Rick Beato interviews Eric Johnson

37 minutes of interview with EJ. What sets this apart is that Beato is a musician himself. So he has much better question than what we usually get IMO.


I’m gonna need a Rick interview with every guitar virtuoso.


I agree! If you check out his channel, there are interviews with Vai and Robben Ford, so that is a start :slight_smile:


I think he has an older one with Petrucci too

I hope people can see the one occuring similarity between all these interviews that Rick does. Every virtuoso player says one way or another that he is or at least was obsessed with his craft.

Being obsessed isn’t considered healthy by psychological terms, but it’s the only way to really excel at something. These people didn’t have the most normal social life growing up, didn’t have many other activities, etc. Of course there are exceptions to this, but this is normally what it takes to excel.

Is it worthy? Only you can decide, it was a great interview nonetheless.


Cool interview, I’m a big EJ fan and have watched Beato for a while. Check out his “Why Adults Can’t Learn Perfect Pitch” video for something different.

Regarding obsession, I like the way Mozart put it:

Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.


This is similar to something Nita Strauss said in an interview if i recall correctly in regards to the reason there are so few female guitar virtuosos. Teenage girls aren’t willing to sacrifice a social life in order to develop guitar chops.

I don’t know if you follow Abigail Zachko at all, but I think of her and players like Melanie Faye as kind of the future in this regard:

She clearly likes guitar and plays a lot. She also has all the chops in the world and has since her mid teens. She’s at Berklee now, which we typically think of as all practice rooms and tendonitis. But she’s outside playing in parks, playing with friends, playing and singing — a refreshing variety of stuff.

The sequestered virtuoso with the metronome thing suddenly feels like both a very dudelike and rather outdated image that’s overdue for a refresh. Tons of great playing happening out there from people who didn’t lock themselves in a room with Hal Leonard books and a metronome. And I’m “here for it”, as the kids say these days.


Let’s just agree to disagree Troy. Having 2-3 people here and there being really good (not excelling) at something AND having a perfectly “normal” social life, doesn’t mean that it’s the textbook example.

I work in academia and I don’t know a single person in the top 1% that had a normal social life growing up, or even right now. They all spend 8-10 hours per day on their field, some people in research even more. The day has 24 hours and you need at least 6 hours of sleep, which means that the math don’t work out for everything.

I get your message and point of view, I just don’t think that you get at a top top level without spending the entire day on your craft, at least 5 days a week for years.

I don’t feel time required for acedemic excellence correlates completely with time required for advanced musical skill. While long hours and musical skill is common - I think it’s more an artifact of obsession - not necessarily huge amounts of time required to obtain the skill - when it comes to learning a common musical instrument that is.

Over the last 10 years our access to good instruction/examples/performances/free lessons has changed how we learn - it’s a game of filtering a relativly huge amount of information instead of looking to beg/borrow/steal it. The visual aspect of YouTube (as opposed to sound only) makes a big difference in the learning curve - at least it would have for me and I’m pretty average. I’m not so sure an individual (partularily a younger one with that oh so wonderful brain plasticity) needs to spend all day for years to become excellent. It’s seems crazy for someone like me that grew up with the ‘work hard’ ethos but in the current environment it’ seems to be more about ‘work smart’. My subjective opinion only.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Abigail plays a lot. And she’s in a musical environment where it’s probably a constant hobby. But consider also that she has had Bonamassa-style picking chops since at least the first video I saw of her when she was 16. If she did put in that much time at one point, I can tell you that to maintain those skills, she does not need to put in that kind of time any more.

All great players probably play a lot and think about guitar a lot. I’m just saying the very specific image we have of it, very much the “Rocky trains in Siberia” way of thinking, where more always equals more, may be coloring our view of what real people in the real world are actually out there doing. And it’s nice to get a new perspective on that once in a while.


You’re right, loved the “Rocky trains in Siberia” analogy. The actual scene is pretty inspiring as well. :smiley:

I agree that being in a musical environment helps in being active musically most of the day. This alone is very beneficial in development, might be in other aspects of guitar, not only chops.

I’m not suggesting that people should ruin their hands practicing 12h/day, but Abigail’s level of playing demands a serious work ethic and a pro attitude throught the years. It isn’t just a hobby for her, even though she clearly loves it a lot.

My whole point was that regular people with day jobs that drain them physically and emotionally shouldn’t compare themselves to people like Eric Johnson and feel inadequate. Players like Eric Johnson have devoted their lives on their craft and this is why they’re so skillful and successful. Beating yourself over the fact that you can’t play Clifs of Dover that easily while practicing 1h per day (on a good day) is a recipe for disaster and mild mental illness.


