Each month, Guitar Techniques asks a great guitarist all those little questions you really do want the answers to. Step up Sandi Thom...
Do you have a type of pick that you can't live without?
Dunlop Jazz III. They're perfect for me. For acoustic I use 58mm Dunlops - I like the 'gator grip.
If you had to give up all your pedals but three, what would they be?
My Boss BD-2 Blues Driver 'cause it can scream, sing or cry at any given time and if you want the sound of an overdriven vintage tube amp then this pedal is awesome.
I would have to have my Boss DD-7 Digital Delay. It's just the best one on the market and can really give you a variety of sounds. And last but not least, my Boss super chorus pedal. Especially now with the sounds that Audley (Freed) brought to Flesh and Blood (the new record). I really need my chorus to be able to re-create that classic swirling sound.
Do you play another instrument well enough to be in a band?
Yes, I play piano and have done since I was four. I actually cut my teeth as a keyboard player in my first band at 14.
I then went on to learn the harmonica, but blues harp, not folk harp. I really enjoy playing harp and am heavily influenced by Sonny Boy Williamson - I cover a song of his on the new record, help Me.
The title track on the album is all keys (no guitar!) and I had so much fun playing the piano and organ parts. It's really nice to be able to mix it up and play a variety of instruments.
If a music chart were put in front of you, could you read it?
Yes, although when I was younger I could read a lot better than I do now. Now I would really have to take my time over it. But in all honesty I don't believe you have to be able to read music to be an incredible musician - some of the best musicians I know transcribe only by ear and have never written a note.
Do guitar cables really make a difference? What make are yours?
Oh hell yeah, absolutely - bane of my life, in the past. If you have a shit guitar cable it's like the worst thing ever. That's why I always pay through the nose for decent cables - Allesandro make great cables, pricey but worth it.
Is there anyone's playing (past or present) that you're slightly jealous of?
Peter Green! I just love him. Peter Green founded Fleetwood Mac - not Mick, not John. The original spark of brilliance was Peter, his compositional brilliance, his incredible singing skills and his unbelievable ability to play the guitar.
BB King said Peter Green was the only guitar player that "scared him" because he was so talented. I would die and go to heaven if I could record a song with him.
Your house/studio is burning down: which guitar do you salvage?
That would have to be my lovely little '65 Melody Maker, in cardinal red. That guitar means the world to me - but then again if my house was burning down I think the first thing that would be rescued are Joe's (Bonamassa) '59 Les Pauls!
What's your favourite amp and how do you set it?
Fender Blues Deluxe. I like to keep that muddy deep sound without losing the volume in the process so I replaced the 6L6s with JJ 6V6 and re-biased the amp slightly hot. Other than that I never touch the knobs.
What kind of action do you have on your guitars - high, low, average?
I don't like too high an action on my guitars. I've found that over the years I have settled in nicely with my acoustic action being set at .004"-.008" of neck relief.
As for my electrics, I don't swing in either direction to the extreme; I don't like really high or really low action, but both have their pros and cons. Low action lets me bend well but then you go too low and you start to buzzzzzz! But with high action you get a better sustain. So I seem to have found a happy medium that lets me do both. Of course it also depends heavily on the gauge of strings you use...
What strings do you use?
Aha! I use .010s on my electrics and .011s on my acoustics, sometimes .012s if I'm feeling hard enough!