What strings do you use, Otis Grand?

Otis grand

Otis grand

From the Guitar Techniques archive, we ask a great guitarist all those little questions you really do want the answers to. Here's blues virtuoso Otis Grand...

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

OG: I use a large, heavy gauge pick - made for me in the US. I have large fingers and can only play with these. Also, I can easily flick them into my palm when I use my fingers to play.

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

OG: I have never used a pedal in my life. I don't like anything between my fingers and the amp.

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

OG: I played pedal steel guitar (both E9 and C5th tunings) for five years with a 10-piece western swing band in Paris. We did all Bob Wills and Hank Williams stuff. Mastering the steel drove me nuts and I called a friend and had him take it all away.

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

OG: No, I don't know anything about music - I play purely by ear and feel and I am glad.

GT: Do guitar cables really make a difference?

OG: Cables do make a difference - the simpler the better. I use Excalibur only. Other well-made and expensive cables change the signal quality, but essentially the less interference, the more of your own tone gets through to the amp.

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

OG: BB King - the man is a true genius - although not educated at all, he is the most articulate person I know - both mentally and on the guitar.

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

OG: My 1964 Olympic White Strat - because it is my retirement fund.

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

OG: There is nothing better on earth than a mid -'60s Blackface Super Reverb. I have five of them. My settings are : Volume 4 or 5, Treble 7, Middle 5, Bass 5 and Reverb 2.5.

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

OG: I use an incredibly high action on all my guitars and deliberately bow the neck. Other players hate this, but for playing blues I need to be able to get a good grip for those double-string bends.

GT: What guitar strings do you use?

OG: Any make - 10,13,18, 28, 38, 46. I like a heavier gauge on the three high strings and slightly lighter for the three bass strings so that they don't muddy up when I play hard.