Panel 03 - The Instrumentality of the Electric Guitar

Event Title

But That Doesn’t Help Me On Guitar! (Unraveling the Myth of the Self-Taught Metal Guitarist)

Presenter Information

Kevin Ebert, Xavier University

Start Date

27-3-2015 5:30 PM


When interviewed about his musical background Trivium’s guitarist, Matt Heafy, responded, “Self taught for quite a bit of it, did lessons on and off for maybe two or three years, but I do not know anything formal […] on guitar. I do on saxophone though…but that doesn’t help me on guitar [!]” His answer reinforces the Metal myth that praises self- achievement while diminishing the value of formal education. Although Heafy admits to having “formal” abilities on saxophone, he quickly safeguards the authenticity of his self- learned guitar skills by insulating those skills from his guitar technique. The eschewal of guided instruction is part of the ideology of Metal. However, reality is often significantly less “romantic.”

It is true that many metal guitarists achieved their skill set without formal instruction. However, some musicians did receive lessons. Some musicians utilized self- instructional materials such as the influential Metal Method mail-order course, which claims to have sold over one million lessons since its creation in 1982. Several well-known guitarists have admitted to beginning with this method, e.g. Rusty Cooley (Outworld) and Metal Mike Chiasciak (Halford, Sebastian Bach). With such sales figures, it is a reasonable assumption that the aforementioned musicians are not alone in utilizing self-instructional methods.

This paper examines the musical education of metal guitarists and attempts to separate myth from reality in their musical development. It systematically covers Metal teaching methodologies from a variety of media including: method books, magazines, instructional videos, computer programs, and online resources. The role of teacher is also examined. A fundamental question is, “What exactly defines a music lesson?” If we expand the answer to include learning in non-formal settings, such as interaction with parents, peer-to-peer instruction and band rehearsals, the myth of the completely self-taught metal musician is quickly shattered.

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Mar 27th, 5:30 PM

But That Doesn’t Help Me On Guitar! (Unraveling the Myth of the Self-Taught Metal Guitarist)