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Player Spotlight - Kirk Hammett

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Photo Credit - Jimmy Hubbard

San Francisco, California the home of the Golden Gate bridge and the notorious Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary; a city famously associated with these two badass landmarks and many more... in 1962 saw the birth of arguably one of the most iconic members of the heavy-metal scene and a truly era-defining guitar hero of monstrous proportions.🤘 

“Guitar playing to me is such a large part of my life. I mean, I can safely say that the guitar, it's beyond just playing it. It's become a behaviour of mine. It's something that helps define myself to myself. It gives me a real sort of foundation as to what I feel and believe I'm put on this earth to do, which is to make music and the guitar is like the foundation of that.”

Kirk Hammett -https://ernieball.co.uk/stringtheory/kirk-hammett


This edition takes us on an epic rock 'n' roll story of how dedication, desire and a pure way of life can guide you towards your aspirations against all disbeliefs and reservations.

Hammett was born on Nov. 18, 1962 in San Francisco, making him a true Bay Area man. Growing up in El Sobrante, he was influenced musically by his brother Rick's huge record collection that included Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and UFO. The first time he picked up a guitar to explore his new-found interest was when he was 15-years-old. According to Metallica.com, his first guitar was a Montgomery Ward catalog special, and he jammed out through a shoe box with a 4" speaker in it. Soon after that experience, Hammett found himself strumming on a '78 Fender Stratocaster. It was on that guitar that he worked everyday on honing his craft and creating his own signature sound. Eventually he added a '74 Gibson Flying V to his small collection.

Kirk Hammett – Biography | https://ultimatemetallica.com/kirk-hammett-biography/?utm_source=tsmclip&utm_medium=referral

Photo Credit - PRPhotos.com

“My household when I was growing up, ever since I could remember, ever since I was a toddler, there was always a radio going on and a lot of that had to do with the fact I had older brother who's 11 years older than me, and so there was always music going on. When I was in seventh grade, a friend came over and said, "Look at this band, look how cool they are." And he showed me the album cover and I was looking at it and I thought, "Wow, what a strange looking band. What are they called?" And my friend said, "Kiss", I'm thinking, Hmm." and so we put the album on and all of a sudden it was exactly what I wanted to hear strangely enough, and this friend came over with other albums. We started listening to Kiss, Skinner, Thin Lizzy, ZZ Top.”

Kirk Hammett -https://ernieball.co.uk/stringtheory/kirk-hammett

Heavy Metal Hero, Guitar Fan.

When observing Kirk in the numerous interviews researched for this player spotlight the most endearing thing that comes across is that, as big a rockstar as he is (or let's say superstar), he still comes across as a fan of guitar and everything that it stands for. His genuine passion and excitement for music and artists both past and present is truly inspiring and quite infectious.

It's this positive innocence that really keeps him truly excited for guitar and playing within the band just as much as it did back in the early days.

Let's now take an overview of those hedonistic early days. 🎸 

“As a teen, Hammett knew that he needed the proper amplifier to rock out with, so he picked up a gig at a local Burger King to earn some extra money. Thanks to that job, he was able to purchase his first Marshall amp.

Now armed with a killer guitar and amp, Hammett took his love for music to the next level and co-founded the legendary thrash metal band Exodus. He played on the band's first demo disc '1982 Demo.’"

Kirk Hammett – Biography | https://ultimatemetallica.com/kirk-hammett-biography/?utm_source=tsmclip&utm_medium=referral


Like many before him and many yet to come Kirk was absolutely bowled over and mesmerisingly inspired by Jimi Hendrix.

Hendrix has this magical impact on so many people and it’s this everlasting spirit that continues to carry his legacy from one generation to the next. ☮️ 

“The very first guitar player to really have a huge impact on me was probably Jimmy Hendrix. I think I was about 13 or 14 years old when I saw the documentary called, A Film About Jimmy Hendrix." It's the one where he's sitting on a stool playing a 12-string guitar. When I saw Hendrix up on the screen, I was just blown away because I was seeing a complete package. I was seeing a guy who could play guitar amazingly, who looked so different and so unique, you know, he was just so much of a dynamic performer. It was everything and it was everything that I wanted to be. And at one point I thought, "This guy, he's the ultimate in guitar playing and I want to be just like him. I want to play just as well as him. I wanted to be Jimmy Hendrix."

Kirk Hammett -https://ernieball.co.uk/stringtheory/kirk-hammett

Exit-odus > Metallica 

Once Kirk had established himself as a guitar player through intense dedication and relentless practice, he began to fully immerse himself in the culture and surround himself with friends with the common interest and obsession with everything guitars.

It's here Hammett’s prospects as a guitarist really started to develop as he continually looked to broaden his horizons through knowledge and experience.

Having been quoted several times stating he plays guitar 365 days a year without fail and no matter how big or how famous his status he feels the need to dedicate to his craft to keep it where it is in an ever evolving world of musicians and music.

After gathering some momentum as a guitar player it is documented that Kirk had lessons from the great Joe Satriani!

"I took lessons from him [Joe Satriani] in 1981" Kirk said.

"We knew each other way back when. He gave lessons out of a small music store in Berkeley, California. And all of my friends were taking lessons from him and they were becoming incredible guitar players literally overnight. So I found him and said, 'Hey, I wanna become an incredible guitar player overnight too.' And so I took lessons from him for a while — for about a year or so.”


Photo Credit - Ian Gavan - Getty Images

A young aspiring guitar player on the San Francisco scene Kirk was continuing to absorb influences and surround himself in guitar culture from every angle.

