Sep 30, 2012

May 1973: Garcia's Guitar Tips


Questions submitted by Gary Lambert, Lenox, Massachusetts.

After playing Gibsons ever since the Dead's first album, why the switch to a Fender Stratocaster?

The characteristic sound of a Fender is texturally different from the sound of the other instruments in the band. Two Gibsons get muddy-sounding.

What gauge strings do you use and how often do you change them?

I use .011, .013, .016, .026, .036, and .046. I change them every couple of performances.

Where do you normally set up the controls on both your guitar and amp?

There really isn't any "normal" setting. I change guitar settings all the time, and I change amp settings depending on the room I'm playing in. I never turn the Fender Twin Reverb amps up past seven.

Did you feel that the Dead's huge rise in popularity posed the threat of forcing you to compromise your musical integrity?


Now that you've left the New Riders of the Purple Sage, is there any chance we might see you play pedal steel with the Dead occasionally? Also, who are some of your favorite pedal steel players?

I'll probably not play pedal steel with the Dead. Some of my favorite pedal steel players are Buddy Emmons and Lloyd Green.

One of my main problems in playing is damping. What do you do, either in your picking or left hand technique, to keep the wrong strings from sounding?

On pedal steel guitar, blocking (or damping) is done with the right hand and is one of the most difficult techniques to pick up on the steel. Try a local music instructor in pedal steel, or have someone show you, as it's really a little hard to explain by writing.

The Dead's Equipment Detailed Next Issue!

(from Guitar Player, May 1973)

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