Dream Theater guitar virtuoso John Petrucci shared some invaluable advice for guitarists who want to improve their craft,
As someone who received formal education at Boston’s famous Berklee College of Music and a player who’s pushed the boundaries of prog for over three decades, it’s safe to say that John Petrucci knows a thing or two about playing guitar — and speaking to Guitar Player in a new interview, he reveals some of the knowledge acquired over the course of his trailblazing career.
The prog virtuoso begins his list of “top ten tips for guitarists” with an interesting choice, and something a lot of players probably haven’t done by choice ever since acquiring their first amp — practicing electric guitar chops unplugged
“If you want to find out where you rate in terms of technical ability, it’s really effective to practice electric guitar acoustically. Don’t play through an amp. Instead, go into a tiled room, like a bathroom, where you have a little bit of natural reverb.
“Then you can really dissect your playing and figure out what’s going on with your technique, because you don’t have the sustain of distortion, or any effects or delays hiding anything. All you have is what’s actually physically happening when your hands are touching the instrument.
“That can be very revealing.”
In addition to tried and true advice such as using a metronome when practicing, not shying away from asking for advice, and developing a proper hand-stretching technique before exercise, Petrucci also stresses the importance of playing with other people — something that musicians tend to overlook in today’s digital world:
“Another thing that’s important, and I guess it’s sort of twofold, is to play with other musicians and to take some time to improvise. In this world today, where all of us have home studios and it’s so easy to stay in and create stuff and share it publicly, you can do everything without seeing a single person.
“But there’s something to be said for getting out there and jamming and working on your improvisational skills, which is really just creativity on the spot. It’ll help you become a more well-rounded artist, and it can actually help you develop your voice as a player.”
The Dream Theater guitarist wraps his list up with another oft-disregarded gem — you don’t need to practice like a maniac, but you do need to be consistent:
“This is a big one, and it’s especially useful for developing advanced technique. If you never went running and ran a marathon, you’d probably fall on your face after 200 feet. But if you had a year to train for it and you ran every day, and if you dieted and did everything you needed to do, you could run that marathon in a year. Guitar playing is the same way.
“Achieving a high level of technique is not something you can cram for in a day or a weekend. You need to put in the time as consistently as possible. When you don’t, that’s when you get frustrated and you put the guitar down more often than you pick it up.
“The fact that you’re putting in the work is how you’re going to become a better player.”