Friday, March 23, 2012

Techniques With Todd | Todd Simpson Interview

One might say that GuitarMasterClass instructor and prolific YouTube video creator Todd Simpson is a man on a mission: To get every aspiring shredder to learn to speedpick quickly and cleanly in a short time using a systematic and highly efficient method.

Or as Todd puts it, "one step at a time, one shape at a time, one pick stroke at a time."

With his Techniques With Todd series just crossing the 100th video mark, Todd Simpson sat down with The Guitar Column for this email interview.

The Guitar Column: Thanks for doing this interview Todd!

Todd Simpson: Thanks very much for having me. And thanks for creating The Guitar Column!

TGC: What motivated you to start your Techniques With Todd series on YouTube?

TS: My style of learning is very visual so when I first started playing I was looking for an instructor to teach more visually, not so much using the traditional approach of sheet music etc. Not that there is anything wrong with learning sheet music, it's just that as a young player I wanted to learn some actual playing. So when I started created videos, I wanted to make them in the style I was looking for as a student. Minimal on theory, maximum on where do I put my fingers.

Theory will come, you can't progress without it, it just wasn't what I was looking for, especially at first.

TGC:  Paul Gilbert's Intense Rock 1 was the shredder's bible when it first came out in the late 80s. While a huge number of shred videos have come out since Intense Rock, none I felt could match its organized approach to taking almost any aspiring shredder from zero to hero. But I think you've come pretty close with your systematic approach to alternate picking with your Techniques With Todd series.

TS:  Thanks very much. That means a lot to me as I have a great respect for you and your work here on the site. Also, I am a HUGE Paul Gilbert fan and from the start of playing dreamed of being able to one day pick anywhere close to the way he does.

I'm still working on that, but coming up with a way to learn how to do it was how I started developing my Techniques With Todd series. One step at a time, one shape at a time, one pick stroke at a time. I've condensed my own journey as a learning musician and distilled it into my lesson series. I try to keep each one to just a minute or few focused on task at hand. To be mentioned in the same breath as Paul is quite an honor, and to have my videos compared to Intense Rock is also huge as that video was one that I watched so much that I could quote every line!

TGC: If we may backtrack a little, who were some of your early guitar influences?

TS: Paul Gilbert of course was a HUGE influence on my playing. I was also greatly influenced by Tony MacAlpine, Yngwie, the usual suspects you might say, but also by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd.

TGC: An incredibly melodic player!

TS: I've always wanted to combine the melody and style of David Gilmour with the technical mastery of Paul Gilbert. I've always believed that your technical ability should not limit your creative expression so being technically adept is just something you have to get to in order to be a complete player.

But you can't neglect the emotive side or you're still incomplete. That defines my continuing journey as a student of music.

TGC: Name the guitarist/album that started you down the slippery slope of intense woodshedding.

TS: I remember hearing Paul Gilbert's live solo from the Racer X Live CD and just being blown away. It was almost inhuman, the level of mastery of the instrument. Like listening to Mozart and Paganini playing electric guitar. Mozart himself was accused of using 'too many notes' in his compositions, a barb often leveled at 'shredders', but in fact he was using only as many as he required, and people were listening too slowly. Learning to appreciate complex music is something that takes practice. Just as playing it does.

TGC: A question about your introductory Shred Journey alternate picking lessons on I noticed that you started with 'inside picking' in Lesson 3, Reversing Patterns/Changing Strings. Inside picking is one of the most challenging alternate picking techniques but I notice that some people are quite natural with it.

TS: You're quite right there. Some players take to it right away, while others struggle with it. Every player learns differently and at a different pace though. In addition every player faces the 'right hand / left hand' issue of which hand is faster/more precise on the way to getting them both on the same page.

I start using inside picking pretty early in the series to start exposing players to it as soon as we get some basic mechanics down. Then we progress and switch around, inside, outside, alternate, economic, etc. By the time you make it to the end of the series, or really once you get past the first few with success, you are ready for serious private instruction in shreddery and it's probably a good time to start attending live video lessons with instructors at

These lessons happen every day and anyone can view them for free which is great. I teach on Saturday's @ 5pm EST and guests are always welcome.

