The Fault in our Stars

avg forum user here probably has more knowledge than half those “famous” guys…especially those of days gone buy.

There was a magazine interview way back when with Ritchie Kotzen, Reb Beach, and Nuno.

Ritchie says “I dont know how anyone can NOT use the modal system”

Nuno says “whats that?”

So these guys aint that smart. They just intuitively figured out ways to get better while they were still young etc.

I disagree too about them being anything special as far as achieving things “average” people cant. The “special” was that they figured it out at a fairly young age and were in the right place and time to become famous.

Eddie played Eruption on album when he was probably 21. Now 8yr old Asian girls play it

Most anyone can acquire these skills, it just takes us way longer in most cases


Really well said. A lot of this technical stuff just isn’t that special anymore.

The creativity behind writing Eruption or being a genius jazz improviser or metal riff writer? Absolutely amazing. Moving a piece of plastic across steel strings? Nope.

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yeah, its like when I started playing golf way back when. I was already too “old” to learn anything new lol. I was about 25-26ish

My buddy got me into it but he sort of looked up at the “stars” like they were something magical

They started when they were 5. They dont have jobs. there’s no way we can be that good. etc.

I looked at it more like they have 2 arms and 2 legs…so do I. I can do what they do. (obviously without that level of consistency)

We are all WAY more capable than what we sometimes give ourselves credit for


I agree with the common consensus. These guys do not realize that what they are doing is difficult because they are doing it in a way which makes it easy for them…

If i would interview you about how to play some powerchords, you would give me the Nuno-narrative, too. But if you’d watch a beginner try, you would remember that there are surpisingly many ways to completly ruin that powerchord. You just think its easy because you are doing it right.

…Totally get your point, still :smiley:

Edit: I just wrote what gtrjunior already did, fuck.


Great minds my brother…:grin:

Excellent technique is everywhere now, there is no reason to ask a star about technique.

What a star can share is insight into (1) the business, and perhaps (2) some of the creative process where they wrote the material that made them a star in the first place.

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We’ve been really fortunate to meet and hang out with many great players, at this point, both famous and not famous. And it has left me with a strong sense that there is something different about them. It is my impression that some people are actually just much, much quicker than the average person when it comes to figuring out physical things without teaching. We probably all remember kids in gym class who were physical naturals. There is a guitar equivalent, and on the surface it seems similar to the kind of athletic ability that makes some people stand out even among stiff competition in fields like pro sports.

Obviously, I also believe that most of us can do most of these things if given half a clue that they even exist. Just knowing that a specific technique is needed to do something is a huge, huge leg up, even if you don’t know which technique it is. I personally am someone who usually needs those clues.

But it’s clear that some people are simply really good at doing that with no hints at all, and that differences in this “learning from zero” ability are significant from person to person.


I guess what I was trying to say is basically the same assessment of all your’s to a certain degree. I don’t think these guys are secretly hoarding their technique, villainously twisting their mustaches and laughing at all our attempts to learn. Yeah, they just can’t articulate it because it’s instinctive, they lack the knowledge or verbiage about what they’re doing or, in some cases, can only explain it in a nebulous, meandering fashion because they’re trying to impart wisdom instead of the physical aspect of it(Vai and Satriani are consistently guilty of the latter kind of explanations). It certainly doesn’t diminish my appreciation of their abilities but it is mildly frustrating in a “head scratching” humorous kind of way.

@JonJon I think I remember that interview and I almost spit out my Cheerios laughing at that Nuno comment. A perfect summation of what some of these guy’s awareness is of what they’re doing. I also picked golf up “later” in life. I’m terrible but put a significant amount of time into getting better. I’ve also drawn a lot of personal correlations about getting better at golf and getting better at guitar. It ties into my next point.

I will say this though, on a slight tangent. There is, IMO, an inherent difference between people who are successful at what they attempt and those who are not. Be it music, sports, business, etc. Not every great guitar player or musician is Mozart or some kind of prodigious wunderkind, although some are.

My bet, though, is that all of them have the innate ability to buckle down and focus on the task at hand. And yeah, they have that ability to focus intensely, intrinsically or it was imparted very early in life. It’s THAT congenital facility that separates them. It’s not just famous people either. I’ve seen plenty of examples of amazing playing from you guys which requires that same amount of focus.

So the common thread in these people and people who are successful in general isn’t necessarily inborn musical talent, body intelligence or an aptitude for a certain ability. It’s an intuitive capacity to center their attention on a particular task.

Kind of plays into the propensity to sometimes poorly convey what they’re doing academically. Teaching requires it’s own separate discipline as well. Makes me really appreciate what the team here is doing.


