If shredding is your thing, Niels Vejlyt is one of those guitar players who will cause you to seriously re-think your entire approach.
And if you haven't already heard of Niels Vejlyt, The Guitar Column is proud to present this email interview with the Über-Shredder.
The Guitar Column: Thanks for taking time out to do this interview Niels!
Niels Vejlyt: I really enjoy doing this, so thank you.
TGC: When did you start playing and who were your early influences?
NV: I started around 1990 or '89, I'm not completely sure. But my first guitar influence was actually Frank Zappa because I loved the long solos he did. Then I listened to King Diamond and other Metal before I actually discovered Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, and then later on, a lot of the Shrapnel dudes like T-Mac and Vinman. (Ed. note: Tony MacAlpine and Vinnie Moore)
TGC: Did you take lessons early on?
NV: The first lessons I got was from a friend who showed me some chords with no relation to any songs. But the same guy actually showed me Steve Vai and Malmsteen and I then decided "this is what I wanted to do". Then later on I got a teacher who showed me scales and a few arpeggios but he also showed me Paul Gilbert who was also a major influence, especially the first few Racer X albums.
TGC: What was your daily practice routine like back then? Were you obsessive about practicing?
NV: At some point I said to myself, I want to be as good as I can be, whatever that takes. And so I practiced from when I got up in the morning until I went to bed. Occasionally I visited friends, but it was definitely a special time that was very lonely, just me and the guitar. But I was totally focused on getting to the highest level possible for me
TGC: What is your current daily practice regimen like?
NV: Actually these days I practice a lot. I have found the spirit again, after a while of where I almost only composed and taught guitar. But I have, so to say, found the reason to do this -- because it's the most awesome thing in the world to play and practice the guitar!
Other than that, I create videos and teach and compose songs, but I try to find the balance where I do it for the right reason, and it feels good and is stressless.
TGC: Your technique is absolutely phenomenal. Do you have a particular way that you approach new techniques that you are working on?
NV: Thanks a million man! Well, I found the key to learn advanced ideas that I come up with. I choose a small enough part so that I see progress soon enough to know that what I do works. And then I try to avoid discipline as much as possible so that practicing becomes a labor of love and not something I need to kick my own ass to do. I've had enough of that in the past.
TGC: How important is the metronone to your practice schedule?
NV: Well, for me personally, I really enjoy using it because it gives me a feeling that I am progressing step by step. But I know that some people get great results without it, so its definitely not the only way. I just really enjoy using it, but there are a few things that I practice were I don't use it. I also I need to get to a certain level before I introduce the metronome. I need to be really certain on the right and left hand, like fingering and picking before I start the metronome
TGC: Do you have a personal philosophy as far as left and right hand technique?
NV: I used to be a little rigid about it, but I see that different people can make something work in their own way, and that's great. I do think there are a few pointers that can help make people reach their goals.
Basically that is just to be totally clear on what the right and left hand are doing so you are never in the situation where you just play and sometimes it works and sometimes not. Then something like take advantage of the fact you have four fingers and not limit yourself to three fingers. Quite basic, I guess.
TGC: What I notice the most is how synchronized your left and right hand are, even on extremely quick passages.
NV: Well, I think that to make anything sound good on the guitar is all about the cooperation between the right and left hand. It's pretty clear when someone who plays fast is not in sync, and the first pothole is sweep picking because the level of difficulty between the right and left hand are so extreme. You have a very easy right hand, and a difficult left hand.
TGC: Your right hand picking technique is effortless. How important is right hand picking position to good technique?
I think it is crucial, even more important than what I used to think. Actually, my buddy The Wizard Of Shred is inspiring me even after all these years of playing
TGC: What made you develop your 8-finger legato technique to such a high degree?
NV: Thanks again man. At some point I just realized that there really were no limits to what can be learned, as long as the steps I take to learn something are small enough, and as long as I keep on keeping on.
So I pretty much said to myself, "what is the most insane, technical thing you can imagine?" And for me, at that point, it was to combining eight-finger tapping, legato and sweep picking. It's a really fun and creative process to do stuff like this. And so I just created one lick, and once it worked I made a few more, and now I actually play it when I improvise which is really a magical thing
TGC: Are there any areas in your playing that you would like to develop further?
NV: Yes ! Always.
First of all, I really feel the benefit of keeping a quite extensive practicing schedule everyday on all the technical aspects. But other than that, I'd like to improve on my improvisation skills and songwriting skills
TGC: Do you have any other tips for aspiring shredders?
NV: Since the internet, it's so easy to come across good information about learning anything. So I believe that its only up to the individual to find the balance between having the desire to play, and the discipline to stay focused on the material until you manifest the goal you want. I meet quite a few youngster that have developed a high technical skill in a short period of time, and I believe that it is mostly because they just love to play and practice, and also finding the information that leads to getting results quickly.
