I recently discovered a great podcast called The Guitar Channel, hosted by Pierre Journel. He has hundreds of episodes of his show, mostly containing interviews with famous guitar players including Nuno Bettencourt, Steve Vai, Steve Lukather, Paul Gilbert, Al Di Meola, Guthrie Govan, Tommy Emmanuel and Lee Ritenour. In each interview, he asks the pro-level player what words of wisdom they would like to share with up-and-coming guitarists, and some of the answers are invaluable for both guitar teachers and guitar students.
Pierre was gracious enough to give me permission to share some clips from his podcast interviews with the Start Teaching Guitar community so we can all learn and grow as players, teachers and students of the guitar. In this episode, I’ll have words of sage advice from Dave Weiner, Lee Ritenour, Tony MacAlpine, Nuno Bettencourt, Guthrie Govan, Eric Bibb and Marty Friedman. They cover topics including originality, practicing technique, being well-rounded, the importance of music education and lots of others. Listen, learn and share with your students!
*Special Offer From The Guitar Channel Podcast*
This episode has been a great success and as a result, Pierre Journel from The Guitar Channel podcast would like to present a special offer to the STG community. In addition to the free interviews, Pierre also has a cool “Backstage Pass” member’s only program where you can get access to exclusive members-only interviews, special guitar master classes with some of the artists he has interviewed, guitar backing tracks for some great songs by those artists and lots of other cool stuff.
A Guitar Channel Backstage Pass membership is normally only $6 per month, but if you use the link below to sign up, you can get your first month for free:
I’ve joined myself and there’s some great content available in this membership. I highly recommend checking it out!
To call in with a question, a comment or to leave feedback for the show, call the Listener Feedback Hotline at (719) 428-5480 and leave a message! I just might include your recorded message in a future episode.
Items Mentioned In This Episode
Link – Music Teacher’s Helper (Save 20%)
Link – The Guitar Channel Podcast
Podcast – TGC Episode 32 – Dave Weiner Interview
Link – Riff Of The Week
Link – DaveWeiner.com
Podcast – TGC Episode 147 – Lee Ritenour Interview
Link – Six String Theory Competition
Link – LeeRitenour.com
Podcast – TGC Episode 140 – Tony MacAlpine Interview
Link – TonyMacAlpine.com
Podcast – TGC Episode 57 – Nuno Bettencourt Interview
Link – Extreme-Band.com
Podcast – TGC episode 143 – Guthrie Govan Interview
Link – GuthrieGovan.co.uk
Podcast – TGC Episode 68 – Eric Bibb interview
Link – EricBibb.com
Podcast – TGC Episode 158 – Marty Friedman Interview
Link – MartyFriedman.com
This podcast is sponsored by Music Teacher’s Helper, the best way to manage your private music lesson studio. Music Teacher’s Helper is online scheduling and billing software that you can access from your computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone that saves you hours every month, enables you to generate reports for taxes, and ensures you never lose track of a payment.
Once you add a student, which is super easy, you can choose to automatically send students custom invoices that can be paid with a credit card, if you make that an option.
Automatically email lesson reminders, late payment notifications and lesson notes, use the free easy-to-build website templates to help market your studio online and so much more. There are so many amazing features I can’t get into them all right now.
The thing I like best about Music Teacher’s Helper is how it makes your teaching studio run almost on autopilot. Students can book lessons and request lesson reschedules. They can login with their own account and access important information like lesson assignments and progress reports any time of the day or night.
Whether you have 5 or 50 students, Music Teacher’s Helper works for music teaching studios of all sizes. I originally discovered the software and started using it myself several years ago; I highly recommend giving Music Teacher’s Helper a spin so you can see for yourself how useful it is.
They offer a 30-day no risk trial where you can test it out to discover how much time you’ll be saving. If you use this special address to sign up – startteachingguitar.com/mth – you’ll save 20% off your first month if you choose to sign up after the trial.