I think the “locked in a bedroom practicing for hours” is more true of players like myself that started in mid to late teens. There are a lots of distractions at that age to learning guitar especially if you aren’t in a supportive musical environment.

Nobody should be beating their ego up about guitar technique. I know it’s common, but I also believe we have to work hard to remove that negative energy. That’s a whole other discussion it sounds like we’re probably on the same page about that.

But I really think that for the kinds of rock stuff that “regular” folks want to play, they can absolutely get there with an hour a day on a good day. And yes I think this includes things like Cliffs of Dover. I haven’t asked but I bet there are more than few players who could pull off some of the “fast pentatonics” type lines, taken verbatim from that tune, without too much trouble. When we did those Skype type lessons a few months ago, I saw people who maybe don’t post here all that frequently but who had more than enough chops to play it. I’m almost certain that @Tommo could, based on what I’ve seen of his USX / DWPS technique, and he has a wife a baby and a job. Some of these picking styles, they’re just not that difficult. This is pop music after all.

When we first started releasing those animated episodes of the show where we “revealed” downward pickslanting and upstroke string changes, we ran this contest where we asked people to use their knowledge of DWPS to figure out how to play pentatonic “fours”, ascending:

We only requested tab but some players also sent video submissions. They often came with notes about heir story. One guy told us he works in a cover band, and never thought of himself as “good” with picking technique. Then he watched our stuff and realized he was already basically doing a USX type motion, and he just didn’t know it. So all he had to do was make sure to play phrases where the string changes are upstrokes, get his hand synchronization down, and so on. The standard stuff we recommend. Paired with the note was a video of him sitting in his practice room playing the pattern we talk about in the video, up to speed. Just like that. Had this been on a record in the '80s he would have been in magazines. Now he’s just one of us.

It was really, really cool to see that. Since then, we’ve seen and heard variations of this story so many times that we’ve lost count hundreds ago.

I don’t want to minimize the challenge that a lot of people face in trying to learn instrument technique. This is why they come here, and helping them is why I’m excited get up in the morning. But a lot of these challenges are really specific — dealing with stringhopping, learning a new motion. Or even just becoming aware that a motion you already know how to make has “superpowers” when paired with the right kind of fretting and a little work on hand synchronization. Things can happen fast.

I think back in the day, we just assumed an arbitrarily high amount of time is required to anything at an elite level. But I think we wrong in considering all skills more or less equal. They’re not. Playing fast pentatonics does not require anywhere near the same amount of time in terms of years of input as learning a Liszt or Paganini piece. We have a lot of evidence now that this is the case.

And I think we were also wrong in assuming that just because a famous person born in a low-information era, who may also be obessive in nature, feels like they had to spend huge amounts of time learning instrument technique, that this also true for everyone. Again, see the pentatonics thing. We know it’s not true in all cases, and that not all skills require the same amount of time. In fact, our best evidence suggests that virtuosos learn most of their technique early, over a period of maybe two to five years, and then stabilze after that with minimal upkeep. Michael Angleo Batio’s technique has looked basically the same since 1986. And he’ll be the first to tell you how little he warms up for gigs and clinics.

Anyway sorry for the rant! If anything, I’m just optimistic that for what most people want to achieve, it’s very doable on a let less than we think. You might not write the hit song. But I do believe you can learn to play them.


While I don’t have the link handy, I’m sure there’s discussion on the forum of Noa Kageyama’s advice about practicing from his CTC interview.

And more glibly, this suggestion from drummer Tommy Igoe, that I posted in the “Optimum number of practice hours” thread:

Thanks for the mention @Troy :slight_smile:

It is a very broad question (if I understood the question at all!), but I’d say the answer depends on one’s definition of “being able to play something”!

Yes, I do think that once the mechanics of DWPS/USX (or generally single-escape motions) are consolidated, they do not require a lot of maintenance. If I took a month break, I reckon I could still pick up a guitar and play the Yngwie 6s pattern (or the pentatonic 6s EJ style) pretty fast across 6 strings. But I don’t want to take a month break for now :wink:

I also agree that learning these mechanics is about problem solving more than “hours spent with a metronome”, so proficiency can be attained with much less than the legendary “8 hours of guitar practice a day”, if proper guidance is given.

When it comes to working on a tune with all the details however (composition, note shaping, phrasing, timing etc.), the work can be endless!