Notes from John Petrucci’s 1999 Ibanez Clinic

In this clinic John covered: right and left hand technique, how to develop speed, how he approaches tone, and how to play expressively with phrasing. Throughout the clinic he also performs various Liquid Tension Experiment and Dream Theater songs.

Full video:

Right hand technique for speed (22:40)

The rule is to do alternate picking (down-up-down-up). Inspired by Al Di Meola, Steve Morse and Yngwie Malmsteen.

Typically will start with a downstroke, but will practice licks and scales starting from an upstroke so both are equally strong.

If playing a pattern with an odd number of notes (say 3, down-up-down), when you change strings continue the pattern (up-down-up).

Just pretend this hand (right-hand) is a machine, and it’s independent from everything else…”

For right hand placement: right hand anchored on the instrument, palm on bridge, pinky anchored just under pickup.

Syncing with left hand (27:15)

Take a small pattern in a scale (say a 4 note pattern) and really accent the 1 downbeats. Come up with these patterns and turn them into licks, the song “Paradigm Shift” exemplifies this.

The intro to “Paradigm Shift” started with a drum pattern by Mike Portnoy who asked John to come up with a guitar part to match it.

Guitar tone in Hell’s Kitchen (41:30)

Inspiration came from bands John listened to growing up: Rush, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd. The guitar players in this band viewed the guitar as having multiple layers, and would orchestrate the guitar to create their sounds in recordings.

John uses a Mesa Boogie programmable preamp, the Triaxis, which is where the sounds are coming from.

Clean sound has a phaser & delay, and John uses the middle pickup selector position. David Gilmour inspired tone. 

Will utilize a wah pedal (Dunlop crybaby) to give more a psychedelic effect. Important: The wah wah pedal is first in the signal chain, comes before the preamp and the guitar cable plugs into it. 

The solo will utilize an Alex Lifeson inspired technique of volume pedal swells. Delay is most important here. Delay and chorus is by TC Electronics Lexicon 2290.

Most important is the volume pedal technique. You have to have the volume pedal on the input to the effect, not after, if you have it after when you turn the volume pedal off all the effects will cut out, if you have it before it just cuts the input but the effects continue on…”

For main rhythm sound plays a very dry tone with no effects. Don’t add Reverb to your rhythm sound (common mistake made by hard rock players) – keep it dry. Not a lot of distortion.

For the end melody (lead sound), a lot of gain, a lot of distortion, not a lot of high-end, plus delay.

Phrasing, Improvising & Expressiveness (1:04:45)

Electric guitar is very cool, because you can really manipulate the guitar, you can bend strings, you have all this distortion and effects…”

With electric guitar you need a lot of control over the instrument (proper string pressure, controlling your tone and distortion), you must be able to “tame the beast”.

Build upon your expressiveness as a player. 

You may start with a melody that is just notes played in a rhythm in a key. Now add vibrato that complements the style of the song (in the case of “State of Grace” it’s subtle vibrato). Slide into notes. Bend notes (in tune!). Change the pickups you have selected. Adjust your volume. Change where you pick the notes. Your unique combination of all of these will create your expressiveness as a player. 

Guitar is a dangerous instrument if put in the wrong hands…”

Practice bending, play a note then bend the lower note to match that note.

John uses Ernie Ball 10-gauge strings.