So, I’ve been really enjoying a cool guitar podcast lately, called The Guitar Channel, hosted by a guy named Pierre Journel. And the podcast has been around since, I think, 2009. I’m just a little bit late to the party because he’s got tons of episodes and he’s been doing it for a long time. He does a really, really great job, but Pierre lives in Paris, France, and he seems to be a really cool guy, and somehow, I don’t know how, but Pierre manages to land interviews with some of the most famous guitar players in the world.
Now, I don’t know how he does it, but it’s great to hear just a normal guy, normal guitar player like you and me, who loves the guitar and who loves, you know, guitar music, and he’s just talking to some of his heroes and asking questions that we would all love to know the answers too. So, in his various episodes and interviews, Pierre has hundreds of episodes with interviews with everyone from Steve Vai to Steve Lukather to Steve Stevens, and all these other amazing guitar players in between.
Now, at the beginning of each interview, Pierre asks the guitar players to share some highlights of their journey since they first got started, and it’s fascinating to hear how some of the top players that are on the scene today got their start and how they’ve built their careers to the point from where they were just started out, playing guitar, to where they had major turning points and major milestones in their careers as musicians. It’s fascinating to listen to those stories from the horse’s mouth. But there’s also a segment at the end of each of these interviews where Pierre asks the guest if they have any words of wisdom for other up and coming guitar players, and that’s one of my favorite parts of his show because a lot of the advice that gets shared is very useful, very insightful for guitar teachers and for guitar students alike.
So, I asked Pierre if I could take a handful of clips from some of his interviews and share them with the Start Teaching Guitar audience so that we could all learn and grow and get more information from people that are doing guitar at such a high level, and he generously said, “Yeah, sure, you can take clips of my episodes and my interviews, and you can use them on your podcast.” So, I would never have access to interview some of the guys that Pierre does, so I was very grateful that he was willing to allow us to share some of those clips on the episode today.
So, this is our all-star guitar advice from the pros episode, containing guitar wisdom and advice from six great players in their own words and recorded in their own voice. So, today we’re going to hear from guitarists like Dave Weiner, from Steve Vai’s band, from Lee Ritenour, from Tony MacAlpine, from Nuno Bettencourt, Guthrie Govan, Eric Bibb, and Marty Friedman. All famous guitar players that I’m sure you’ve heard about and a lot of your probably have a lot of respect for. So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to play a short clip from each of these guys. I’ll introduce them, then play a short clip, and then talk about it for a minute or two afterwards.
It’s going to be great, and I’ll also link to each podcast in the show notes, each one of Pierre’s podcast episodes so that you can listen to the entire interview with that artist if you want to. I highly recommend that. They’re great interviews. And I’ll probably do another episode like this in the future too, so keep an eye out for Volume Two at some point, but just so that you know, some of these words of wisdom are for you as a teacher and a guitar player, and some of them are going to be for your students. So, feel free to pass this episode on and to share this information with your students if you think it’s appropriate for them too.
And I highly recommend subscribing to The Guitar Channel Podcast. Pierre comes out with a new episode, a new interview almost every single week, maybe even more often than that, and he’s also got some video gear reviews on YouTube and things. He’s really doing some great stuff for the guitar community, so you want to check it out. His website is TheGuitarChannel.biz, and there you can find all of his episodes and all of the other information about The Guitar Channel Podcast. I highly recommend checking it out.
Let’s jump into the guitar advice. The first bit of advice comes from Dave Weiner, who is Steve Vai’s touring guitarist. He’s played with Steve Vai for ten, almost 15 years now, and he’s a really great player and artist in his own right. He’s got some solo albums out and he created a series of videos a while back, called Riff of the Week. You can check it out at RiffoftheWeek.com. And he’s also an online guitar teacher. His website is DaveWeiner.com. I’ll have links to all of this in the show notes if you want to get more information. But Dave had some great insight for guitar students and about his experience as a guitar student himself, so let’s listen to what Dave Weiner has to say right now about the guitar.
