Ask Steve 2

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Thanks for continuing your incredible musicianship as so many of us continue to gain inspiration from your diverse guitar expressions. Could you describe the gear and techniques you use to obtain both your aggressive higher gain live lead sounds and your acoustic sounds played on the Musicman guitar? Both come across huge when I listen to your live playing. Thanks again for taking the time.

Evan Geusic

Thanks Evan,

All of the distortion sounds except a few seconds of intro come from running straight in to the amp. Lately, I've been using the Lexicon multi pedal unit that is supposed to bypass when you're not using the effects. In actuality, it does go through an op amp of some kind when the unit is on bypass. And there is a small change in tone as a result, so I may have to design a true bypass. Basically, playing straight through an amp doesn't sound as nice when you're practicing by yourself, so most people tend to play with lots of effects in line since it sounds more interesting. But what sounds good by itself usually is too dense for a band situation. The other thing that improves live sound is putting any delay effects through a separate amp instead of in line to a single amp. The acoustic sound that you may be referring to is a trick. There is a direct bridge pickup with a separate output that goes straight to the p.a. by way of my Eventide 4000. I mix in the regular pickup sound through my normal amp and it sounds pretty big.


Just wanted to say, Your rendition of "Joy To The World" on the disc "Merry Axemas" was beyond amazing!!!! How about some tab for it????

Thanks Richard


At this point, any tablature transcription would literally stop me from doing the commitments I'm trying to finish. So, I'm maxed out. Anybody else have the gift of quick transcription?

Merry christmas Steve,

My names Steven Mueller and I've been a fan since 79'. Seen you in a few rare and special places and times, you with Ernie Ball up at the club on the hill in San Louis Obisbo then the next night solo with Joesph Zuwanul in LA a few years back (I was under the impression that you were getting married in the next few days at that time), your last tour in Ventura with the Dreggs 5 years ago, that's when my wife and I got engaged, then last year in Santa Barbara, my 40th birthday present from my wife and son, we spoke for awhile.....And you solo was my sons first concert about 10 years ago in Ventura (he fell asleep, no offense). Various and sundry other times as well. Enough with the history except to say thanks alot, more than you could know, for all the happiness your music has brought to me, theres nothing like what you can do with a few notes, the feeling that your music can put in me when I need a lift or just want to enjoy myself. As for the consider this part. I work for Exxon at the moment, I do alot of their multi-media work and am starting to work with a lot of video. I would love to do a documentory of you and the Dregs, interview footage, some live concert stuff, you in the studio, etc... I shoot in digital formats now and think that this would be a great project, besides hearing some incredible music created. If you at all would be interested could you let me know and we could talk? If not, let me know as well. Irregardless I'll see you the 4th and 5th of February in LA, my birthday is the 6th and the shows are my present to myself. Thanks again for everything you've given to me,


I'm always interested in doing projects that would keep the Dregs music alive, so that much of it is a no brainer. Logistics and separating reality from possibilities are the usual stumbling blocks. So, either I quit being a musician to handle all things like this, or you speak to Frank, the de facto Dregs manager. He's pretty easy to deal with, and if you send an E mail back (assuming you're still interested), Adam can forward it to Frank. Thanks for the interest, and of course, it does sound like a cool idea.

Hello Steve

I've been wondering for a long time about your use of harmonics on the song Country Colors. I used to think that you were actually doing harmonic chords on that song...without actually being able to figure out how? But, after listening carefully to it, I wonder if what you did was to layer several guitar tracks to achieve the shimmering quality you got during the harmonic sections of that song? I was hoping you might be able to shed some light on the techniques you used, and perhaps share some of your inspiration for this beautiful song. And might I add...aye, tis a lovely tooon! One last thing regarding harmonic technique. I was wondering when you first developed your harmonic style, and who your major influences were in that regard? Any plans for another solo album like High Tension Wires one day? Sincerely,

Matt Gibbons

Okay, thanks, Matt. First of all the influence for me is largely Lenny Breau, a Canadian jazz guitarist. In Country Colors, there's almost always two notes at once, the higher sounding note is usually the harmonic. The shimmering quality is a combination of doubling and the old Lexicon delays, (actually any delay that has a modulation oscillator). When I play it live, I can still get a similar feeling, mainly by holding each note as long as possible, especially having them overlap, and the effects also give extra sustain by way of delay. Unlike Lenny Breau, I use a regular pick to strike the harmonic note(s) so as to get the maximum level from those notes. I was starting a solo album like High Tension Wires, but it was going to be mostly acoustic, then the record company did a big shake up that ended in a totally different direction and me asking to leave. The companies that I'm working with now, Magna Carta and Zebra are very musically oriented and I may get the opportunity to get back to something like that when I finish the present project.

