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Guitar Gods – John Petrucci

Post provided by one of StringsDirect's expert guitar bloggers - Mark Thompson from 'Guitar Addiction' I often see busy shredder threads in our group ‘Guitar Addiction Facebook’. Guys love to talk and share about their favourite guitar God. John Petrucci’s name crops up more often than many others, so I thought I’d get one of our guys to share his thoughts about him and check back at the close of the conversation on this incredibly talented guitar God.

John Petrucci by Aman Hassan

John Petrucci is the phenomenal guitar virtuoso from the multi platinum Progressive Metal juggernaut ‘Dream Theater.’ Petrucci began playing the guitar at the tender age of 8 and what inspired him to actually pick up the guitar was the environment of his Long Island neighbourhood. Tons of kids in his local neighbourhood had bands and there were plenty of opportunities for him to jam with all sorts of different people within the area “I started when I was a young kid…I grew up in New York in Long Island, everybody had a band. Everybody played guitar, drums, whatever, so you know…the musical environment was rich.” He added, “…When I was 12 was when I really started to take it seriously.”


John’s main influences on guitar are Alex Lifeson, Steve Morse and Al Di Meola. In various interviews John Petrucci has stated that Steve Morse is his favourite guitar player and that studying Steve Morse has developed his stellar alternate picking technique. He has also said Alex Lifeson of Rush had a major influence on him and it really does show in all the big extended chords that he plays. That is a total Alex Lifeson thing.

Personal Touch

John Petrucci has penned some very personal songs for his band Dream Theater. The song “Another Day” was written for his father, John Petrucci Sr., who was diagnosed with cancer. “Take Away My Pain” was the track that was written after his father’s death. Both tracks are ballads and are some of the finest from the band’s catalogue. John Petrucci has suffered through a near fatal car accident as a child and the events are penned as lyrics on the track A Nightmare to remember: Petrucci – “Yes, once again we write all the music first so when it was time for me to write lyrics, you know I was kind of thinking about what to write about and that song is very dark and scary. That was an event I never really told the story about, yeah, it was about a car accident I was in when I was a kid, my family got into this accident, I just, you know, try to remember the events and tell a story.” One of the finest tracks written by John Petrucci in Dream Theater’s catalogue is “The count of Tuscany”, a track that was written when Petrucci actually met a real count in Florence, Italy: “Yeah, that's another example of a story that I shared, you know, something that happened to me that I would tell my friends and family but I never really wrote about it.  Yeah, it's sort of hard to follow the story, but it's basically a few years ago when Dream Theater were playing in Florence or something and there was my friend who is my guitar tech, he's also a wine importer, so he wanted to visit a winery in Tuscany, so he asked me if I wanted to come along.  So, yeah, the guy who owned the winery is a count, he wasn’t the count of Tuscany, he is a count of something, anyway he brought us to this winery, it was a very old castle in the hills of Italy, it was very bizarre, you know just really weird stories the guy told, you know, like a mummified saint and a chapel, very strange and weird, I thought it would be great to tell that story, probably make a movie of it!”

 Guitars and pickups

In the ‘80s and pretty much throughout the ‘90s, John Petrucci used his signature Ibanez Guitars. He later made a move in the 2000s to Music Man and has a very successful signature line of guitars from Ernie Ball Music Man. The guitars are different from the Ibanez model, for starters the body shape is completely different from the Ibanez, the Music Man has a piezo system that simulates an acoustic. The pick-ups over the years, with Petrucci’s experience, have evolved and he has his own custom wound set. Initially they were the Crunch Lab and Liquifire from Dimarzio; but since 2013 he has used brighter and higher output pickups known as the Illuminators from Dimarzio. The Ernie Ball Petrucci guitars have had a very similar shape throughout, with more rounded features compared to the pointy Ibanez. Recently the guitars have had a change, with the Majesty line of the signature guitars. The majesty guitars wood tones are different than the standard Petrucci models as well as the body shape and it’s also the first through-neck guitar that Music Man has offered.