“You know, that guitar got me started. I remember, with my first guitar teacher, we would just try and, you know, even something as simple as try to smoothly change between chords, and I remember that specifically. And then I remember just, you know, playing this guitar so much and I remember watching MTV while I was practicing, and then all of a sudden, I wasn’t really paying attention to the guitar, but all of a sudden effortlessly. Very smoothly. And I was like: “Wow, it’s working.” So that was kind of like the very first milestone that I ever remember. And then, from there, I took lessons for about four years, and then I realized that what I was doing with lessons wasn’t really advancing me on the right path that I wanted to be, because I was playing and my teacher did a very good job of, you know, showing me the importance of learning cover tunes and, you know, learning riffs via cover tunes, but I wasn’t learning the how and the why of guitar.
You know, I’m doing this, but why am I doing this? How does this happen and how can I change it to make something else happen? So, I started going down a different road by myself to try and figure out the theory. And I started doing that. I was okay with theory. You know, when you don’t have a good teacher to teach you theory and you’re learning from books and DVDs, and those kinds of things, there’s only so much you can learn.”
Okay, so Dave had some great things to say, and his experience is kind of the opposite in my mind of what most students go through. So, he took guitar lessons for about four years and obviously, for someone to develop as quickly as he did and accomplish all the things that he’s accomplished as a player with his career, he has tons of natural talent. He’s a really smart guy with a lot of musical abilities. But if you take a look at his experience, the first four years of lessons, it was all about songs and riffs. And that’s how it should be at first. For beginning to intermediate level guitarists, it’s all about context. It’s all about learning how to play other people’s music and being able to emulate the songs and music that you love and enjoy so that you can get a basic vocabulary of guitar skills.
But at some point, it has to change. It has to transition and shift. You eventually have to get into the how and the why of playing guitar and of music, like Dave mentioned. And that involves music theory and all of those kinds of topics that are very important. So, what happened was Dave kind of outgrew his guitar teacher. He started getting interested in why this song works the way it does and why this sound, you know, gets created when you play it over these chords, and things like that. So, he started studying music theory. He started reading books. He started doing all these other things, and he eventually ended up at Guitar Institute of Technology in Los Angeles, and that’s kind of where he developed more and his career kind of took off.
But this is a great example of adapting the lessons to what a student needs and wants, and then also, when the time is right, transitioning into more technical things. So, most students need and wants songs, like I said, in the earlier stages, but if they advance far enough, if they stick with it enough and they’re serious enough about the guitar, there’s a time to shift gears and start teaching them how music really works. Very good example of how lessons work whenever they’re done correctly.
The next clip I have for you is by Lee Ritenour. And Lee is a Grammy-winning guitar player. He is a longtime jazz and fusion guitarist and session musician. He’s a founding member of the Jazz quartet named Fourplay, which was very popular in the 1990s. And currently Lee is producing solo albums and everything, but he also runs The Six String Theory International Guitar Competition. International Music Competition. There’s a guitar part, and then there’s a rhythm section part, and you could check that out at SixStringTheory.com, and you could find out more about Lee on his website, LeeRitenour.com. So let’s hear Lee’s clip.
“Well, I think with all the amazing young talent out there, I think the most important thing is still education. You know, the Internet and YouTube and everything else has really helped speed up the quality and the intensity of learning, but you have to mix that with good music education. That’s the only insurance a musician has in his life; is the music education. So, just study as much as you can. Especially when you’re younger, you have more time. And try to find your own voice. You know, copying one guitarist and sounding like another guitarist is not a great idea. You know, there’s only one Jimi Hendrix. There’s Stevie Ray Vaughan, or Wes Montgomery, or George Benson out there. You need to have your own voice. And you know, the Scofields and the Methenys, and all these other players that have their own distinct voice have the most distinguished careers.”
All right, Lee had some great things to say. YouTube and online learning really are not enough if you want to be a well-rounded, full fledged, successful, good guitar player. There’s a lot of stuff you can pick up online. You can learn skills and you can even learn some theory and some other things like that by watching videos online and reading blogs and websites, but there’s really no replacement for immersing yourself in music education for an extended period of time.