Hi Steve

The Roxy show was great! On the last SMB tour you and Dave did a piece from Handel's Rain Water Suite. That was one of the most incredible pieces of music I think of ever heard (well, one of many things you've done). I was wondering if that will ever be released as I'd really like to hear it again. I have it on CD traditional arrangement, but it's not quite the same. Also, I was at Target about 2 years ago and saw a Christmas CD with various artists and one was named Steve Morse. Was it you? I didn't buy it because it looked like it had been stepped on and I haven't seen it since. Take care and I look forward to seeing you on the Dream Theatre tour. Merry Christmas!

Don DesBiens

Thanks, Don. The Christmas CD was probably me, I've done at least 3, I think. Windham Hill and Sony. As far as the Handel piece, I have recorded it and delivered it to a certain record company which has chosen to not do anything with it along with all the other guitarists that delivered a classical selection done in their own style. We are investigating the possibility of buying or licencing the whole CD so as to make it available. If you think trees grow slowly, try waiting for lawyers to finish negotiating something like that......

Hello Steve:

I was listening to High Tension Wires during my commute and was wondering what the origin of Modoc was. I've read a little about the native american tribe of that name and assume that's the reference (although I've actually seen a book written about a circus elephant of the same name!). Is the composition somehow related to native american music or is it more of a tribute (or none of the above)?

Thanx. John D. Smith

Actually, it's named after a place in S.C. where we used to go and jam. John Curtis, who later was my manager for a while, and our mutual friend, T.O. Witcher, used to host jam sessions on this remote 120 acre place. T.O. Witcher got sick, and we watched him die a painful death from cancer. He gave me the guitar that I wrote Modoc and T.O. Witcher on. He and John did a lot for live music in my old home town, and I hope that people can follow their example to promote the good aspects of music above everthing else that comes with the music business.

Dear Steve, My name is Ira. I know you would never remember me but I met you back stage in 1985 at "my father's place" out in roslyn, N.Y. I have been a dreggs fan since Jr. High. Well, it's 20 years later and I still could listen to any perticular dreggs album over and over again, forever. I used to own the album "unsung hero's". It was without a doubt, my favorite dreggs record (remember records?) Anyway, through the course of a move, I had lost my "unsung hero's" album, only to find out later that I would never have the opportunity to own one ever again. It has been about 10 years since I've heard this album and I'm dying to hear it again.I will never forget the incredibly, intense horn section on that album. Please advise me how I could own this album, tape, cd, ect. I would realy appreciate it. I'm praying the dreggs start putting out some "STUDIO" recordings. Is it possible?, please tell me. and if you could also give me a hint as to when you or the dreggs might be comming to long island, queens, or NYC. Thanks so much for your time.

Sincerely, A dedicated dreggs fan,
Ira Eilberg

Well, first of all, I have no control on what the record company wishes to license, but I know that I have asked Frank (beloved manager and keeper of all dregs recordings) to try to licence every feasible one. Bunch of folks have gotten them at places like Ebay...... Studio recordings? who knows, but for now, it's taken quite a bit of scheduling just to do that live one and this upcoming tour run. Everybody seems to have this unreasonable need to make a living, also. Making a living and a Dregs studio album might not work together in the same sentence, unless the media has changed drastically in the last 24 hours.... Seriously, we would love to work together in a creative environment with no pressure, so when the entire band gets selected to be on "Who wants to be a greedy millionare?", we'll be ready to commence recording after we correctly name the average number of cockroaches in nightclub dressing room and win some serious dough. See, I said "seriously", yet I wasn't really that serious..... Okay, seriously seriously, everybody lives all over the place, we have two legitimate claims of who should play bass, and schedules that change constantly. Despite all that, we want to record some more stuff, and we will somehow, if only to fulfill the requests at every major music television station.......OK, I wasn't being serious at the end. Seriously, seriously, in all seriousness, the Dregs exist from time to time, and we look forward to whatever can be done together. And we do thank you for being such a strong fan. I do remember all the shows we did there in Roslyn, and miss it, although the IMAC theater nearby is fantastic for us now.