TGC: How important is good thumb position to playing at speed?

TS: That is a brilliant question. One that I never get asked but one that I focus on when teaching. It's something that players rarely consider in many cases. The thumb often wants to do it's own thing and often gets in the way of getting better as a player. It tends to squeeze/press the neck far to hard, and tends to ride over the top of the neck which can wreck your ability to play evenly during a long scale run.

The thumb is the foundation of your grip. It's crucial. It's important to develop the right pressure and position. Put simply, try to keep your thumb lightly planted in the middle of the guitar neck, so that you could play a scale from high E to low E without having to move your thumb. Readjusting hand position mid-scale usually results in an audible flub in a scale run for example.

TGC: You also advocate playing 'thumbless', as an exercise, with the left thumb off the back of the neck of the guitar. How does this technique help.

TS: I often use 'thumbless' technique in my video chat lessons. Which is to say I have the students play the lesson without using their left thumb. We pull the thumb off the neck and play with our fingertips. This resets the thumb and when you apply it to the neck, the hand can remember it didn't really need the thumb and the pressure gets lighter and playing gets faster and more precise.

TGC: Tell us about your V-Pick Switchblade pick.

TS: I love those picks! Vinni from is a great guy to work with. We developed this pick after I'd tried the unbuffed version of the same pick. I suggested we buff it and refine the point to make it an ideal 'Shredder' pick and he sent me the results and I've been using them ever since.

It's also an ideal pick to work with while learning alternate picking, even if you don't end up using it as your primary pick. For a pick to be really good for fast/precision play, it really helps if the pick is 1.5 mm or even a bit thicker as it reduces 'flex'. When a pick bends or flexes, you've lost fine control of it. At speed this can cause missed strokes.

Also, the point on the Switchblade reduces the amount of pick that must address the string and reduces the time between strikes, simply by having less pick at the point to move out of the way and re-address the string. Also, reducing the size of the tip aids in precision. So I"m very happy with how the pick turned out.

TGC: Do you use the V-Pick exclusively now?

TS: I alternate between the V-Pick and the Clayton 1.5mm which I sharpen myself. Both picks have a very different tonality so depending on the sound I want for a given piece, I'll switch back and forth. I'm thrilled to see vendors finally offering sharp picks across their lines.

The Tortex Sharps are an option for those that really love Dunlop Tortex and the Jazz III XL is an option for those who love the Jazz III but wish it was bigger. Vinnie has all manner of sharp picks. The boutique shops like V-Picks seem to be leading the way and the bigger vendors seem to be moving in that direction now.

TGC: How important is pick angle to fast playing?

TS: Also a great question. Another thing that is often taken for granted. Pick angle is crucial.

I use sharp picks so I can still pick smoothly when the pick isn't flat to the strings. I tilt the pick about 45 degrees from horizontal and sometimes it's nearly vertical depending on where I am in a given lick based on where it starts and ends. This angle allows the tip to almost glide across the strings and not get caught up in a single strike. Overcommitting to any one pick strike can cause hiccups in what might have been a smooth run. Of course, when not playing at speed, it's far less of an issue.

TGC: Almost all the great shredders play with some sort of angle, some more drastic than others. The only guy who seems to hit the string flat on with the pick seems to be Yngwie.

TS: That's very true. Yngwie plays with a quite flat angle on his pick. He does choke up on the pick quite a bit, and strikes using only the tip when playing at speed. So he's using some of the same approach we are talking about.

It does go to show though that with enough practice, you can use standard rounded picks played without angle, single coil pickups, heavy gauge strings, a thick guitar neck -- in short, all the things many shredders avoid like the plague -- and still shred it up like a monster.

In the end it really does come down to the player. Many of the things I suggest in my lessons and videos are to help people break through the technical barriers that are holding them back. Once you break though those, you can really follow your own patch and make a lot up as you go. For example, I can shred using my Les Paul guitar, or even a bass guitar, or a nylon string guitar. Once you reach a certain level, you can translate those skills.