Now, Lee has some great advice to do that when you’re young, before you have a family, before you have responsibilities, before you have a ton of bills to pay. That’s great advice, but that doesn’t mean that just because you’re in a different stage of life that you can’t immerse yourself in music; that you can’t study music to a deeper degree. That you can’t connect yourself with other musicians that want the same things that you want, and all learn and grow together, but he had a great point that your music education is your own insurance policy as a guitar player. I never really thought about it that way, but it does definitely open doors for you and help you be able to make transitions in your career pretty quickly if you have a higher level of skill and knowledge on the instrument. So, great advice from Lee right there.
And he also said what a lot of these guitar players have said, and that is to try and find your own voice on the instrument. You probably won’t have a successful music career if all you do is imitate other players. Now, there’s a place for imitation. Like I mentioned before, you have to learn and you have to emulate what other people are doing. It’s kind of like baby steps and copying, you know, words and sentences that you hear your parents say whenever you’re a baby, but at some point, you’ve got to learn how to talk on your own. It’s great to learn from other people, but at some point, you have to try to discover who you are on the guitar and what your voice is on the instrument because that’s ultimately what it’s all about. It’s not about imitating anyone or anything like that. It’s about expressing your soul through music on the guitar.
The next clip is from Tony MacAlpine. Now, you probably remember Tony is you read Guitar Player Magazine and Premier Guitar, and all of those, Guitar World – those magazines that came out in the 1980s and 1990s. Those older editions had Tony’s face on advertisements all over the place. He had early training as a classical violinist and pianist, and then he eventually made it big when he got signed to Shrapnel Records. I think it was around the 1984 timeframe. Something like that. And he put out a bunch of albums on Mike Varney’s Shrapnel Record label, and those got featured in guitar magazines all the time. He’s a very influential shred guitarist, but I hesitate to use the word shred guitarist because he doesn’t play like a shred guitarist. He plays like a classic composer, but he’s got virtuoso level technique. He’s a monster player.
He’s placed with bands like CAB and Planet X. He’s performed on the G3 Tour with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. You could find out more about Tony by visiting his website, TonyMacApline.com. So, let’s hear what Tony had to say about playing the guitar.
“The main thing is it’s hard really because I don’t know the level of where people are at. You know, if you’re starting out, if you’re a beginner, you know, it’s important to have a really good teacher, somebody that can guide you into a direction where it comes more academic and you learn some of the values of music. I mean if you’re already a (Unclear 16:11.2) and you’re playing, you’re playing well and things are going the way that, you know, you want, then you just have to realize there will be some difficulties that you might have. So, again, that’s where a teacher comes in. I just think working one-on-one with somebody else outside of yourself is the best way to really hone in and correct some of the problems that, you know, become these things that get in the way of what we’re trying to do musically.”
So there’s a common thread coming through a lot of these clips. It’s really cool to me to see this, but his main advice was if you want to improve on the guitar, find a good teacher. It’s all about finding someone that can help you. Don’t try to just teach yourself online. That’s a recipe for frustration. I mean if someone has a ton of natural ability and drive and determination and motivation, you can learn a lot and figure a lot of things out on your own and using online resources and books, and things like that, but don’t try to teach yourself. If you get frustrated, you know, and it’s just not working for you, it’s probably because you’re trying to be a self-taught guitarist.
Don’t do that, if you can help it. There are a very small percentage of people that have the innate musical abilities to be successful when they’re self-taught. People like Eddie Van Halen and guys like that. They were just born with a gift, and their brains work in a way that music just makes sense to them from beginning to end. But if you’re not like that, then don’t try to teach yourself. This is something that a lot of potential guitar students need to understand. Know when to get help. You can’t get to the level of someone like Tony MacAlpine without some serious study of the instrument. And like he said, having someone work with you one-on-one is definitely the fastest way to develop your guitar skills.
Now let’s hear from Nuno Bettencourt. Everybody’s probably heard of Nuno Bettencourt before. You’ve probably seen his Washburn Nuno Bettencourt model guitars. He’s an amazing player. This guy has got technique that is just unbelievable, but he was the guitarist for Extreme, for kind of the pop metal band that was big in the ’80s and ’90s, and he’s done all kinds of stuff. He’s done solo albums. He’s played with all kinds of people. Most recently he’s toured with the pop R&B Rihanna and a bunch of other people. You can find out more about Nuno just by doing a Google search or you can go to Extreme-Band.com. Let’s hear what Nuno had to say about playing the guitar.