How much do you practice dayly? Is it all technical stuff and how much (if any) classical guitar?

Normally, an hour before recording, plus all the time recording. If no recording that day, then 1-2 hours plus some creative time is pretty normal. I practice the classical when I'm getting ready for some gigs that I use it on, otherwise, just for amusement from time to time.

Do you make yourself write dayly, wether you like it or not? Or do you just wait to get inspired?

I write all the time, I can't help it. Usually the ideas come and are forgotten. When I'm working on a particular tune, trying to finish it, it gets more difficult, and I always have 5 or more ideas sitting around waiting for some new parts. I try not to be in a hurry, just so that I won't ever hate my job! It's always been pretty fun to come up with ideas, and I enjoy being able to do SOMETHING easily.....

Do you write all bass parts also or you leave some for Dave to fill in?

Both. Often, Dave and I will sit together and I can't help but constantly interject ideas, despite the fact that he is very capable of coming up with stuff on his own. The lecture that I give everyone I work with covers this personality quirk of mine, and he handles it very well. I've always been unable to stop giving my version of the way everybody should play their parts.

When recording a new CD do you record basic tracks wirh the entire band or do your parts first with clicl track and add bass and drums later?

It depends on who's there when the idea is cemented. Some albums Dave and I recorded live to tape with a click while Van was still learning the arrangement in the other room, knowing that he would be recording his part in a few minutes. Then we could listen and evaluate his takes better since we were just listening, not struggling to remember the 5th version that I just recommended.

I've been practicing toomaninotes since it came out and I guess I'll spend the rest of my life doing it, I timed it on your record and it should be at 104 bpm, I'm only up to 88/92 and I can't seem to improve at all even with the obsessive practicing, do you have any suggestions? Note that I hold the pick in the same way you do.

Holding the pick that way is good for the section in C on the low notes especially. It gives you more control. Speed wise, that's a very difficult piece because of the shapes of patterns. Anybody that holds a pick normally can play that speed all day long with normal patterns, but some of the arpeggiated patterns just get impossible to play ACCURATELY without careful attention to detail. John Petrucci is one of the few guitarists that can play those kind of patterns and still hold a pick normally, same with McLaughlin. There must be many more that I haven't observed personally. All in all, the traditional way is best for blinding speed on adjacent strings, or linear runs, but the way I hold the pick gives me more accuracy for the jumps and arpeggios. Practice arpeggios, and practice slow most of the time. Slow enough to get every note perfect.

When at home, do you exclusively work on music (practicing, writing, recording etc.) or devote time also to "normal activities such as yard work, fixing the house etc.?

Yes, plenty of normal stuff. I've spent hours doing stuff on the computer today, hours paying bills, picked up my son, made food, played games with him, put him to bed. I run errands, fly a little every day, fix things on the farm, go to Tae Kwon Do, stuff like that.

Lastly, a "philosophical" question: you recently married (or so I heard) does the constant performing on the road and being out a lot strains your marriage?Or you have long periods at home that you can devote to family life?I ask because I'm on the verge of getting married (or at least to seriously thining of it) and is quite a concern for me; including the fact that "temptations" on the road are everywhere, how do you deal with it?

My second marriage has been through a lot of changes that I don't feel comfortable discussing. Suffice to say that being gone is not a great thing to most women. The real "temptations" most musicians have to deal with is staying away from the constant availability of junk food, and alcohol. The average housewife going on a one hour trip to the store has more opportunities to get into trouble than a musician who is constantly running to catch a plane, do an interview, get aboard the bus that's just leaving, make it to sound check. I would bet big money that any middle manager at almost any office has a lot more to worry about in the way of temptation.....they actually have the time to do something if they want to.

Hi. First of all what a great site!! secondly, I have been a major fan of yours for a long time. Your music really gives me great listening am on a personal goal here in Chicago to get radio stations to play your music. WXRT, in perticular. I was wondering if you can comment on the guitar playing of Frank Zappa. I have noticed that his son is going to play on your new CD. How does his playing compare to his fathers? Thanks and keep Rocking.


Dweezil sounds different than his Dad. Frank was mostly pentatonic based, to my ears, anyway. What they share is an inate ability to constantly see things a little bit more creatively than most people. Everything that Dweezil played was amazingly precise and he was really given one take, live, to sit in on his Dad's song, and he really impressed me.
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