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The banjo players speak

Steve Morse, Cosmo Music Hall, Toronto, Oct 18, 2009; Photo: Nick Soveiko CC-BY-NC-SASteve Morse talked to the Guitar Techniques in an interview that deals with technical aspects of guitar playing. If you ever wanted to know what his favourite picks are, without what pedals he can’t live and which guitar he would save from a fire, here is your chance: What strings do you use, Steve Morse?

Ritchie Blackmore, House of Blues Chicago, Oct 17 2009; photo: Nick Soveiko CC-BY-NC-SARitchie Blackmore spoke to the Guitar International magazine about his last album, Autumn Sky:

Matt: Besides playing guitar on the record, you also play the mandola and mandolin. Both are stringed instruments, but are tuned and strung different to the guitar. Is it tricky to change your mind set when going from one instrument to the other, because of the different tunings, and do you prefer to record each one separately when you get into the studio, recording all the Mandola parts consecutively before moving onto the guitar parts for example?

Ritchie: I have to readjust whenever I pick up the mandola and the mandolin as they are tuned in 5ths, and I have to feel my way around the instrument. When I’m playing a mandolin and the mandola, I don’t know sometimes what chord I’m playing or what key I’m in, but I find that refreshing because it’s a sense of adventure not knowing exactly what I’m playing. I tend to go to different places that are not familiar. Also, when I used to play the cello, play the same way, and that’s how I got the riff for “Gates of Babylon,” which I wouldn’t have gotten to by writing on the guitar.

Read Above the Autumn Sky on guitarinternational.com.

Once you’re at it, check out a couple of historic Blackmore interviews on their site. The infamous one from 1996:

Here’s the double-edged sword: What do you think of Steve Morse?

Ahh, the big question [Laughs]. I was a big fan of his when he was in the Dixie Dregs. I heard a thing he played around 1981, and I couldn’t believe how good it was. I thought, who is this guy? Very fast country player, brilliant stuff. So I went to my room and brooded for half an hour and got drunk, because I realized that there’s always other players out there that can blow you away. I was really impressed.

I hear from a lot of people that he may be a jack of too many trades, but I’m still a big fan of his. He’s always got the guitar, so that’s his ticket to life. I can relate to that. I took up the guitar because I felt so inadequate. Maybe I could play the guitar, and be somebody and do something, and mean something. I have the feeling he did the same thing and I can relate to a man like that. Of course, I don’t know about the band he’s with [Laughs]. He’ll figure it out.

And a long one from circa 1975:

You didn’t want to simply leave Deep Purple for say, six months, do a solo album, and then return?

RB: No. Originally I was, but then I thought, well, this is silly because there is such a difference between when I was back with Purple than when I’m working with this lot. There’s a community thing. We understand each other’s humor, each other’s jokes. And basically the guys are quiet. I’m quiet, maybe moody.

With Purple, they had a different sense of humor than what I liked. I was more into the practical jokes, a very dry sense of humor. They were more into verbal, witty jokes, and you’d be surprised how that can destroy a relationship in a way because I never laughed when they did and vice versa…

32 Comments to “The banjo players speak”:

  1. 1
    Crimson Ghost says:

    “Of course, I don’t know about the band he’s with [Laughs]. He’ll figure it out.”

    That doesn’t mean he can’t handle it, the comforts of others.

  2. 2
    kraatzy says:

    I LOVE THE NAME: “the banjo player” 🙂 🙂 🙂



  3. 3
    Bill The Wizard Pierce says:

    Afternoon folks, pretty interesting reading, I really like Steve, I think his sound also his ideas has peolonged Purple’s life, reinvigorated the groups as a whole, but I never compare the 2 guitarists, thats not fair to either one. In the interview above, Ritchies one from Guitar world 96, thats not entirely correct, the 1st part is on track about him talking about Steve, the 2nd paragraph is around the end of the interview, and he’s actually talking about Satriani there, the part about him being a jack of to many trades, is definitely about Joe. I’ve got that issue and it’s a really good read.