“No, you know what. I think the main thing is, for any guitar player, don’t just be a guitar player. Don’t be obsessed with guitar only. Be obsessed with guitar, but also be obsessed with music and rhythm playing. You know, solos are just a small portion of the song. You will make your own history and be yourself amongst how you can play in a song. That will separate you from everybody else. You know, your rhythm playing. Your writing. Your ranging. Your songwriting. Your melodies. Your things, and be a musician. Don’t just be a guitar player. You could still be the greatest guitar player in the world, but people will just consider you as a guitar player, and then there are a lot of great guitar players in the world, but if you can be a well rounded player and do something really special like that, people will remember you for the rest of their lives. You know?
Pierre: And so, how is it possible to progress as a musician, because the technical or the mechanical part of the guitar playing, I mean is if you practice a lot, eventually you’re going to be able to play fast. But to grow as a musician, it is something really difficult and sometimes especially. Not only on the music part, but also, as you just said, on the rhythm part. Young kids just want to play fast as hell and that’s it.
Well, it takes the kids or whoever is starting to be inspired. It’s to be inspired by what they’re listening to. If they’re only listening to, you know, shredders, let’s say, and instrumental records, then forget it. It’s a diet. It’s all about your diet. You know, if you don’t take any kid to McDonald’s, you’d be surprised how much they don’t eat McDonald’s. It’s a very simple math. You give kids vegetables when they’re three or four, and they grow up, thinking vegetables are actually what we’re supposed to eat. They’re not supposed to be disgusting and gross. It’s really how. Sometimes it’s your older brothers. It’s your parents. It’s what they feed you and what they inspire you. If somebody grows up on Queen, they’re going to be like: “Wow, what the heck is this?”
Pierre: This is the standard.
This is the standard. This is music. This is melodies. This is incredible. There is an incredible guitar player who’s doing layers of guitar and beautiful things. Same thing with Van Halen. Van Halen wasn’t just an instrumental band. The guy’s a great rhythm play, so I recognized that. There were still harmonies in Van Halen. I recognized that. So, I think it’s important. I think it’s even important that guitar teachers. They have a responsibility to make the player aware and the young player aware that yeah, I know you want to learn Eruption by Van Halen, but don’t forget to study the rest of the record. You know, study it. Listen to it. Enjoy it. And one day, they’re going to go: “Wow, you know, this is what it’s about.” You know?”
I love the contrast here. So, Nuno is like one of the most prolific guitar soloists on the planet today, and his advice to up and coming guitar players is don’t just be obsessed with soloing. Learn more important things. Learn how to write your own music and compose. Learn how to be an amazing rhythm player. Learn how to write and play melodies on the guitar and be more melodic. I love how he’s just not focused on shredding and not focused alone on technique, but he’s really encouraging guitar players to be a well rounded musician. Be yourself. Make your own history. Be well rounded. Those were the bits of advice that Nuno was sharing, and I couldn’t agree with him more, because we need well-rounded guitar players.
We don’t need people that can just shred or just play riffs or just play cover songs, or whatever. We need people that can express themselves on the instrument. And there are so many more important things than just being able to play fast and just being able to play solos. So, if you really can tap into who you are as a guitarist and what your voice is, you know, and then you really can make your own history, like he talked about. And I love the part where he said that teachers need to inspire their students with new music and new ideas. So, he called out guitar teachers in that clip and he said that we need to. We have a responsibility to expose our students to great music that they may never otherwise listen to.
Remember one of the students I taught was like an 11-year-old kid who had a pretty good amount of natural talent on the guitar, but all he listened to was Buckethead all the time and all he cared about was guitar tricks and being able to play fast, and stuff like that. So, one of the things I tried to do was to expose him to other kinds of rock music that he could learn and kind of absorb and be influenced by, and also other kinds of music too, like fusion and even some classical music and things that I thought would help him, and even blues, because he was so focused on technique that his feel left a lot to be desired. So, listening to some great blues players was something that was able to help him develop a little bit better as a player.