TGC: You also exhibit an extremely melodic side to your playing on your compositions. Tell us about some of the albums you have done.
NV: My latest release was Sthenic. That was a solo album and completely instrumental. I actually composed the songs at the same time as I did the songs for the second Infinity Overture album. I was pretty inspired by Jeff Loomis and Steve Vai doing those songs. I think it turned out really well.
On the second Infinity Overture release I was moving more toward instrumentals with a shredding kind of edge -- much darker than the first Infinity Overture, which was more Symphonic Neo Classical Metal. I was also inspired by much harder bands like Behemoth and Meshuggah when I did Sthenic and The Infinite Overture Part 1, so maybe the ones that enjoyed Kingdom of Utopia were a little shocked. And we did not support the songs live. We only did a few shows because there was not a band as such, so it was a little weird. But actually the last show we did with Kimmie on vocals was killer!
TGC: Name some players who have influenced you greatly.
NV: Of course there´s a lot of players that I love, but some of the biggest are Steve Vai, Jeff Loomis and Shawn Lane. Jeff Loomis is The Riffmaster and Shawn Lane's playing is from another planet. Also, Michael Romeo, Jason Becker, Greg Howe, Vinnie Moore, John Petrucci, Tony MacAlpine and Ritchie Kotzen had such inspirational chops that I learned a lot from them. George Bellas.. all the Shrapnel dudes.. Rusty Cooley..
I'm sure I've forgotten some, but I love all these guys -- some of them for their playing and some also for their compositions like Michael Romeo, Jeff Loomis and John Petrucci.
TGC: What are some aspects of their playing that you would like to incorporate into your own style?
NV: Ritchie Kotzen was doing some awesome combinations of sweep picking and legato that I learned a lot from. Steve Vai´s whole phrasing and sound and definitely Jeff Loomis especially his riffs. In my opinion, they are some of the most incredible musicians ever, cand they are setting a new standard. And Jason Becker for his whammy style and arpeggios.
TGC: What is your current gear setup like? Could you give us a rundown of your guitars, effects pedals and amps?
NV: Actually I only have one guitar, an Ibanez RG1527M (7-string). I did have a Strat also but I sold it to get a better camera for my videos. The Ibanez is completely stock and I have a Mesa Boogie Stiletto Deuce and an Engl cabinet but no pedals. I use Logic for all my recording and an old ProTools Digi 002 as a preamp. It works for me.
TGC: What kind of picks and strings do you use? How important is the type of pick you use for your technique playing style?
NV: I actually just started to use the Dunlop Jazz Stubby, those small fat ones. I used to use Dunlop Delrin 500 for about 20 years.
I just use .010 - .056 Ernie Ball strings and I have never really felt a big difference between the differend brands of strings. I must say that I feel a little more ease when playing with those new picks, but of course it's not like it makes an audible difference. That's my opinion anyway.
TGC: Are you involved in any band or recording projects at the moment?
NV: Well, I'm doing another solo album but I have no idea when anything will be ready since I just work on the songs when I feel like it. It's much slower than the way I used to do it but it's also better and a nicer process.
And I'm actually doing some neo classical songs, maybe for a new band. I've written quite a few songs and I'm really psyched about this. I did have a singer in my studio to do one song, but I will keep the name unknown because I'm not sure if we will finish it with him. Only time will tell. What I can tell you is that he is well known in the world of Metal.
TGC: Describe the guitar courses that you offer on your website and on TheWizardOfShred.com.
NV:Yes! I have just made a very big program about mastering legato and using legato licks in your own playing. (Ed. note: The Secret Mechanics of Legato)
It's a sure fire way to actually start using the material right away and really getting to the bottom of being so flexible with the material that you can use it in pretty much everything and every style. I have included jam tracks in different styles of music with real live drums, bass and guitar and also a book and even a few practicing tracks. There's over 4 hours of video.
The material I did for TheWizardofShred.com is also a legato program with some killer chops. And as we speak I am making a Sweep Picking program for the Wizard as well. I also did an Arpeggio program with some extremely advanced chops some years ago called Advanced Arpeggios.
TGC: What is a typical day in the life of Niels Vejlyt like?
NV: Well, I get up pretty early to spend an hour on reading, and then I practice guitar technique a few hours and then I work out. Then I usually work on new songs or filming or editing. I teach guitar and then I spend time with my kids. That's pretty much a typical day for me
TGC: Any parting words for our readers out there?
NV: Yes. Just enjoy playing guitar and try to keep your mind on just the love for music and playing. For me that helped when I got a little too focused on having a certain plan with the music. Anyway that's what works for me.
TGC: Thanks so much for doing this interview, Niels -- All the Best for the future!
NV: I am really happy for the opportunity to talk a bit about my music and guitar here, so thanks a million for that.