TGC: Name three guitarists whose technique you're envious of.

TS: To name some players I have yet to mention:

John Petrucci - for his flawless technique and expansiveness.

Frank Gambale - a master of sweep picking and arpeggios. I only found out about him fairly recently and some of his work from the 80's and 90's is still almost shockingly good.

Christopher Parkening - an amazing Classical guitar player who's put out some astounding stuff over the years. Just listening to him can make anyone a better musician. You can hear the effort he has put in when he plays. The control, the precision -- just scary good.

These last two names are a bit more obscure but both are worth checking out. There are some great vids on YouTube featuring them.

In addition, I have to say that I'm learning and growing by leaps and bounds by being exposed to the lessons and video chats generated by the other instructors at and in many cases I learn from the students themselves. It's such a great place for guitar players. There is always something new to learn and since the staff and students are from all over Planet Earth, there are no limits to what you might come across.

TGC: How did your association with come about?

TS: No matter how much I learn or know I always consider myself first and foremost a student of music. I was in search of a place on the web that was a community of musicians open to teaching and learning from each other. Not just an instructional site, or a forum site, but some of both. After about a year of searching, and trying out different sites, I found and was so impressed that I approached them about joining the faculty. I knew that this was the type of place I wanted to learn and teach at.

TGC: As of 10th March 2012 you've hit your 100th lesson with GuitarMasterClass.

TS: Yes. We just did out 100th lesson and it was a blast. The chat room was packed and we did a lesson about Paul Gilbert style shredding using a backing track written by our very own Ben Higgins  which was actually a Racer X inspired collaboration project.

Speaking of Ben, he was recently interviewed here at The Guitar Column and he is honestly one of my favorite players currently. His style and balance are great and I attend his video lesson chats every chance I get. 

TGC: What is your gear setup for your online lessons?

TS: I'm using guitar emulation (Guitar Rig 5, Overloud TH2, Amplitude Metal) for all my teaching and videos right now. I love the flexibility and potential of software rigs. Especially since you can share custom patches from a given lesson with students.

I'm using Guitar Pro for tablature and that works with my Fretlight guitar which I use in several of my YouTube lessons. It lights up on the frets baed on the Guitar Pro tablature file. It's a great learning and teaching tool. I"m using a Sony HDcam for video and Final Cut Pro for editing, and Logic Pro and Reaper for audio.

TGC:  Are you into the recording and engineering aspect of music as well?

TS: Very much so. I've built my home studio up to the point where I can do multi track recording and mixing, live and midi work, video editing in full HD, DVD authoring, as well composing music for film.

I recently composed music for a foreign feature film and it was quite an experience. I just loved it. I'm actually looking for my next film project as we speak.

TGC: What gear would you bring to a gig?

TS: I'm not yet to the point where I'm going to consistently trust my laptop/software and emulation for gigging, so I'd bring my trusty Digitech GNX3 (I still love the Tube Screamer emulation in that little pedal board) and either a guitar cab/power amp or my Bass Combo amp, which I use when I'm playing extended range guitars. So my live rig has gotten way more simple over the years while my recording rig has gotten way more complex.

TGC: What are you up to these days as far as band and recording projects?

TS: I've got two recording projects in the works, one called Krestfallen and one called Primal Scene. Both of these are leveraging the internet to bring together various players from all over the world for the purpose of collaboration.

As I mentioned earlier I've recently gotten into soundtrack work as well and hope to branch further into that and scoring for games as well. I've taken a break from live gigging for a while to focus a bit more on teaching and composing. But the bug to play out/live bit me a long time ago so I've recently started looking for a live situation again.

TGC: What else would you like to develop in your playing and where do you see youself in 5 years?

TS: I've embraced social media and hope to continue to learn and grow in the area of social media marketing. I've been consulting in that capacity on a show called which features national/regional/local acts, is shot in full HD and recently got picked up for distribution by Comcast after a couple of seasons on YouTube.