You know, so we need to do that. We need to expose our students to music that they may not otherwise listen to or ever even have heard of. And it’s also great whenever we can highlight the more musical aspects of great guitar playing. You know, like I love how he said, “Yeah, if you want to learn Eruption, that’s cool, but don’t just stop with Eruption. Learn the rest of the album.” Learn how Eddie wrote those songs and learn how he approached his rhythm playing, and all of those different things too. Those are equally important with the soloing, if not more important. It’s not just about flash and techniques, so some great advice from Nuno, who’s one of the most flashy and technical guitar players on the planet.
The next clip is by Guthrie Govan. Guthrie plays with a trio called The Aristocrats, and he is an amazing guitar player and amazing composer of music from the United Kingdom. And he played with the band Asia for about six years as well. You could find out more about Guthrie at GuthrieGovan.co.uk, but let’s hear what Guthrie has to say about playing guitar.
“I think it’s really important to have a bigger perspective. I mean everybody who plays an instrument needs to ask themselves at some point, “Why am I doing this? What are my goals?” Short-term girls, fair enough. I need to be 10bmp faster by this time next month, but I mean long-term goals. Like what do I really want to get out of my relationship with the instrument? And as long as you can answer that honestly to yourself, you’ll know what to do. But the problem that sometimes arises with this technical kind of guitar playing, sometimes a young player will become blinded by the technique aspect and it will distract them from the bigger picture, which is of course you’re meant to write music and play music with other people, and play music to other people.
I worry when someone who stands up, confined in a bedroom with only a metronome for company, and that becomes their whole relationship with music. I think that’s unhealthy. Technique is just a means to an end. I know I play too many notes, but I can’t help it. The music I hear in my head has too many notes in it. The fact that I’m able to play some of that stuff is not necessarily because I focused exclusively on technique for years. It’s just because I’ve played for a long time. I’ve always tried to find the easiest way to do things. And if you play something in a way that feels easy for long enough, then, in the end, you’ll be able to do it faster because it feels natural. So that’s a big part of my approach to the whole technique thing. And if you want to practice one basic thing, practice making every note you play sound perfect. I think that’s a healthy attitude to have.”
Great advice there. Guthrie is just a hilarious guy. You really need to go back and listen that entire interview. He’s actually got two interviews with Guthrie on the podcast. This clip is from the first of the two, and he’s really hilarious, man. He seems like the kind of guy that I would love to meet and hang out with and just kind of clown around. But I love how his approach – well, his advice as far as an approach goes to learning the guitar – was to figure out what you really want out of the instrument. Why do you want to play? Why are you doing this? That’s a question we need to be asking our students pretty frequently, especially when they first sign up for guitar lessons. Why do you want to play the guitar? Why do you want to do this? What is it about playing that motivates you and drives you? Why are you interested in this?
It’s very important for them to figure that out because whatever is driving them is also going to be what motivates them to continue lessons and to make progress on the guitar. So, find out why they want to do it. If all they want to do is play fast, then that’s not a very good reason. They’re probably going to get sick of that pretty fast and hopefully they’ll discover something else about the guitar that they love, but if all you’ve got is technique, you know, you’re not really a well rounded musician and it’s not enough to just be able to play fast. Why do you really want to do this? And I love his advice. Again, Guthrie is one of the faster guitar players on the planet, and he says don’t get blinded by the pursuit of technique. He said, “Technique is just a mean to an end.”
His technique was developed simply so that he could play the things he heard in his head. It’s all about self-expression for Guthrie, and that’s what we should communicate to our students too, as guitar teachers. And I love his last bit of advice in that clip. “Practice making every note you play sound perfect.” He said that that would give you the best results in your practice times. More so than just working on technique, make sure all your notes are clean. Make sure you have good finger tone. Make sure you’re picking every note correctly. That it is clean and plays and sounds perfect. That’s a great thing to practice. I don’t think we pay enough attention to that sometimes, as guitar teachers. We’re focused on exercises and tempos and BPMs and metronomes, and things like that, and we don’t drill down and make sure that our students can play beautiful sounding notes on the guitar. So, great advice from Guthrie.