  4. 4
    purplepriest1965 says:

    Well yeah, time to stir up up memory and imagination. : )

  5. 5
    Rascal says:

    Ritchie: I have to readjust whenever I pick up the mandola and the mandolin

    Its just so…………………….rock ‘n’ roll

  6. 6
    purplepriest1965 says:

    @ 5

    Ritchie almost behaved as a punk before punk happened.

    I always would have preferred a song or 2 instead of the demolishing act but…..
    Hey, the way he destroyed guitars at trhe end of a show!!!

    Maybe he should shove one into your ass to convince you that he still has more balls than what you suggest.

  7. 7
    Gary says:

    I am reluctant to point out this point to Rascal as it would seem to be sarcastic, but it isn’t meant to be.

    The mandolin and mandola , as well as other stringed instruments that Ritchie plays now, are not ‘ Rock and Roll ‘ instruments per se. These new instruments that Ritchie plays, along with his guitar require is personal expansion as a musician to at least attempt to master them. Different tunings for each instrument…different scales in his new musical adventures. I realize that this is far beyond the comprehension of some of Ritchie’s hard rock fans, I really do. And some of you don’t appreciate his new direction. You’d almost have to be a musician to understand.

    However, I believe that Ritchie Blackmore has more than earned this right to explore his own musical horizons, which are unlimited.

    For thosewho just want him to be a Juke Box, you will be disappointed.

  8. 8
    stoffer says:

    @7 I don’t want RB to be a “Juke Box”, and he has most certainly earned the right to explore, like I have the right (earned or not) to be DISAPPOINTED!

  9. 9
    Rascal says:

    @6 Cant really see him demolishing a mandolin – particularly while wearing ‘tights’ and a ‘pointy hat’. That aint rock ‘n’ ‘roll!!

  10. 10
    Rascal says:

    @7 Gary – I too believe ‘that Ritchie Blackmore has more than earned this right to explore his own musical horizons’ In fact I am glad he went exploring. If he had continued with DP he would have eventually destroyed it. Or worse, he could have continued with another JLT abortion of the band.

    Sometimes you just have to count your blessings!

  11. 11
    Rasta Man says:

    Blakemore! whats happen to you man? Does he have balls? or does candice have them?

  12. 12
    T says:

    Re: #7

    Gary, I wholeheartedly agree with you. The progress Blackmore has made as a musician goes far beyond his rock and roll days, and his current project has seen him produce some of his best playing ever, even if not noticed by a casual listener. He is much cleaner, more consistent, and musically bolder in terms of instruments, scales, and dexterity. It may be more exciting to a rock fan to see him smash a guitar to bits in a thunderous roar of Marshall-amplified noise, but I for one would like to see an exclusively acoustic work to showcase his recent improvements. As for the rock element, the small bits here and there we hear of the Stratocaster show he “still has it,” e.g., solo in “Journeyman” on the most recent album.

  13. 13
    Tracy Heyder (aka Zero the Hero) says:


    Isn’t it time we quit the seemingly never ending bickering about the 2 Banjo Players? Can’t there be a final resting place for the fact that THEY are where THEY are and YOU are where YOU are, based on THEIR and YOUR choice in life? I guess the final album Ritchie did with Purple was properly named..”The Battle Rages On”. Only, the Battle isn’t between the Band members anymore as the title suggested. It’s moved on to those whom wish to stay in the Past while the Band members have Moved On and left you in the dust. They Both are where they want to be and They Both respect each other and have no problem with their choices and direction, while on the other hand, those simpleton self centered Bashers just remain in the swirl of their toxic toilet bowl flush water, going round and round and round, spewing the same old smelly breath. As Purple fans, I’d have to state that you STINK as of the Bowels of Hell. I just wish the Toilet would finally stop swirling and flush down the stench……..

    as in the words from the great Wishbone Ash tune “Throw Down the Sword”:

    “Throw Down the Sword, the fight is done and over, neither lost neither won.
    To cast away, the fury of the battle, to turn my weary eyes toward home”


  14. 14
    purplepriest1965 says:


    I m not covered with dust, Like Ritchie I like vacuumcleaning. : )

  15. 15
    stoffer says:

    As an apparent “casual listener” who doesn’t know how to read music or even what a scale is (nor do I give a shit), I will say this. I loved Deep Purple with Blackmore (still love DP btw) went to see Rainbow many times because I thought RB was awesome, but I think the music he puts out now is crap. Thats my opinion and no one is gonna change my mind, I don’t make fun of his stage attire, his choice of instruments or his family, I think that is bullshit. I just do not like his music he is I am sure he is very good at what he is doing now he is a GREAT guitarist. I like Rock always have always will, to me RB will always be associated with rock music, thats just the way it is.

  16. 16
    Rascal says:

    @13 Pot Kettle Black

  17. 17
    Sami says:

    @ 13 That’s absolutely right, Tracy!!

    @ 15 stoffer: agree with you partially, but not all BN stuff’s bad, there’s some great songs in there.

    Nice quote from a great WA song from the seminal Argus-album Tracy, am a fan as well, wouldn’t a reunion with the Turners/Laurie Wisefield be awesome, instead of MT’s Wishbone & the Andy Powell version doing the rounds these days, happen to like ’em both but haven’t got the opportunity to catch Martin’s band live yet(his re-recorded version of the Argus is very good!).

    Sorry for the off topic, long may both Blackers & DP reign. Yep.

  18. 18
    T says:

    Re: #15

    Stoffer–well put. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and you expressed yours very well. Those who do not like Blackmore’s Night are not required to. It was not my intent to be a musical snob in my previous post but rather point out some technical merits to Blackmore’s recent work that can go easily unnoticed.

    What struck me about your post is that you do not make fun of Blackmore’s choice of direction or resort to personal attacks. This lends credence to your opinion and it is a mature position to take. You said you “just do not like his music” but are “sure he is very good at what he is doing now.” That is called APPRECIATION and you make a great point with it.

    As for the Blackmore-Morse debate, nothing has changed. Blackmore remains the author of most of what made Deep Purple great; Morse is touted as the Man Who Saved Deep Purple. Blackmore took a more hardcore approach to playing guitar and is the more exciting performer while Morse is cleaner, much more consistant, and superior in the technical sense.

    While I favor Blackmore’s style of playing and musical composition, Morse’s contribution cannot be understated–and it should be pointed out that he has been with the band some 15 CONSECUTIVE years or so, making him the longest-serving non-stop Deep Purple guitarist. Before long, Morse will be the longest-serving Purple guitarist overall.

    With Blackmore, it was a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows where the highs were stratospheric and the lows disastrous. With Morse, it has been very stable but with low recorded output and very consistent performances. It comes down to a matter of preference.

    I’m happy to be in a position to be able to enjoy both guitarists. From an objective standpoint, it would be difficult (and probably moot) to argue which guitarist is “better”. Subjectively, we all have our favorites for various reasons and should not resort to mockery to make our personal point.

  19. 19
    purplepriest1965 says:

    I d never favour boredom.

  20. 20
    MatsB says:

    @19: Who does?
    Just my 2c..

  21. 21
    Gary says:

    Thank you, T for expressing my opinion better than I did !

    What some fans don’t seem to understand is that Ritchie played 905 concerts ( stat credited to David Ruddick ) with Deep Purple, countless hundreds with Rainbow. Same songs performed night after night.

    Now I ask you, wouldn’t that get a bit tedious , knowing his classical/ Medieval music leanings ?

    For the naysayers of Blackmore’s Night, that’s cool, I understand you. Just appreciate the legacy he left for so many years with Deep Purple and Rainbow.And may I suggest that insulting Ritchie because of his current musical direction does absolutely no good whatsoever in getting him back to relive his past musical glories. None whatsoever.

  22. 22
    purplepriest1965 says:

    What some fans don’t seem to understand is that Ritchie played 905 concerts ( stat credited to David Ruddick ) with Deep Purple, countless hundreds with Rainbow.
    Same songs performed night after night.

