OVER RAINBOW, RITCHIE Blackmore formed Blackmore’s Night in 1997 to play Renaissance-infused folk-rock with his partner, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Candice Night. Throughout the band’s 14-year career, Blackmore has primarily concentrated on acoustic guitar and numerous other acoustic stringed instruments, including mandolin, mandola, mandocello, hurdy gurdy, and nyckelharpa—but he has never lost sight of the electric. “I play at least two or three tracks of electric on every album we do,” says Blackmore. “It depends on my frame of mind whether I am going to choose acoustic or electric, and I also have to take into account what the song needs. We are heavily influenced by Medieval and Renaissance music, so we are always torn between making our music more organic sounding or more modern. I sometimes play acoustic and electric guitar on the same track and decide which one is more appropriate later.”
During his Deep Purple and Rainbow days, Blackmore played through a Marshall amp customized to crank out 280 watts, and used a “converted tape deck” as a preamplifier. The preamp remains, but for nearly two decades he has favored a “small, 50-watt Engl,” and few, if any, effects. “I don’t like to play through many pedals,” he says. “I prefer a fat, natural sustained sound, which you lose if the signal goes through too many circuits. Sometimes I’ll add in a Roland guitar synthesizer, though, to make the sound a little more beefy.” Blackmore continues to favor Fender electrics—mostly Stratocasters— strung with various D’Addario sets.
Blackmore’s passionate and highly lyrical electric playing is particularly evident on the band’s latest album, Autumn Sky [Spinefarm], gracing the rocking opener “Highland” and four other tunes, including “Believe In Me,” which also features some beautiful melodic slide work. “I like to play slide,” he says. “In fact, sometimes I have to be careful that I don’t play too much slide, because it’s almost easier to do for longer notes, especially when playing ballads.” When tracking solos with an acoustic, Blackmore works them out about 80 percent of the way, whereas his rockier electric solos tend to be more spontaneous.
Live, Blackmore switches to electric to play four or five songs midway through the show, and then again for the encores, at which point it isn’t unusual for Blackmore’s Night to indulge longtime fans with the band’s take on “Black Night” and “Smoke on the Water.” “It takes me a few minutes to adjust from playing electric with a plectrum to playing fingerstyle again, because it is a different approach to that hand,” explains Blackmore. “So Candy usually has to tell a joke to buy me some time!”