So, I have a couple of more clips for you here. This one is from Eric Bibb. Now, Eric is a finger style acoustic blues artist. He plays acoustic blues finger style-type guitar. Kind of a throwback to earlier eras of the guitar with also some newer and a little bit of world music influence thrown in, and he’s a little bit older. He’s been active since the early 1960s, but you can listen to some of Eric’s music. It’s really great music, and you can find out more about him at EricBibb.com. So let’s listen to this clip from Eric.
“I think it’s important to listen to a lot of music, be exposed to a lot of music, and discover what really rocks your soul. And when you’ve discovered some sounds, styles of music that really move you; and when I say move you, there’s many kinds of music that can move you, but I don’t always want to play a certain kind of music. I like to listen to certain music, but I’m not interested in playing it, but the music that I love to listen to and also want to play, I would say that’s a good starting place. Focus on that music because you will have so much energy, excitement that it’ll make you apply yourself and learn quickly. I think you need to be passionate about what you’re learning, and the best way is to find out what really you go back to and want to play over and over, can’t get enough of. That’s a good starting point.”
So, Eric Bibb. He’s a great artist, but he also strikes me as a bit of a musicologist. If he listens to his interview, he’s done a couple interviews too. This is the first one on The Guitar Channel Podcast. But he seems to know a lot about different genres of music and different artists in different genres. He’s well listened and a well studied musician, and it was just a pleasure to hear him talk about different things in such an expressive way, but I love his advice to be exposed to as much music as you can. I love how he says discover music that rocks your soul. What moves you as a guitar player? Those are the things that will set you on fire for music, and those are the things that you should focus on. Those are the things that you should learn. Those are the things that you should get your guitar teacher to work with you on.
So, that’s a secret to motivation right there and a secret to producing better guitar players in your studio; is finding out what motivates them. Find the music that rocks their soul. Find out what they’re passionate about and weave that into their lessons so that whenever they play, they’re passionate. Whenever they have their lessons and they study with you, they’re passionate. Whenever they’re practicing at home on their own, they’re passionate. It’s connected to the soul level of being a musician and it’s not about what you do with your fingers. It’s not about what you’re looking at on a sheet of paper. It’s about connecting your hands, your brain, your voice, and your soul all together at the same time so that you can pour your soul out through the guitar. I love that advice. That’s what it’s all about.
And now the final clip is from Marty Friedman. Now, you’ve probably also seen Marty Friedman in the guitar magazines from the late ’80s, early ’90s. He started out on the Shrapnel Records, kind of like Tony MacAlpine did. He was a duo called Cacophony with another amazing guitar player, Jason Becker, who, because of his disease, is no longer able to play, but he’s still able to compose. And I think there’s a new Cacophony record that was recently released, where Jason wrote the parts and someone else played them for him. But Marty Friedman also went on to play with Dave Mustaine and Mega Death, and he’s a great guitar player, and you could find out more about him at MartyFriedman.com. Now let’s listen to the final clip of this episode, Marty telling us his thoughts about how to be a good guitar player.
“This is a good one. I’ll tell you an important thing, and it’s very important. If you’re a guitar player, and a lot of times guitar players think that they have to be able to play everything that exists. They have to know how to play everything. They think that they have to know how to play like this guy. They have to know how to play like this guy. They have to learn all of these different things, and that’s totally not true. All you have to do is be able to play your own music really, really, really, really well. Like for example, I could never, ever play like Jeff Beck. If I practiced every day for years, I could never, ever play like that, or Eddie Van Halen, or anybody. I could never, ever do it.
But at the same time, I know for sure that Jeff Beck could never, ever play like me. Eddie Van Halen could never, ever play like me. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because they wouldn’t want to. They would have no desire to play like me. So, of course they could probably mimic me pretty well. They could do a phrase that sounds like something that I would do, but to really, really play like me, they would never be able to do that. I think the only person who can really play like another guitarist is a super, super fan of that guitarist. Like I’ve had some fans of mine who really, really analyzed my playing, and they sound pretty close to me, but what I’m trying to get at is it’s never really important to play like anybody else or think that you have to be able to play everybody’s different style.
