The creator of GuitarMasterClass.net, Kristofer Dahl is perhaps best known for his guitar instructional videos on YouTube. His teaching style is loose and informal but straight to the point and downright effective -- and always combined with a healthy dose of that 'Dahl humor'. No wonder so many of his videos garner hundreds of thousands of views.
Kristofer Dahl was kind enough to sit down with The Guitar Column for this email interview.
The Guitar Column: Thanks for doing this interview Kristofer! Many of our readers would know your name and have seen your videos but yet know so little about you. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Kristofer Dahl: Thank you Clinton, it's a pleasure. By the way, I also want to thank you for your heads up about the Carvin HH1 and HH2 - being a big Holdsworth fan they triggered some serious GAS. (smiles)
I am just a normal Swede with a Greek mother who spent his childhood traveling around the world and who sacrificed social life for music and website development. Haha, sorry I am bad at this.
TGC: I can totally relate! Your YouTube videos get incredible viewership -- hundreds of thousands and even over a million views for your Metallica guitar lesson. What got you started in doing YouTube videos?
KD: Well I got into doing web stuff before YouTube existed - and the big thing at the time was to start providing audio and video to our visitors. Naturally, when there came a site like YouTube which made video so much easier and accessible - I just had to get into it!
TGC: Did you ever think when you first started out that you'd develop the loyal YouTube fanbase you have?
KD: No - I was just excited about how cool their service was. I didn't think that far ahead.
TGC: I've got to ask, what is the wackiest comment you've ever received on one of your vids?
KD: Haha you don't want to know. I am not into censoring my YouTube comments though, so I am sure you can find some wackiness on your own.
TGC: You're Swedish, you were born in San Francisco and you've lived in Africa, Switzerland, Jerusalem, Russia and now Stockholm, Sweden. How have the various cultures of these countries shaped your outlook on life and how has it affected your music?
KD: In retrospect I think traveling around like that was very helpful for working with an international audience. I would also say I am open minded to different genres of music -- but I don't know if it is thanks to my traveling.
TGC: For guitar players of my generation, Sweden's greatest export was Yngwie Malmsteen. How has Yngwie influenced you and what is his influence on Swedish guitar players in general? Who did you listen to when you were growing up?
KD: I would say Yngwie's impact on shredders in Sweden is huge! And he definitely triggered my interest for shred. I was really blown away by his first REH video and the album Magnum Opus.
I started out listening to Metallica, Guns N Roses & Nirvana when I was 11 years old. At the age of 18, I started diving into every musical genre I could come across, especially if there were virtuoso elements involved.
TGC: You took lessons with Kristian Niemann from Swedish metal band Therion. What was that experience like and what was the most valuable thing you learned from him?
KD: That shredders were nice guys...! Haha. We had a lot of fun during the year I took private lessons with him - he also showed me some theory and shred stuff. Still up to this day I think that a guitar instructor's most important mission is to inspire rather than to teach. Best is if students can learn by themselves with the inspiration of other great guitarists.
TGC: You're pretty self-deprecating about your abilities on the guitar. I've heard you say on a couple of your YouTube videos that you have no natural talent for the guitar, and that anybody can develop the chops and technique you have.
KD: Yes, that is correct! And to clarify: I think that I have acquired skills in some areas. But I have always been very analytical about my own progress - and to me it is obvious that my skills come from practicing and analysing myself, not through natural talent. I am quite sure that in a couple of decades this will be the standard way to look at kids' 'talent" and ability to progress.
Not everyone can be really good at something - sure. But the ones that succeed, do it because of their determination and supportive environment - nothing else. Check out Sir Ken Robinson for more thoughts about this!
TGC: Describe a typical practice session when you were first getting your playing together? And what is a typical Kristofer Dahl practice session now?
KD: My early practice sessions were about technique and I sat with the metronome all day long. Nowadays all my practicing is done over music - and that's how I would recommend everyone to do it. Guthrie Govan is a great example of someone who developed monster technique and musicality without using the metronome all day long.
TGC: Tell us a bit about your involvement with GuitarMasterClass.net
KD: It has become my life and I am completely obsessed with making it the best guitar community in the world.
TGC: Including yourself, there are some pretty formidable guitar instructors on GuitarMasterClass.net. Tell us about some of them.
KD: Our instructors complement each other genre wise -- and they have too many strong sides for me to describe here, really. The most important common denominator is that they are all very friendly and inspiring musicians -- which were the specific qualities I looked in my instructors, when I learned to play.
TGC: What can a new student expect out of GuitarMasterClass.net and what makes it different from the other membership based guitar instructional websites available now?
KD: It's our community -- we are as much a community as we are a guitar lesson site. This goes hand in hand with my philosophy that you don't learn from lessons, you learn from people!
TGC: If this isn't too much of a confidential question, what is the current enrollment worldwide for GuitarMasterClass.net?
KD: We have thousands of customers, and about 300,000 unique visitors every month.
TGC: You've also started to explore and develop your singing. What would you like to accomplish with that?
KD: Good question! (laughs) I don't really know, I just love singing and recording my own songs - so I had to start practice singing.
TGC: This interview wouldn't be complete without the obligatory guitar and gear questions. What guitars and amps do you use? Do you have special guitar setup requirements?
KD: I use a Parker Nitefly and a Fender American Deluxe Strat. I plug them into a TS808 Tube Screamer and Boss DD-3 delay. The amp is a Mesa Boogie Mark V combo. I don't have any special guitar setup requirements but I'd love to get some as I am sure that it could help me! (smiles)
TGC: What picks and strings do you prefer?
KD: I use 1.5 mm Clayton picks and Elixir strings, 009-046.
TGC: CDs are now passé, but can we look forward to a Kristofer Dahl conceptual solo album that we can download in the near future? I, for one, would gladly pay for it!
KD: Wow - thanks, yes I hope so! First in line you are more likely to see some kind of collaboration album though. My GMC commitment currently makes it hard to get the time needed for a solo album.
TGC: Describe a typical day in the life of Kristofer Dahl.
KD: Today I got up at 7 and ate breakfast with my 3 year old daughter. Then I had a Skype meeting with our Chinese development team and we deployed a lot of new stuff to the site. The next couple of hours I tested new solutions and searched for bugs etc, answered member feedback and then I started answering questions for the webmaster of a webiste called The Guitar Column! Very soon I will bring my daughter home from day care, and the whole family will have dinner. In the evening I will work some more (answering emails, coaching admins, instructors etc) and maybe also get some practicing time. (smiles)
TGC: Thank you for doing this interview, Kristofer and All the Best in everything you do!
KD: Same to you - keep up the good work at TGC!
Check out Kristofer Dahl at GuitarMasterClass.net
(Pic Source: www.GuitarMasterClass.net)