Dream Theater axeman John Petrucci talked about the struggles beginner guitarists go through – that he also had to deal with, believe it or not – singling out a few key points to watch out for.
He said as part of the Guitar Method series:
“I remember discovering as something as simple as vibrato. I didn’t really know what that was or used it or anything. I was doing this thing where I would take a record, slow it down and try and learn the solo. I was learning an Iron Maiden solo, I think it was an Adrian Smith thing and [when I slowed it down] I was like, ‘Light bulb! That’s how you do it! That’s vibrato!’
“And I started to listen to them while they’re bending from the note up to another note and back down and up… ‘That’s how you get that sound!’ I didn’t really realize that. When you’re first learning guitar and you’re trying to pick up these solos… You’re learning an AC/DC thing and like, ‘Why doesn’t it sound like that? I’m playing the right notes.’
“And then you realize Angus [Young] is doing this cool vibrato and it’s only until you discover that – either by somebody showing it to you or watching somebody do it or stumbling upon it like I did with the slowed down record – that’s when you have those moments and they start to kind of develop your style.
“When somebody starts to kind of mimic a certain player it almost makes you think, ‘Oh, that sounds like this guy,’ because of something like vibrato. Which a lot of players starting out don’t think about that too much.
“What is kind of similar with guitar – especially electric guitar with distortion – there’s this learning curve in the beginning, how to actually make it sound good. Because even if you’re playing the right notes, there’s so many things that you could make happen that make it sound bad. Whether you’re pressing down too hard, or you’re slightly bending the note when you shouldn’t be, or you’re not using vibrato…
“When you play a simple line and if you play those same notes – the notes are the same but they’re just kind of boring because there’s no inflections, there’s no vibrato. You can also make it sound bad – strings ringing out that shouldn’t be there, or you’re pulling sharp so the note sounds out of tune even though your guitar is in tune. Guitar is really tricky that way. You can make something sound pretty cool or you can make it purposely sound like one of those ‘shreds’ videos.
“So that’s one of the things that you learn – how not to make it sound bad. It sounds simple, but it’s tricky.
“When you’re going from note to note, you don’t want the previous note to still be ringing, unless you’re doing that on purpose. And you’ll really want to know how to mute, especially when you have distortion… *lets strings on his guitar ring* That’s what’s really going on in the background at any given time.
“So even if you’re just playing a scale kind of thing, you have to be conscious of making sure that other strings you’re not playing aren’t ringing out. Because now they’re amplified even more, there’s distortion, it’s loud. Anything that you’re doing that you’re not paying attention to is going to get magnified.