In five years I hope to have scored several more feature films, some videos, and maybe tried scoring things I haven't ever tried or considered. Also, I'm working on tracks to release with both recording projects and I've got a plan for a new series of YouTube videos to serve as an intro to the shred videos as well as a follow up set to pick things up where the current set leaves off.

I'm going to compile a DVD release of the videos as well. In short, onward and upward. By then I"ll be on Lesson 750 at!

TGC: I asked Kristofer Dahl and Ben Higgins this question as well. Describe a typical day in the life of Todd Simpson.

TS: I usually wake up and check the new posts on It's almost a compulsion, to see what I've missed overnight. I'll size up the day and make a rough plan as to how many hours I can spend on whatever is on deck for that day and then deal with things on a per project basis as much as I can to try and maintain tight focus.

It may include working up a lesson plan/materials/files for a video lesson on GMC, or pitching a score to a director/producer, maintaining relationships with the fab folks whose products I endorse (V-Picks, Fretlight Guitars, Minarik Guitars, EMG pickups etc.), or responding to questions from my YouTube lessons and from students in my social media sphere, or sitting in on a last minute gig for a friend.

But no matter what the day brings, or how crazy it gets, I carve out part of it for practice. It's almost like meditation. Even after playing for many years, I still run scales to find weak spots, test myself against the clock, experiment with new techniques, etc. I"m still learning and I hope that never stops.

TGC: Thanks so much for taking the time out to do this interview Todd!  All the Best in your future endeavours! 

TS: Thanks very much for the invite. Keep up the great work your doing here at TheGuitarColumn and as I always say, PRACTICE!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ben Higgins of | Interview

Hot on the heels of our Kristofer Dahl interview comes this interview with Ben Higgins of  Ben is one of those rare guitarists capable of combining extremely melodic playing with ferocious shred chops! 

In this email interview, Ben talks about his guitar influences, practicing, circular vibrato, his home-built guitars and the importance of finding balance. He also offers us an uncommon glimpse into a day in the life of an online guitar instructor at

The Guitar Column: Thanks so much for taking time out to do this interview Ben!

Ben Higgins: You're welcome, thank you for the interest.

TGC: When did you start playing and what drew you to the guitar in the first place?

BH: Growing up, there were always acoustic guitars around the house which my parents and their friends would sometimes get out for a jam. It was only a matter of time before I learned a few chords and had a go! It totally developed my ear and rhythm abilities by putting me straight in at the deep end.

If you create a demand on yourself, you cannot help but step up to it, at least if it's something you enjoy doing. It wasn't a conscious decision to really start learning the guitar, it just happened so that would also go hand in hand with the relationship between enjoying what you're doing and making quick progress.

TGC: Did you take lessons?

BH: I didn't have any proper lessons, aside from being shown a few chords here and there. The rest of it was observing other players around me and trying to emulate whatever sounds I was listening to at the time.

TGC: Who were you listening to back then?

BH: The first music I really took an interest in and became a fan of was Michael Jackson. As we all know, a certain guitarist called Eddie Van Halen played a legendary solo on the song 'Beat It'. This captured my attention and directed it towards all the guitar orientated elements of Jackson's music. Then I found an old Iron Maiden tape and the rest is history!

TGC: What was a typical practice session like for you when you were starting out?

BH: The strange thing is, I can't remember a lot of it.. it's almost like it happened to somebody else. Either that or I was some weird experiment and I've had my memory wiped! The only things I can vividly picture are sitting on the edge of my bed and my little practice amp and Ibanez distortion pedal. I can remember the floppier picks I used back then which I couldn't begin to use now.

I do know that I didn't have a regimen back then. It was all just playing, with no particular structure. I think that's important in your early years of learning an instrument because it's how you really get a natural bond with it. If you ask people like Yngwie Malmsteen or Guthrie Govan, they'll say they never 'practised'.

TGC: What is your daily practice regimen like now?

BH: These days, I do really enjoy a good regimented practice session because it's a highly efficient way of working on your technique. I'm currently doing about an hour and a half, 2 hours daily or until my hands get too tired to carry on.

TGC: Have you ever run into any problems from too much practicing?

