How I Learned
I started playing when I was 15. My dad showed me a few of the basic 6-string chords: A, C, D, E, G, etc. I practiced these chords until I had them down. Then, I got some "easy" series tab books for Metallica. I'm not sure if they still make them, but these tab books showed very basic ways to play the songs, i.e. they weren't 100% accurate in terms of detail, but they got the main points across. I also got a Nirvana - Nevermind tab book and some Megadeth tab books. I basically learned to play the riffs from these bands that were relatively easy for a beginner. I absolutely loved playing, so I would practice as much as 5 hours a day during my first 2 years (while I was still in high school and had the time!).
After about 8 months of playing, I decided to take a couple of lessons. My instructor showed me that I was using improper form--I learned to play everything with my thumb wrapped around the neck, instead of resting it against the middle of the back of the neck. I also held the pick improperly (I didn't correct this until recent as you can see in my older vids). This set me way back in my learning--I basically had to re-learn how to play, and I was so frustrated that I almost quit. Based on this experience, I feel that it may be worthwhile for beginners to take a couple of lessons to develop proper form. After that, it's up to the individual to decide if he/she should continue with lessons. Personally, I found the traditional approach of learning scales and doing exercises to be extremely boring compared to playing along with songs and writing my own music, so I quit after about a half dozen lessons.
So, basically, I taught myself how to play by simply practicing A LOT and playing the music that I wanted to play. The "easy series" tab books helped a lot, and I gradually progressed to the "real" tab books. Eventually I could transcribe songs by ear.
Late last year I purchased John Petrucci’s “Rock Discipline” instructional DVD, and I’ve been practicing many of the exercises he suggests. It is definitely working, as I can tell my dexterity is improving the more I practice those drills. I highly recommend the video for anyone looking to improve his/her shredding skills. You can get this DVD at any online music store (musiciansfriend.com, guitarcenter.com, zzounds.com, etc.).
Former Bands (Original Music)
My best friend in high school was learning to play bass guitar at the same time I was learning to play the electric guitar. Throughout the years, we were the founding members of a few different bands.
The first of the bands we formed was called Dementia (yes, there’s an 80’s band with the same name, but we didn’t know it until later). This band lasted until our Senior year of high school (‘97). We played music in the style of old Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Testament, etc. We played some cover songs, but we also had 5 or 6 original songs. Here are a couple songs from our demo recorded on a cassette tape 8-track recorder in my parents’ basement. Keep in mind that we were 16-17 years old when we composed and recorded these songs.
Dementia - Sadist in Disguise (Slayer-style song… don’t ask who did the vocals.)
Dementia - The Awakening (Metallica/Testament-style instrumental song—starts mellow, ends heavy)
The last of the bands founded by Trevor and me, Intake lasted until I moved away from Columbus at the age of 23. This was at the peak of the whole “rapcore / Nu metal” movement, so that’s what we sounded like. At this time we were influenced by bands like Rage Against The Machine, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Downset, System of a Down, Sevendust, 311 and others. I think I actually lost some guitar skill during this time, due to the simplicity of the guitar required to play this music. Nonetheless, I think we wrote some pretty cool songs, and we had a lot of fun playing shows and such. Here a couple of songs from our studio demo.