist all those little questions you really do want the answers to. Here's long-time GT collaborator Phil Hilborne...

GT: Do you have a type of pick that you can't live without?

PH: Red Dunlop Jazz IIIs, the small ones, because they stay sharp for ages, are very articulate and easy to control. I also use 1mm Dunlop Delrin for more 'strummy' styles - these have my name and logo on which of course does make all the difference!

GT: If you had to give up all your pedals but three, what would they be?

PH: This is really tough for me - I do love a good gadget! If I had to choose I guess a decent wah like my current Dunlop 535Q or Keeley modded Vox, as I love the whole spectrum of tonal changes and also the rhythmic percussion that decent wah pedals offer.

Secondly, it would be some sort of delay unit - I like to have a little delay going on to fill the gaps and also to stop me overplaying a bit!

My last choice would have be my signature fat treble booster - sorry, but it is really, really good and I do use it all the time. And funnily enough, it's available to buy from my website - Philhilborne.com!

GT: Do you play another instrument well enough to be in a band?

PH: I dabble in drums, keyboards and bass - I like to think I could play bass well enough to get by in a band, although I am sure that a 'proper' bassist like Neil Murray would disagree with me! I have got up and played bass at a few gigs in the past though - one memorable occasion at the Royal Standard Walthamstow with the late Paul Samson springs to mind.

GT: If a music chart was put in front of you, could you read it?

PH: I usually answer yes to this one, but it does obviously depend on whether it is a style of music that I am used to seeing regularly or not. I think as far as reading guitarists go I'm not too bad.

GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?

PH: Oh yes, they make tons of difference and are something that should never be neglected. I currently use two different types - Cordial, which are very good indeed, and also Analysis Plus which are very expensive but truly amazing. It's all about the tone - I just want a lead that conveys the true signal at all times.

GT: Is there anyone's playing (past or present) that you're slightly jealous of?

PH: No not really. I try not to be jealous of people at all - it is counter productive. I am just very glad when I hear people who have dedicated so much personal time and effort to playing so well. Plus, I am at an age I guess where I am comfortable knowing that I am the best 'me' that there is ever going to be.

GT: Your house/studio is burning down: which guitar do you salvage?

PH: It would have to be my red/pink PRS Signature - it's my baby. It has been my one constant musical companion through the years and, apart from me, the number of different people that have played and recorded with it is quite astonishing - such as most of the GT contributors, Brain May, Eric Johnson, Steve Morse, Vinnie Moore, Van Halen, Adrian Legg, Clive Carroll etc - there are a lot of great memories in that old plank!

GT: What's your favourite amp and how do you set it?

PH: Cornford MK50. The settings vary but tonally I just aim to get all the elements present - bass, mids and top - and then use the guitar to control the rest. I guess flat out I like it to be a little gainy, but it always needs to be able to be cleaned up via the guitar's volume control or made even dirtier by kicking in a pedal.

GT: What kind of action do you have on your guitars?

PH: I don't really like silly low actions. I prefer to get a good solid note out of a guitar - I guess my action is medium/high because it needs to 'sing'. I like hardly any relief in the neck too - they are usually pretty straight.

GT: What strings do you use?

PH: For years I have used Picato .009 to .046. They have always been great for me, although as Stewart Monks - who is the guitar tech on We Will Rock You - will tell you, I have very acidic sweat and always destroy strings pretty quickly, especially when I am gigging.

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