BH: I've had to learn the hard way that you shouldn't play through pain. I'm an advocate of taking frequent breaks every time you build up a big amount of lactic acid after an intense period of playing. Just sit around and take a few breaths, think about something else for a while and let your muscles relax on their own.

Or even put your guitar down and walk about, do something else for a couple of minutes. Doing this has allowed me to keep practising at a steady rate, much longer than I was able to before.

TGC: How did your association with GuitarMasterClass come about?

BH: Well, I'd left my previous job as a delivery driver and I tried busking a couple of times but I didn't feel comfortable doing it at all. An ex-bandmate told me about GuitarMasterClass so I took a look and decided to be brave and put myself out there. Thankfully, Kris (GMC founder Kristofer Dahl) saw beyond my low quality video and invited me to join and I've been proud to work alongside the mad Swede ever since !

TGC: You have a number of lessons on GMC devoted to legato. Would you say you're more of a legato-type player?

BH: I would say that it is more of a natural strength of mine, that I found my feet with quite early on. Although I wouldn't say I'm more of a legato player as such, it probably does feature in my solos more than alternate picking runs, for example. I've had to work very hard to get my picking technique as natural and effective as legato, for sure!

All of my practice is like an opportunity to improve all the other aspects of my playing so they can also be included and featured in my playing as much as my natural strengths. My goal is to make my weaknesses my other strengths too.

TGC: In the good 'ol days you had legato players like Allan Holdsworth and you had the alternate pickers like John McLaughlin.

BH: Yes and you've probably chosen two of the best, if not the best, exponents of those particular techniques! Although I'm not familiar with Holdsworth's music, I'm a huge fan of McLaughlin's picking technique.

In the 80's things got turned up another notch with guys that were picking fast, tapping fast, sweeping fast etc.. all the 'Star Licks'-type videos must have been the Holy Grail in those days!

Since then, with media making visual access to different guitarists so attainable, people have been able to develop in so many areas, which is a good thing. However, there's also the temptation to try and 'do it all' at the detriment of just finding your voice and becoming really good at what you do. As always, it's a balance that every one of us has to work with.

TGC: You have a really interesting vibrato. On your vibrato lesson it seems like you're moving your finger in an almost circular fashion. I remember Steve Vai talking about circular vibrato on his website years ago. Was that a thing you consciously developed?

BH: Thank you very much. I definitely remember seeing Vai do this and then taking my guitar and seeing if I could do it too. I knew nothing about the technique at all and never read, or heard anyone talk about it. I didn't even have a computer growing up, let alone access to the internet so everything was trial and error! Somehow I made it work and still use it!

The person who made me aware of vibrato and inspired me to develop it is a British guitarist called Jan Cyrka. He used to have a monthly column in Guitarist Magazine, which had a CD which came with the mag. A lot of my vibrato technique and the way I use it comes from him.

Since then, listening to Marty Friedman helped me hone it a bit but 90% is Jan Cyrka. I should also mention Dave Kilminster too, who also had a column in the mag. Between Jan and Dave I always had a lot to work with and a lot to look forward to every month!

TGC: Name some other guitar players that have influenced you greatly.

BH: Ah, well those questions lead into each other very nicely. The previously mentioned Marty Friedman and Jan Cyrka. Before I heard of them I was first blown away by Joe Satriani and then Yngwie Malmsteen.

The next guitar orientated album that totally shocked me to that level when I first heard it was Speed Metal Symphony by Cacophony, with Marty Friedman and the amazing Jason Becker. First Satriani, then Malmsteen, then Cacophony. When I heard all this stuff, all I thought was 'This is impossible.. what they are playing is impossible guitar! What are they doing ? How do I do it ?'

A bit later I discovered Michael Schenker and The Scorpions. Although they're different artists they both have a certain sound. In fact, a lot of European bands from the early 80's have a similar sound. A thick, crunchy, mid range heavy Marshall tone with an almost nasal lead sound. Even if you listen to early Mercyful Fate, who were Danish, they still had that similar tone. I don't know what it was about them, but those Europeans had it nailed !

TGC: What are some aspects of their playing that you would like to get into your own playing?

