Michael Romeo Interview - Symphony X


Amazing interview from Michael Romeo, super prog metal virtuoso!

Part 1

Part 2

Liked this insight…

Q: Any advice for aspiring pro guitarists?

A: Yeah - the usual thing: practise loads, but even more it’s what you practise that’s important. Like you get all these guys who are so worried about speed and how fast you can do all those techniques - but it all really boils down to what you’re saying as a player - developing your own voice.

What’s really helped me the most over the years has been laying down rhythm tracks, getting a drum machine on there and just improvising over them. Make sure that you do this a lot, and concentrate on trying to get your own style together. You need to create a fluid way of integrating lots of different phrases - using different scales and arpeggios - and make sure you record it and listen. Really listen back to what you’ve played and be critical - see what works and what doesn’t - try and stop repeating yourself all the time as well! Gradually you’ll build your own style and your own vocabulary. Stop being concerned with whether you are as fast as this guy - or how fast you can do that technique: stop just chasing the highest metronome speed you can get, or any of that shit! It really doesn’t matter - I mean, of course you want to be fast and accurate enough to do what you have to do - but you want to really concentrate on actually saying something you know?

There was definitely a time when it was all about the speed and I think that’s what turned a lot of people off this sort of playing. The whole Shredder thing became negative, and it got kinda stupid. Sure, use your speed - but use it in the same way that you use your bending and vibrato: all are important.

So my advice is don’t overlook anything, it’s all equally important: the theory and the techniques, they’re all tools you need in order to develop your own style: gradually you’ll get there!



:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:



Ironic that he’s the God of Symphonic Speed Metal.

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I was obsessed with Romeos playing back in the day. I even ordered The Dark Chapter VHS imported from Japan from a seller on gemm and had to wait six months for it to arrive. Yeah it’s ironic to hear him talk that way now, but you have to realize, this is advice in hindsight coming from someone who probably had a period in their life when they did focus hard on technique and speed. It’s all relevant. I feel the same way he does now, too. I’d rather listen to Thin Lizzy solos than the latest YouTube shred master these days.



Absolutely. Now that I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually pick stuff more or less consistently (video coming at some point, I swear) I’ve very much started leaning in the same direction.



Yeah man. Sometimes I think the reason so many of the 70s guitar heroes like Schenker, Roth, Blackmore etc had such great phrasing and improvisational skills is because, besides just working on maybe, what, left hand trills and basic pentatonic patterns, what else do you work on besides bending, vibrato, and note choice?

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My take from it is that hes encouraging people to be a complete guitarist. too many guitar players today are focused entirely on technical speed .
If it lacks musicality what’s the point ?

However, Mike has all the technical skills he needs. It’s not a focus for him anymore.

I don’t think the resorting to thin lizzy is the answer… lol. Nothing against them



I agree that there’s a lot to gain by limiting your focus to the essential musical elements: melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, phrasing - as opposed to dabbling in every possible technique imaginable.

These players you mention though were some of the early pioneers in exploring new tonalities outside of the blues-rock pentatonic thing. Like they grew out of that approach and were searching for new sounds that could set them apart from the pack and evolve a new style.

Uli Roth especially, really introduced the serious classical influence: arpeggios, harmonic minor and phrygian modes, and diminished sounds that laid the foundation for everything Yngwie and Michael Romeo would later do for Metal.

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Of course, but I think their exploration into more modal harmony was a result of not having much else to work with on a purely technical level. So what else is left but to explore note choice and harmony?



It’s not resorting to, I’d just much rather listen to that kind of guitar playing than 95% of modern shredders these days.



Which modern shredders are talking u about?



Like most all of them. The only one I like is Brandon Ellis and it’s because he plays like an 80s shredder.



My time was the 80s early nineties.
RR, EVh, YJM, impelliterri, Mcalpine, Gilbert,
Lynch, Dimartini, DiPietro…

Of the newer breed I like Romeo, Gus G…
Rick Graham is fabulous, and Andy James is great… of course Guthrie…

I’m not too familiar with the newer breed of technical players. If you’re referring to the 7 string drop D crowd, I’m right there with you.

But I take every player as an individual



Yeah, I’m referring to the newer djent crowd. I don’t really consider Romeo or Gus G new school, maybe cause I’ve known about those guys since the 90s lol. With dudes like Rick, he’s of course got immense chops, but it’s hard for me to get into the YouTube players more than just admiring their chops. The shrapnel guys had records and songs.

I think my point is that I can see where Romeo is coming from and why guys like Gilbert and Moore wound up getting a bit more of that classic 70s vibe back in their playing as they went on.



its always funny to hear these shred guys try to disown what made them famous lol. its like a model saying she isnt into looks



I just think he wants to distance himself from the shred for shreds sake style players



its so funny because there is a flip side to it. Playing with “feel” can be just as fake and shallow as “shredding” supposedly is.

You see it on demos for pedals quite a lot. Some dude sort of chicken picks some quiet notes and then lets 1 or 2 notes here and there really pop out and right on cue all of the zombies chime in “oh wow, dude has great feel and phrasing! so tasty!”



Uli Jon Roth, with the wisdom:

“Sometimes it is important to devote time to technical aspects - and to do this intensely - but this shouldn’t be one’s main focus for long – only for as long as necessary. To concentrate mainly on the technical aspects of one’s music making can become like a mechanical drug for some people. They become addicted to technique and in some respects hide behind it – to cover up a lack of musical depth or substance by fast, slick flurries of meaningless notes. There is a huge difference between playing fast runs that are dictated by finger reflexes and by those which have musical meaning, quality, and weight. Melody is usually the first victim of this approach – rhythmical precision and clarity of phrasing and expression are often next on the list. For a lot of players this habit can easily lure them into a trap that they may find hard to escape. The problem with this way is that there is very little connection with the deeper layers of music – with the inner content; there is a lot of musical activity, business – but very little of substance is actually being said, and achieved. Concentrating mainly on technique can lead to a musician’s alienation from the essence of music, and the player is then trapped in a perpetual scraping of music’s surface level, which means he is stuck in an immature state of musicianship and never gains any deeper insights.”

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“im not really into money” — some rich dude



This pretty much nails it.

It’s funny, I watch this YouTube channel called TwoSet Violin because they have some funny musician/teacher related videos that are universal, but they are squarely classical musicians. They very often make fun of violinists that try to impress with speed for speeds sake, because in the classical world, that is only one small part of the equation to being an expressive musician.