“All the traditional guitar players up to that point were a huge influence on me too. You know, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and then, you know, American guitar players like Eddie van Halen, Joe Perry and Brad Woodford, Pat Travers, Thin Lizzy. And then I discovered UFO. When I first heard UFO and first heard Michael Schenker, my whole attitude changed. And to this day, I mean Michael Schenker and Jimi Hendrix are some of my main influences.

My first decent guitar was a Fender Strat and I ratted out the pickup, put a humbucker in there because that's what everyone else was doing right at the bridge position. After getting bored with that, I moved on to a Gibson Flying V, which I still have.”

Kirk Hammett -https://ernieball.co.uk/stringtheory/kirk-hammett

Inevitably, of course, Kirk co-founded a band on the scene with like-minded players this outfit was known as Exodus.

This was in the early 80s and there was a real scene forming in and around the San Francisco area with many similar and like-minded bands starting to crop up so much so they used to share the bill and put band nights together.

Exodus started to cross paths with a band called Metallica, Kirk for one was absolutely blown away by the name and the sound of the band completely in awe with upmost respect and fascination.

“Metallica, what a great name!” 

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/metallica-kirk-hammett-gibson-icons-1106543/ - Kory Grow


After continually crossing paths playing gigs and formulating friendships one day the call came after the infamous fall-out with soon to be Megadeth Mustaine… 

The rest they say is thrash history 🤘. Metallica went from strength to strength with great momentum and are now of course regarded as one of the biggest bands in the world gaining truly iconic status in the world of metal, Kirk’s guitar playing has been influential to many generations of Metalheads!

He's always been at the forefront of heavy-metal fresh guitar and is seen as a key player in its movements influences and developments.

So much so, he was inducted into the Guitar World Hall Of Fame!


Hammett has been synonymous with a defining image and style that themes him instantly recognisable in any situation, even in action figure form. 🎸 

Kirk has long been associated with ESP guitars and Floyd Rose trem systems along with his trusty Cry Baby Wah pedal. He’s pretty much an all-in-one Rockstar-in-a-box 🤘 


We could of course delve deeper and deeper into the history achievements and multigenerational influence of the monster that is Metallica but let's get the focus back to strings because “Nothing Else Matters!” … Sorry 😂 .

On that note, this has got to be one of the funniest most comical videos I've ever seen by a serious rockstar 😉 . Here's a little taster as to why Kirk plays the strings he does and the reasons behind this are conveyed in the madness of this video below! Here’s Kirk covering some Slayer solos according to the comments… oh, the comedy! 🎭


Strength 💪 In Tone!

Obtaining the right sound and performance is everything we look for in a guitar string, they may all look vaguely similar and can sometimes seem insignificant to even the most experienced players but the right string choice is everything. Without it we may not even get through one song without havoc and frustration.

This is clearly the case here with Kirk’s string choice and the reasons behind it are very transparent and simplistic.

“So I bought a Kramer (and this is when Floyd Roses had just come out). I go to rehearsal [Exodus], start playing, go for the whammy bars, you know? Start doing this and pop. And I go, "Dang." Okay, what was that pack of strings?

And I read it and I go, "Okay, I'm not going to use those." Go to the store and buy a different pack of strings, play rehearsal, use the whammy bar, pop. Look at the bag of strings, "Okay, I'm not going to use those." Third pack, you know, third try, go to rehearsal. Whammy bar. All right. It's all right. You know, check my tuning, it's staying in tune. End of rehearsal, "I didn't break any strings. What was the name of those those strings?" Ernie Ball Super Slinky. "Okay, Ernie Ball Super Slinky, these are the ones we need." I was 18 years old. I started using Ernie Ball Super Slinkys because they didn't break.”

Kirk Hammett -https://ernieball.co.uk/stringtheory/kirk-hammett


Another mind blowing video from the string theory series by Ernie Ball, so well-conveyed and beautifully presented we learn so much about artist and the importance of the string choice along with the reasons behind it.

Kirk like any many players describes how the struggle and compromise of right gauge is fundamental.

“So what I use is the three top strings are from a 10 set and then the bottom three strings are from a 48 set. And the reason for that is, you know, as a lead guitar player, I need to be able to like bend out the light strings. And if I have 11s on, I notice that over the course of a tour, my hand gets fatigued. But if I go to 10 it's okay over the course of a tour, it's bizarre and it only took me like 10 years to realize that. Obviously, you know, the bass strings, I want a heavier gauge. So that it sounds heavier. You know it sounds fuller when I play.”

Kirk Hammett -https://ernieball.co.uk/stringtheory/kirk-hammett

Kirk Hammett Plays Ernie Ball Strings

This makes complete sense and is completely understandable - a great choice in my opinion. 👌 

There is no signature custom set available yet for Kirk Hammett, but don't worry we've got you here at Strings Direct we’ve made a custom set for you in line with Kirk's current specifications.🤘 Click here to order a set!

Plain Strings - .010 .013 .017 - Ernie Ball RPS 

(A patented winding of bronze wire is tightly wrapped around the lock twist of the ball end of plain strings. String slippage and breakage are minimized at the ball end where these most often occur. RPS strings last longer and stay in tune better than conventional plain strings.)

Wound Strings - 028 .038 .048 - Standard Ernie Ball Nickel Plated Steel.

So we discovered that one of the greatest heavy-metal guitarists of all time puts all his faith in Ernie Ball!

And why shouldn't he with this incredible faultless brand 😎 












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