 The Rack

In the past John Petrucci had extremely huge rigs for his live set up. Since technology has advanced and there are extremely powerful and compact products now in the market, the rig has also been cut down to size. Today John uses the Axe Fx II by fractal audio systems that pretty much programs most of the effects, along with 3 or 4 pedals and his Mesa Boogie Mark 5 amp and 4x12 cabinet. Petrucci has the luxury of recording in a full fledged studio but he now Prefers recording or working out his ideas on a laptop connected with the Axe Fx II. He did this for the Dream Theater album “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”. Most bands in today’s day and age record professionally in the way John Petrucci records just his demos. John Petrucci is certainly a “player’s player”. His influence on electric guitar players of the late ‘90s and 2000s can be seen throughout the spectrum of the music world. John Petrucci is a fine example of someone who is disciplined, has the knowledge and applies it properly to the guitar in real musical ways, He is certainly an iconic virtuoso. Tuition available -Rock Discipline DVD - Guitar world Wild Stringdom book/CD

 Guitar addiction's thoughts on John Petrucci:

Liam Ako JP is a monster, but first and foremost a songwriter. This sets him apart from other so called shredders. He has the golden touch when it comes to solos too. Love everything he's done from DT to Liquid Tension experiment and his solo album, suspended animation. Chris Winbert I agree. He has the technique, the accuracy and the speed but most importantly he's a good songwriter with a great sense of melody. One of my favourite guitarists. Jonathan ? Graham Great up to and including 'Images and Words'. But since then, meh. Craig Williamson Petrucci is almost militant when it comes to practice and technique - A great advert for what is possible with the right amount of focus and determination. Richard Yang An incredible technician with a huge melodic sense. He has inspired legions of guitar players who have chosen to step up their craft. His tone has evolved and his songwriting continues to push the envelope. JP is cutting edge and the music he writes is timeless. Neil Morgan Phenomenal. Great tone, great feel, great chops, great sense of melody, great writer. My only criticism is that his improvisation isn't as strong as some other areas of his playing, but that hardly matters since it isn't a big part of his role. He's still one of my absolute favourites. Scottwork Stirling As a guitarist and songwriter his ability and achievement's are undeniable but I've never really been drawn to dream theatre enough to become a huge fan, personally I prefer to listen to his solo effort. Bruce Tedeschi A technical master of the fretboard. His dedication to his craft is obvious. His playing is almost flawless in his precision.  Kai Antonio Portolano Fan since the first Majesty record ... KILLER ! Randy Schaeffer He's pretty good. Tommy Slak One of the few players instantly recognizable after a few notes - very distinctive approach to melody. Obvious Di Meola and Steve Morse influences in his picking style, outstanding right hand technique (his legato and very fluent left hand stuff when sweeping is also out of this world of course). Great musician. Richard Yang Neil, I think his improv is very strong, but it is eclipsed by his extremely strong composed pieces. It's very evident in the G3 stuff. His phrasing is often the strongest of whomever he's playing with. Steve Morse has stated that JP can hit any note on the fretboard that he chooses and both are world class. Antti J. Sinikangas He used to be insanely good and tasteful player but unfortunately after Metropolis Pt.2 his playing has gone down quite a lot... As well as his sound. He is still good though. Eric Lemaire Amazing guitarist , one of the Best , technique and melodic Tony Roy John Petrucci is my inspiration, and my hero, and I'm sure to many others. In his solo career and with Dream Theater he has been an amazing musician. Also, his guitars are pretty damn sexy too! Dave Thompson Been listening to DT since 1992 (I was the first person I knew to own a copy of Images and Words) but I'm pretty bored with it by now. Not to say he isn't a great musician but I'm probably numbed by over-exposure. Scott Norris Im not a big Dream Theater fan, but I highly respect JP. When I decided to learn lead guitar ( back in the days when guitar solos were laughed at), it was his DVD I bought, "Rock Discipline". I still use the string skipping exercises to this day. Jody Farmer I like Dream Theater's music in doses. JP is AWESOME, I can only take it in doses. They remind me of Rush, just longer songs that go on & on & on. Love the music in doses. Steven Lopez I really enjoy him, have never seen Dream Theater live but have seen him solo. In interviews love to hear him talk gear and his walk through of his set-up, but the thing that I'm drawn to most is for all his fame and success, he seems so grounded regular or normal, looking forward to seeing Dream Theater when possible, one of the new players keeping the bar of excellence really high for the rest of us. Kristian Gårdhus Wichmann The guy is not so much a guitar player as a force of Nature. Bruno D'amour Phenomenal guitar player! His solos are a bit on the wankery side but he's great overall. Kamal Hamza John petrucci is a very versatile and creative guitarist I've heard all his songs and I think he is even better than some of the over rated greats out there. Sébastien Dufour I agree! "Let's see how many notes I can fit in this bar", turns me off! Filip Karovski I love John he has everything and I mean everything he has the technique he has the melody, he has the theory, he has the muscles. Overall awesome guitar player with a great sense of melody, songwriting and technique, he's recently become one of my favourite guitar player  
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