BH: More melody, haha! Every one of those guys is able to choose great notes. I always approach a solo with my composing head on, it's never about techniques. However, a lot of those guys are good at getting a very melodic sound whilst improvising whereas I have to have time to compose it to get near their level of expression. The answer is, of course, just to spend more time improvising so that's something I've got to do. Balance, again!

TGC: What is Michael Schenker's influence on your playing? So few guitar players these days seem to give him credit. And what is your quintessential Michael Schenker album?

BH: I think those really high, choked bends that he does. He'll play a note, cut it off, then pre-bend to another note before striking the note. I love that sound.

Everyone should own a copy of the first MSG album and my personal fave, Assault Attack which had Graham Bonnet on vocals. That's an incredible record. It's got one slightly dodgy, commercial track but the rest is pure guitar and vocal gold!

TGC: What guitars and amps are you currently using?

BH: I'm using a Marshall JVM 410H, which is the 100w head, and a 1960A Marshall 4x12 cab.

In terms of guitars, I'm very lucky. My Dad has always been a woodworker and he taught himself how to build guitars mainly for personal enjoyment rather than business. I've got three that he's built. Two of them have that Jackson/Ibanez-style look. One has a hardtail and the other a Vintage/Wilkinson style trem. The 3rd guitar is based on a Gibson Explorer which is a shape I fell in love with, possibly because Matthias Jabs of the Scorpions played one. My one's slightly bigger and heavier than a Gibson one, though, which is not good news for the back and shoulders !

TGC: How about picks, strings, pickups?

BH: I've been using the same picks for years -- Dunlop Tortex 1.14mm, the purple ones. I manually sharpen the tip down to a point because they're too rounded straight from the factory. I tried the Sharp version of the same pick but they're too narrow, like playing guitar with a toothpick, so you can't really get a good grip on it.

I use Ernie Ball strings, 9-42. A lot of people say you need thick strings for better tone but it all depends what you class as good tone. For me, I need lots of sustain and what I call 'juice' to get the most out of legato and the thicker the string, the less distorted it sounds and the more rounded it is, which is detrimental to my legato technique. So I'm very happy with my 9-42's !

The pickups in 2 of my guitars are Kent Armstrong. I can't remember the exact models but they're 'hot' pickups designed for playing rockier and heavier stuff. One of the guitars has a pickup made by GoldenAge, called Vintage Vibe which is a replica of the old Gibson hotwired pickups. They help me get that classic, slightly Germanic metal tone I was talking about earlier.

TGC: Any favorite must-have pedals?

BH: No pedals to speak of except a Dunlop Cry Baby Wah which I've used on a few recording projects. I'm not really a 'gear head'. The less bits and bobs, the better !

TGC: You get a really singing, creamy tone on your GuitarMasterClassvideos and the Marshall JVM410H amp you mentioned is usually in your gear list. What do you like about the JVM410?

BH: Thank you, that's a nice compliment. Tone is very important to me and I spent a lot of years unhappy with the sounds I was getting. I found that, although I loved the sound of tube amps, most of the ones I tried didn't have enough juice without adding pedals to them.

I'd played through a few Marshalls over the years and I loved their crunch sound more than any other amp but, again, they didn't seem to have enough juice for Satriani style legato. The notes would sort of dry up.

The JVM is the first amp I can take as it is and play everything I need to play and it sounds like I need it to.

TGC: What is your lesson recording setup like? Mic'd or DI?

BH: For recording lessons or demo'ing new tunes, I run a DI from the JVM head into my audio interface and go from there. I might sometimes add some reverb and a touch of delay for solos but that's about it. The amp sounds a lot nicer when mic'd up but the XLR output for DI'ing is a godsend.

TGC: What is that single-pickup flame maple top guitar you play? It looks like an Ibanez judging by the headstock. I've always been fascinated by single-pickup, hardtail guitars. Tell us about this particular axe.

BH: This guitar is the one I use 99% of the time. I love its simplicity. Although I like the sound of using a whammy bar, and I get on with the technique very well, I can't seem to live with having a tremelo system.