All you really have to do is develop your own style and play what you like to play, and then you don’t have the pressure of having to, you know, think you have to be as good as everybody else. I mean if I thought that I had to play like Eddie Van Halen, I’d give up guitar because I could never do it. You know? And it’s just not something I’m interested in doing, luckily. I mean I’m glad that I don’t have the interest in doing that. He’s a fabulous guitar player, but there’s no reason why I have to be able to do that too. You know, so what guitar players need to know is guitar players think that I can play everything, but if they saw me trying to play like Van Halen, they would laugh so hard because I suck so bad. So that’s what a lot of young guitar players don’t know.
I mean I remember when I was like 14 or 15. I thought every professional guitar player – they can just play everything. They just know how to play everything because they’re so good. Just because you’re really, really good doesn’t mean necessarily that you want to play everything. I mean there’s a lot of great guitar players. I just love to listen to them, but I don’t have to play like them.”
Once again, we have great advice from Marty, and it’s a common thread that flows through all of these interviews. Just be able to play your own music really well. I remember when I was a young guitar player. It was all about competition. It was all about whether or not I could play as fast as this other person, or whether or not I knew as many chords as this other guitar player, whether or not I could play this style of music or that style of music. I was constantly comparing myself to other guitar players. And my self-esteem like totally went down the toilet because of that.
And I think that’s a common problem with a lot of younger players and even some older players. They think their identity and their worth is so tied to playing the guitar that they feel like if anyone is better than them that it devalues them as a person. Well, I love this advice from Marty, who has reached a level, you know, pretty much as high as you can get of virtuosity and as a great career. You don’t need to master every flavor of guitar. There’s no pressure on you as a player to conform to the way anybody else does anything. You don’t need to be as good as anybody else. You don’t need to be exactly like anybody else. Just be you.
Take what’s inside of your soul and release it through your guitar. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not a competition. It’s an art form. It’s an artistic expression. That’s what playing the guitar is. So, it’s not about trying to imitate other players. It’s about finding your own voice, and that’s something that I think we all need to impress our younger guitar students, because if all you see and know about the guitar playing landscape of the world is what you see in guitar magazines and what you watch in YouTube videos and what you hear on albums, and things like that, then you never get this piece of advice that Marty so eloquently shared. That, you know, people think that because he’s this pro-level virtuoso player that he could play anything by anybody. Well, he, quite honestly, said, “No, I can’t play like Eddie Van Halen. I can’t play like all these other players. I play like me, and all I have to be is the best me that I can be.”
That is excellent advice and it’s an attitude that we need to impart to our students that they need to be original. They need to be individuals. They need to be able to express themselves on the guitar. Great advice from Marty.
To wrap this episode up, the common thread running through each of these interviews in my mind was the word originality. You don’t have to play like anyone else. Be the best you that you can be. And if you work hard at that, people are going to eventually pay attention. Those of you teachers who are also performers, great advice to follow and definitely something great to impart to our own students. If we can really internalize this, it would change the way we teach lessons, I think, to a large degree.
So, inspire your students to be the most well-rounded and expressive guitarists that they can be. Teach them how to discover the music deep within their own souls and to let it out upon the world. Instead of just creating shredders, focus on creating real musicians and you’ll be helping to make the world a better place through your guitar lessons.
Thank You For Listening!
If you enjoyed this episode, or any of the other of the episodes of the STG podcast, and you haven’t left a rating or review yet on iTunes, I would really appreciate an honest rating and review from you. It’s one of the most important parts of the ranking algorithm in iTunes, but more importantly, it’ll show future listeners that this podcast is (or isn’t) worth listening to.
To leave a quick review, open up iTunes, search for Start Teaching Guitar and then leave a rating and review as shown below. You can do this from your mobile device as well, even if you’re not subscribed, and even if you listen on another platform – this is where I’d appreciate you leaving your review.
Feel free to use the comments section below to let me know what you think about this episode, to suggest a topic for a future episode or just to join in on the conversation with other guitar teachers.