    Mark :

    Whats your point?

    As far as I know with Ritchie about 5 songs got played extensively for at leat 1 year after the release of a new studio album.
    for example.

    I d not say, espescially In rainbow he played songs to death.
    If one imagines the short time certain CLASSICS were played by him and often never again :

    Songs like Kill the King.
    Even worse concerning Stargazer and A Light In The Black!!!!



  23. 23
    Gary says:

    I can’t believe I’m answering Priest’s question. I guess I’m bored.

    I guess you’re not as easily tired of doing the same thing day after day, night after night…which in your case is complaining why the world doesn’t revolve around your opinions….

    Ritchie is a MUSICIAN…You obviously are not.

    It’s sort of like…
    Been there, done that..

    Clearer ?

  24. 24
    Gary says:

    Ok, I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to be rude.

    But what more, even a scintilla more, does Ritchie have to prove as Hard Rock guitarist ?

  25. 25
    purplepriest1965 says:

    I m bored too.

    I have to explain things which should not be explained.

    I imply and vow that 1 of 3 EXITING years witrh Ritchie are much more to prefer than this long drawing boredom.

    Just Mine 2 cents, hahaha

  26. 26
    T says:

    As I have stated many times before, I am happy for Ritchie Blackmore. As one of the premiere guitarists who set the standard and developed hard rock guitar, he is entitled to a “retirement” of sorts to follow a passion that he had in mind for a very long time. This does not negate any of his previous work, a catalogue that spans decades of ground-breaking guitar.

    What some fail to realize is that this individual found a way to share his career with a spouse and blend his professional life with his personal one. Candice Night has gotten a lot of grief from hard rock fans as “the woman who ruined Ritchie Blackmore”–a sort of Yoko Ono figure who somehow managed to “turn” Blackmore away from rock music.

    This is false. Candice was a catalyst who gave Blackmore the opportunity to do something he’d been planning for decades. The fact that he could share it with someone he loves just makes it that much more perfect. The lifestyle of a musician is just not conducive to relationships–unless the spouse is a part of it. Blackmore found a way to blend his musical plans with a personal relationship and turned both into a success. That alone was no small accomplishment.

    Blackmore is known for being moody and unpredictable. He was even known for never smiling. That has all changed. From all appearances, the man has never been happier–emotionally or professionally. That should be worth something to longtime fans.

    Many of Blackmore’s fans continue to follow his new direction. Others do not care for it. Still others are new fans who’d never heard of or cared for Rainbow and Deep Purple. But the man should not be the object of ridicule for a project that he is finally able to realize. Simply put: This guitarist paid his dues and has earned the right to pursue any direction he chooses.

    My personal opinion regarding Deep Purple is that it was time for Blackmore to go. It is obvious that he and Ian Gillan could not work together, and there was so much bad blood between him and the rest of the members that the band would have self-destructed in a short time. I do believe that Blackmore’s sudden departure offended fans and is in large part a reason why Blackmore is the object of such passion regarding his post-Purple project–unlike Lord, who left on good terms and is given a pass on his musical direction.

    Listening to the Satriani bootlegs, I find that while Joe is a very capable guitarist (understatement!), he was afraid to stretch his legs and put some ‘Satch’ into the sound, instead playing as if he were walking on hallowed ground. One exception is an intro to “Lazy” where he was right on target. A Satch-powered Purple would have been interesting if Satriani were able to get over the walking-on-eggs, sticking to the standard lines approach, but would have been perfect for what Deep Purple is doing now: Endless touring.

    Steve Morse took the opposite approach, injecting his musical personality into Purple with a heavy dose of his personal style, enhanced by those around him, creating something as new for Purple as Tommy Bolin’s work in Mark IV. For me, Purpendicular is a masterpiece–but in a completely different way than for what Deep Purple is known. Instead of being raw and loud, it is refined and sophisticated–an extremely mature piece of work for a group known as “The Loudest Band in the World”. Unfortunately, Deep Purple’s recorded output has trickled to nothing. I do not attribute this to Steve Morse, however. Given the opportunity, I believe Morse could be a bigger factor than he is now, and much the same could be said for Don Airey. In the end, it might be that Steve Morse will save Deep Purple a second time.

