Saturday, March 21, 2009

Paul Kleff Interview - Great advice and passion for guitar.

We reviewed Paul's shred filled album "Machined" late last year, and now he's back to tell us about his passion for guitar and share some secrets about forging a career in music.

What steps have you taken to forge a career in the music industry?

I had to ask myself, “What is it I really want to do?” I think one needs to have some pretty specific goals to start with, and then you can work backwards to fill in the steps with the things you need to do in order to reach those goals. There is so much I want to do—both from an artist/composer/guitarist perspective and as a music teacher/guitar instructor.

What advice do you have for people looking to get into the music industry?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from people that have been there—and don’t take advice from people that aren’t qualified to give it. And be willing to pay for the best advice and help. Once you have some goals and have a good idea of what you want, find the people that can help you figure out how to get there—people that have already done what you want to do.

Look at your goals often and be persistent. Do something every day that helps you get closer to reaching them. The combination of time and taking small steps on a regular basis is what will get you there—both as a guitar player and in your music career.

What are the pressures in the industry and how do you cope with them?

I think the biggest pressures are the ones we put on ourselves. You have to be able to find that motivation within and find ways to keep it going on a day to day basis. There are so many great musicians out there.

During your formative years, what sort of practice regime did you have?

I got serious about guitar when I was in high school—when I was about 15 or so. I practiced and jammed with friends a lot and picked people’s brains for information. So most of my early years were spent learning songs and parts of songs and solos. Most of the time, I tried to emulate the feel and phrasing of the guitar players I liked. I was never really good at totally copying solos and playing stuff note for note.

I learned some theory and scales from books and tried to apply it—stuff like the modes and different scales. I studied music and majored in classical guitar in college and that was where I formally learned a lot about music theory. I never took lessons on the electric guitar back then and I’m sure that held up my progress a lot. So much of what I did on the guitar was a trial and error kind of thing.

So I practiced and jammed with other people a lot the first couple years. I started teaching guitar about four years after I started playing. When I was in college, I was pretty much immersed in music—between school, teaching and playing in local bands. Music was all I did then—and that was when I made a lot of progress as a musician.

What advice do you have for beginner and intermediate players who are trying to achieve a highly advanced level of playing?

Figure out what it is you want to be able to do and then find someone who can help you get there. Don’t be too proud or whatever to take lessons—find the guitar teacher in your area that can do what it is you want to be able to do and take some lessons—that will save you a lot of time and eliminate the time wasting “trial and error” effort. There’s so much info out there on the internet, some of its good and some is not so good. Find someone who can help you learn to do what you want to do.

If you’re a beginner, you can start off right, get a good foundation and advance much more quickly. No matter what style of guitar you want to play, whether you want to shred or just learn to strum some chords and play songs, you can learn what you need in order to be able to do what you want to do and not waste time on things that aren’t going to help you.

For an intermediate player, a teacher can help you refine things and show you ways to improve much more quickly than if you stumble around looking for the solutions on your own. Sometimes very small adjustments or changes to your technique or the way you are doing something can give you big results or a breakthrough in a relatively short amount of time. This is where a good teacher is most helpful. You can learn a lot from books, videos and the internet, but there’s no substitute for what you get from a good teacher—they are going to help you the most. They will be able see and hear things in your playing and how you are doing things that you won’t be able to see and show you how to improve the fastest. You might struggle with something for weeks on your own that can be fixed in the course of one lesson—it’s definitely worth it.

Like I said, I didn’t take lessons at first and ended up having to “unlearn” some things that were holding me back as I went along. If I could do it all over again, I would have taken lessons from the best teacher I could right from the beginning.

What gear do you use and why?

I’m not all that picky, really. I’ve played everything from Gibson to Kramer to Ibanez to Carvin over the years. But, I’ve played the Strat-style body guitars for so long now that it feels really weird to play a Les Paul or something like that. My two main guitars are a Carvin DC127 and an Ibanez PGM 301. Between those two, I get the best of everything. The Carvin has a Floyd Rose and the Ibanez is a hard tail.

What parts of your playing reflects your personality and self expression most accurately?

I was influenced and inspired by so many different guitar players and bands so there are a lot of sides to my musical personality and self-expression that I try to get out. To me, a guitar solo is more like a mini-composition within the song and I try to approach it like that, rather than just trying to string some licks or technical stuff together and calling it good. Technical skills are really just a way to add more expression to your playing—the more things you can do on the guitar, the more ways you can express yourself—you’re not as limited.

Vibrato is really important to me. I love players that have that wide, singing vibrato. Most people, when they start playing guitar, they get so hung up on trying to shred, sweep pick, etc., that they forget about vibrato and how important it is to developing your own sound. People listen to players like Yngwie or Paul Gilbert and get so hung up on learning all the technique involved in the styles of guys like that, that they forget that these guys have absolutely killer vibrato. You don’t hear that mentioned that much—listen to Yngwie’s vibrato. Man—it just sings and it’s just as important to his sound as all the technical stuff in there. George Lynch, John Sykes and guys like that—great players and great vibrato, too—smooth.

What are you trying to achieve compositionally? – You can mention your influences, techniques you’ve spent a lot of time with, concepts, etc.

I’m really a huge music fan and have been influenced by so many artists—everything from the Beatles and Led Zeppelin up to newer metal stuff coming out today. When I started playing, I was really into the 80s style and all of those players—everything from the NWOBHM, the LA bands and guitarists as well as all the shred stuff that exploded during that time period.

So, compositionally, I was really influenced by songs that have a great melody and usually some sort of a hook in there. Whether it is an instrumental or a vocal tune, having a hook and a melody that sticks with you has always been an influence on me and I think that comes out in both my songwriting style and approach to soloing.

Talk about the process of recording your album. Are there any tips and tricks that you could pass on? How did you choose the other instrumentalists (if you did).

“Machined” was written and recorded over about a two month period in the summer of 2008. I was getting ready to go on a tour doing some guitar instructional clinics and wanted to have a CD to be able to take out with me and promote. So it came together pretty quick. When I started working on the album, I was debating whether I wanted to go instrumental guitar-oriented music or a vocal melodic/heavy rock format. So I compromised and did two songs of each.

Technology and amp modelers really make it easier to get a half way decent sound for writing and recording and with the computer you can do so much on your own now. So many people do albums right in their home studios today. Having that flexibility really allows you the time to write and record your own material at a relatively low cost. You don’t have to worry about the studio meter running and you can record at 3 in the morning without waking anybody up.

Right now, the band is myself and my good friend Jerry Keyzer (vocalist.) We've known each other a long time--we played a lot of shows together and did some recording with one of our old bands in the past. Even though we live in the same city, we lost track of each other for awhile and then reconnected. We've known each other for so long we've almost got a sixth sense musically when we work together. Our musical tastes run similar and we complement each other well.

We are currently writing and demoing material for a full length CD which will be out by fall 2009. I plan on adding a drummer and bassist later this year and then some live shows will follow—probably by some time early in 2010.

Thanks, Guy!

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