My Dad built this one more as a project to utilise some hardware he had lying around. The body is made of sycamore, not sure about the neck but the fingerboard I can tell you is a wood called wenge, an alternative to rosewood. The machine heads are Fender and that's about all I know about it. I'm rubbish at this stuff!

I think you get people who love guitars, and then people who just love playing guitars. For me, the act of playing and composing is where the enjoyment and fulfilment is. I'm not one of those people who views the guitar as an object of beauty, not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's the vehicle for my expression first and foremost. It would explain why I'm not really a gear head and don't know a lot about guitars and amps !

TGC: What projects outside of GMC are you currently involved in?

BH: My main musical project is called The Reckoning, which is metal music along the lines of Megadeth or Metallica. I've had the time recently to start adventuring into writing instrumental music although my biggest strength is songwriting. I'd even go so far as to say that I hope I'm a better song writer than I am a guitar player.

TGC: What is a typical day like in the life of Ben Higgins?

BH: Boring for an observer, haha!

I get up around 7 am or so, go and help my other half feed the horses which is a 10 mile round trip and I'll get back around 9 and then have my second coffee of the day. The first drink or so always has to be coffee but after that, I won't touch hot drinks for the rest of the day.

I'll catch up on emails. I'll use this time to get involved with GMC. This can be forum work, helping members with guitar issues. I'll revisit GMC at different times.

Recently, I've been fitting in more guitar practice in the late morning/early afternoon period which is when I seem to be most awake.

If I'm creating lessons for GMC, then I'll need to practice them before I'm ready to record them. I very rarely compose a lesson that doesn't require some serious practice because I don't want to just churn out something on autopilot. I believe we have an obligation to give our best to the people that keep the site going and these guys genuinely want to learn and improve so the last thing I'm going to do is just put out lessons with no content.

Sometimes I can go too far and compose something that is quite beyond my own ability and I'll have to practice it for a matter of weeks before being ready to have a go at it. It's life on the edge but it's always interesting !

At some point I'll find time to reluctantly wash the dishes.

A second journey in the early evening to put the horses in stables and feed them again.

Home and catch up with GMC again.

Practise some Karate which I took up just over a year ago. Spending lots of time sitting at a computer or standing straight and playing the guitar for long periods definitely takes its toll, so doing something physical to balance out the inertia is good for mental and physical balance.

Have a bath, have something to eat. I've never been a '5 meals every day at a set time' kind of guy. I think it encourages over eating, even when you're not hungry. I eat according to when I'm hungry. If I've done less physical things that day, then I find I eat less. Either way, I think it's important to let our bodies tell us when it needs refuelling, not eat just because it's tradition.

Going into the evening, depending on what's going on, I'll either get back to the computer to mix a tune or edit something. If not, then I'll see if there's any good movies on. Or crime dramas.

TGC: Sounds like a fairly busy day to me.

BH: Do you know that feeling when somebody asks you, 'Hey, so what have you been up to?' and you just know that you've been busy but can't think of anything of note to mention? My life is a bit like that. I know I do stuff but it's not until I answered this question that I realised how boring it sounds !

TGC: You're putting your fantasy band together. Who would you like to be playing with?

BH: Dave Mustaine on rhythm guitar, Marty Friedman on lead, Gar Samuelson on drums (yes, it's basically Megadeth), Steve Harris on bass. Vocals is a hard choice because different guys do different things brilliantly, but I'll go for Rob Halford.

So, the best mix of Rust in Peace, Painkiller and Seventh Son of A Seventh Son. I'd buy that record!

TGC: You'll have to fit in there as well.

BH: Oh, hang on.. I'm in the band as well? I think it might be better if it's kept the way it is!

TGC: Any parting words for our readers out there?

BH: The most important thing I can think of is to always hold on to the principle of following the sound that you want to follow. Dig into the areas that interest you, don't dilute yourself by believing you have to be good at everything. Digging deep into your corner is where you'll find your sound.

TGC: Thanks for doing this interview Ben -- it has been a pleasure! All the Best for the future!

BH: Thank you very much, the pleasure was mine!


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