    Purpendicular and Abandon worked well; the last two albums not as much–but the fact remains that Steve Morse should definitely be credited with keeping the flame alive. For my taste, stylistically he was the wrong person and a bit of a surprise choice; but given his personality, adaptability and musical capabilities, in retrospect, he was the perfect man for the job and for once in Deep Purple, things worked out.

  27. 27
    Crimson Ghost says:

    My assessment of ‘Autumn Sky’ is that of a fine release. But then I don’t carry on about much of ANYTHING I don’t like… I guess I was just raised that way with a good health compass. I can say there has been little musically to complain about with BN. What I don’t get off on is bashing of any sort, and I will only do it to irritate ogre’s whenever I do, and that is how I roll if anyone hasn’t noticed by now. I won’t write negative reviews, even if my publisher asks. If it doesn’t float my boat I have nothing to say about it as a consumer or holder of a comped item. This latest one from Ritchie is musically progressive, you can equate that to commercial but I don’t.
    Just my 6 lousy pence worth

    I do have to ask T though, Morse cleaner than Blackmore????? Huh…. perhaps you define ‘clean’ differently or maybe meant it in a different way? When it comes to hard rock playing I can’t think of anyone cleaner sounding than Ritchie within that confinement. In BN he is even cleaner to my ears. And I happen to personally know the guitarist who played the solo on Johnny Rivers classic ‘Secret Agent Man’ which still sounds fab to this day, and to my ears only second cleanest to Ritchie I can think of since I know him very well and he prides himself on playing clean. This man still plays crystal clean every night and hasn’t intentionally listened to Ritchie since lending him his gear because it didn’t make it to the gig that he opened for Purple in ’69 with his blues band ‘Brown Sugar’ so I’m wondering what you mean by that? If you will elaborate that is…

  28. 28
    Big AL says:

    You people never cease to amaze me. Here we go again. Opinions are like assholes,everyone has one. Blackmore is arguably one one best to play the guitar,very underated to this day,anyone one with one brain cell knows this. Morse,another genius, is taking care of business with DP, which is great,if thats your cup of tea. Blackmore has always done what he want,his direction in early DP made them a legendary, if its not to your liking, thats fine,but bashing someone for taking a new direction is simply childish,nothing more.As some have stated,Blackmore will always be associated with DP’s most famous line-up, to some he still is the band, others he was a cancer that had to go, Morse is credited as taking over and breathing new life into the band, which is also great. I think it should be left at that. When it comes down to,RB and SM probably either don’t give a toss what any of us think. They do things their way,which is why they are famous musicians,and these petty comments are meaningless. Grow up!

  29. 29
    TST says:

    Not to change the subject, but I’m very surprised at the lack of coverage of the death of another guitar legend, Mr. Gary Moore.

  30. 30
    purplepriest1965 says:

    @ 29

    I agree.

    On several other sites it was mentioned in a split-second.

    Even know, after a THS-hibernation for some days its no thread!!!!!

    There is his own greatnes.
    Although I really loathed his negative outings towards his hard rock period and the fans that gave that period a boost(….)I….

    he is with Iommi the man that used so much DP realted bllod it amazes me that he is not given a thread of his own today.

    Gary, privileged to have witnessed you n both eras, hardrock and bluesrock(I d not call it blues in the usual sense)I salute you.

    Too soon.

    What a waste.


  31. 31
    MatsB says:

    My apologies. The topic being “The banjo players speak”, made silly me think your post @19 was just another bashing at mr Morse… I would also like to see the band do less of old stuff live, be more daring with setlists, and also finally bring about a new album, with a spirit and freshness comparable to that of Purpendicular…. As far as your view about SM goes, well, my view is just different. Again, I’m sorry I misread the gist of your post.

  32. 32
    purplepriest1965 says:

    Hi Mats

    Have a nice sunday man.

    Cheers, Mark

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