There are those who see.

There are those who see when they are shown.

There are those who don’t see.

Id say that nowadays the only way to stay sort of mediocre at guitar is just to choose to stay that way. To choose to do whatever one has done for years that hasnt worked yet…to just keep doing it. Its pretty much an open book now and maybe the last frontier is simply understanding how to practice.

Not everyone had an Andy Wood type of environment to where greatness was sort of preordained…but we can all get there eventually. if we choose to.

Eddie had an accomplished musical father. Yngwie had a musical family with an uncle who owned a studio. But I digress. We cant all do it by age 20 but we can pretty much all do it


If you’re talking about phsyical learning, like learning instrument technique, I would say from meeting these people that it’s almost the opposite of that. The natural learners I have met are great at just feeling their way through something without having to be super focused on it, or even put tons of time or direct effort into it. The skill arrives almost as a byproduct of fiddling around and performing the activity on and off, sometimes with what seems like very little determination at all to get better.

I know that’s probably not what people want to hear. But I still think that’s good news. It says to me, ok, these activities aren’t really prohibitively difficult, they’re just prohibitively unknown. Some people are better at figuring out the unknown “trick” to them. And once we have that, then the rest of us have a fighting chance.


yeah. I sort of feel I have a good grasp on how to learn now. In a way it makes me want to visit the driving range (been several years) and put my new ideas into practice.

I used to practice in the worst way. Hit a few wedges, some 8 irons, some 6 irons, couple 4 irons…then the rest of the balls on the DRIVER!! After a while you are just blasting away and the swing tends to fall to pieces.

The guitar equivalent is jamming and trying to play fast and getting sloppy and then ending the session right there. Congrats, you just grooved more slop.

Love love love this guys ideas on “post practice improvement”
He even mentions golf etc

And yeah, after about 5 interviews you pretty much get an idea of what someone knows. Has Eddie EVER talked about modes? Nope. Why not? Simple…he doesnt know them. Has Yngwie ever talked about slanting? Nope, it isnt a conscious thought of his. It probably never occurred to him to hold the pick any other way lol.

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In 2019 nearly anybody can learn Eruption to some degree, and many can play it better than EVH can. However, what they cannot do is write Eruption, or another song of similar impact.

What makes EVH remarkable is that he thought of the music (including the “brown” sound) and got his technique to the point where he could play what he needed to! EVH is blessed with a very commercial ear and a strong vision, he participated in making some of the best popular music in his era.

These days I love to study Max Martin, I am not interested in the composition of most guitarists, because while they might be good instrumentalists, their writing is usually lacking.

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That’s kind of an unfair statement. How many 8 year old Asian girls play Eruption? The whole thing or just the tapping part? Are they just playing the notes or are they putting the kind f feel that Eddie put into it?

On the subject of unfair statements, I found this in your post regarding famous guitarists like Nuno Bettencourt and apparently, Eddie Van Halen as well.

Eddie composed Eruption. He developed a new way of playing the electric guitar to make it possible to play Eruption. I’m guessing none of these 8 year old Asian girls you referred to have composed a world famous, legendary unaccompanied guitar solo that required them to develop a new way of playing the guitar so the unaccompanied guitar solos they compose would be playable. Did I guess right?

Eddie did all that and still you’ve made comments about famous guitarists like him, Nuno Bettencourt and Ritchie Kotzen:

Smart compared to who, the average 8 year old Asian girl? Since you brought them up:

How is their composing ability? Can any of them even write a hit song to save their lives? The album Eruption is on sold 17 million copies. Do any of them even have a gold album? That only takes 500,000 copies sold to reach. Asia is a massive continent. China has over a billion people. That means if you’re one in a million, there’s a thousand people in China just like you :slight_smile:

In case that last statement didn’t get the job done, I’ll just say it: This is all meant in good fun. Please take this with the sense of humor it’s meant to be taken with.

Let me know if you come across a guitarist who is both smart and is genuinely something special. Whoever he is, he’s bound to shatter every rock concert attendance record ever set as soon as his band begins touring. Wouldn’t you agree?

Why do you think they’re “obviously” incapable of learning to play it by ear? What convinces you it’s obvious?

I’m guessing that you never had a big collection of either records or cassettes when you were growing up. If you’re interested in knowing why I even brought that up let me know and I’ll tell you what made me guess that.

Yes! There’s a reason I will only teach people who at least know how to play a couple songs. I made an exception to that rule for my niece. She had decided she wanted to learn to play and I already had a clue as to what her mindset was since her parents told me that when choosing a guitar she had one and only one specification that had to be met: The guitar had to be pink!

