INTERVIEW: Paul Gilbert


Paul Gilbert

You’ve used various different Marshall amps throughout the years – do you have any stand out favourites?

I love the 2061X Handwired head. I’ve used that a lot in the studio, and also for Mr. Big tours. It’s the perfect “pedal platform” head… not a lot of distortion on its own, but with an overdrive pedal, it’s got the perfect rock tone.

I’ve done a lot of “fly in” gigs where I use locally rented gear. For these I request JCM2000, JCM800, or JCM900 heads. I can get a great tone from any of these. I also used Vintage Modern combos for a few years. I did some of my best instrumental albums with those. The KT66 power tubes work really well with single coil pickups, which I was using a lot at the time.

What have you got at the moment, and what do you like most about those Marshall amps?

For the last couple months, I’ve been playing with a prototype of a new Marshall that one of the designers sent to me. It’s similar in output and tone to my favourite 2061X, but it has more tone controls and features. I was rocking in the studio with it yesterday. The engineer was blown away by the tone!

Looking at different sorts of instruments, what do you think sets the guitar apart from something like the Piano or Harpsichord for example?

Bending and vibrato of course! Keyboards do have a big advantage when it comes to chords. But I wouldn’t trade bending for anything. If I couldn’t bend notes on guitar, I think my sanity would quickly vanish.

What’s your favourite thing about playing the guitar?

I can be my own radio. Any song that pops into my head… I can just play it. And if I can’t, then I have an interesting chord quest to go on. The only problem that I have is that the style that I first became known for… heavy metal shred, is something that I really never play at home.

I’ll figure out the chords to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys, or “Games People Play” by The Spinners and have fun jamming campfire versions of them. When I play live, I still have fun doing the athletic stuff because it excites the audience. But when I’m on my own, I just like good songs.

To someone who is picking up the guitar for the first time, what advice would you give them?

There are many different styles of guitar, so my advice is very much aimed at 70s-era rock playing.

For this, you’ve GOT to use your thumb. It’s got to hang over the top of the fretboard, so you can get a strong grip on the notes. There are exceptions, like barre chords or really big stretches, where the thumb has to go behind the neck.

But whenever you can, get that thumb over the top. Wearing the guitar low actually makes this easier, and feels good too. Of course, the most important body part for playing any musical instrument is your musical ear. But as a physical tool, the thumb-hanging-over is of supreme importance.