I love my niece and it wasn’t really so bad teaching her despite her knowing nothing about the guitar but by the same token, it’s not something I am eager to do again!

That’s a great point and it’s exactly why just a little while ago in the thread which asks who you want to see interviewed next for a Masters In Mechanics interview. I answered: Steve Vai or someone else like Satriani, Malmsteen, Gilbert, DiMeola and McLaughlin - players who have reached the top of their profession in their genre of guitar playing. Players who have great technique and only that are a dime a dozen these days. I’m far more interested in learning from a musician who although yes, he has great technique, he has other qualities, other abilities that made him stand out from the pack. That isn’t just songwriting ability, although that’s huge! It’s also a mindset that propelled him to stardom and that’s what interests me these days.

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I didn’t even know that Chelsea played metal, so I recall being doubly shocked when I first saw this (I prefer her version of Eruption to EVH’s). But while Chelsea writes her own music, it is not commercial, and I’m not sure if she could write a Top 40 hit.

BTW, I hope that Chelsea gets a CtC interview because of her tremendously diverse foundation, she can basically do anything with a guitar.


I think maybe we are saying the same thing? Some people are just better. We agree on that. I wasn’t actually addressing any particular discipline though. Just what I’ve observed about people who have inherent abilities. It’s some kind of x- factor that enables people to assimilate knowledge at an advanced rate.

Is learning an instrument “physical learning”? I guess to a point. Guitar more so than other percussion instruments. A beginner can play middle C the same as a master on piano. And I doubt you could tell the difference between me striking a snare drum and Neil Peart. Guitar requires at least a bit of practice to even play a note.

Is natural physical aptitude aimed? Are people born with an innate knowledge of piano or bassoon, etc.? Doubt it. Learning music is not physical. You either have an amazing ear or you don’t. It’s not a necessity and there’s room for variations in talent level.

It’s something people can learn, but If you were gifted physically with dexterous fingers that could do anything independently, you’d still need a brilliant ear to make music. THAT is focus.

Are there people outside of that? Nothing exists in a vacuum. Every amazing musician is some amalgamation of talent, luck, hard work and discipline. But they are the exception, not the rule.

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Did he though :wink:

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Sounds like we’re saying similar things re: creativity. Re: mechanics I will submit two things with respect to drums and piano:

An expert playing middle C does do it differently, and there is a great research paper I read studying this. It was a timed endurance test. Experts could hit a single note on the keyboard for fifteen or more minutes straight, loud, without tiring, whereas beginners petered out after five. On studying the movements they found that the experts were using more shoulder and elbow, whereas the beginners were using more wrist and finger. The bigger muscles had more endurance. That being said I do think more people succeed at piano technique than guitar, percentagewise. I think the difference is that on piano, it’s easier for beginners to “figure out” the expert way by feel, without specific instruction. On guitar, lots more of us fail to discover something as simple as the pickslanting stuff we notice in Yngwie’s playing, for example, unless someone shows us.

Drums are goddamn voodoo. It’s probably the pop instrument most similar to guitar in terms of the tricky mechanics that experts employ. As an example, to play a paradiddle you have to hit two notes in a row with the same hand. It’s like doing two downstrokes in a row. When experts do this very fast, there is a good chance they will click into a more efficient motion and won’t mention or even be aware they’re doing this. There is a great video of Glen Sobel doing this. When he kicks into high gear the doubles are effortless and the forearm / wrist movement changes to enable this:


Piano teachers are so good because they have built an outstanding educational pipeline, and they can feed students all the way through conservatory and a PhD in piano performance. They have stunningly good educational materials written by musical giants. There are no secrets or unknowns in piano, because educators have studied piano technique with intense focus. Self-study in piano is a ridiculous waste of time compared to what piano teachers provide.

Popular guitar is an absolute mess because pre-CtC there was no understanding of the picking techniques, hence there really was no reliable way to take classes and end up with mastery of all of the modern techniques. Even worse, instead of learning the works of the great masters (like the classical students), popular guitar players want to “improvise” and do their own thing, but the sad reality is that their music sounds terrible in most cases, as great composition is rare.

There is hope, however,

  • electric technique is likely fully mature
  • CtC has been instrumental in describing missing pieces of technique, nearly all of it has likely been cataloged
  • CtC is busy creating instructional material for practice

I believe that eventually there will be a clear pipeline for guitar where students can go in at one end and come out well versed in all modern techniques, and able to play all of the important electric guitar music. Perhaps CtC will become a conservatory, how cool would that be?! :smile: