Saturday, April 18, 2009

Interview - Shred Teacher Chris Martins

Chris Martins is a shredder and shred teacher from France. He has appeared on the compilation album Sonic Bridges and is currently working on the very progressive Legacy of Gaia project as well as Retribution Archangel, both scheduled for release later this year. Chris has been teaching guitar for oven ten years and has played as a hired gun for bands both in the studio and on stage. Check out the great wisdom he has to share.

How long have you been teaching guitar?

I've been teaching for over ten years now. I used to teach in high school but that doesn't really count, does it ?

Why do you teach guitar?

I teach because it's great to see people succeed in their endeavors, and since guitar is an area where I can help them reach their goals, I'm happy to help. And I'd rather teach guitar than flip burgers for a living anyway...

Where is your teaching practice based?

I teach in France, near Paris.

As far as teaching goes, what is your specialty?

Taking people to the next level is what I do best, no matter what level they're at initially. Style wise, blues, rock, hard-rock and metal is what I do best. I also like to teach applied theory and harmony and get great results from my slightly odd approach to it.

What level of player do you prefer to teach?

All levels are great. With beginners, it's seeing their happiness from being able to play the first songs, chords or solos of their lives, wheras the intermediate player will be stoked to realize he can actually play that Malmsteen lick with the right approach, and the advanced and very advanced players are sometimes a challenge to keep up with, and they make practicing hard a necessity. So it's all good in my book.

What makes a player a virtuoso?

I'd say that short of mind blowing speed, the level of control over “the” note makes the player a virtuoso. You can shred all day, but if that last note, bend and vibrato are not in control, you ain't there yet, period. Virtuosity can be demonstrated on a single note too. And you have to be able to express something otherwise it's just a guitar wankfest and who cares for that ?

How fast is too fast, if such a concept exists?

I do believe in “too fast”, but only in a specific context. There's really no point going all out shred in a slow acoustic ballad, or just for the sake of it. Every note has to fit the song, or moment. A lot of players, especially intermediate players forget about this, and start shredding away whenever they get a chance, but the more advanced players know when to hold back and when to let the beast out. As players we should always remember that we're playing for an audience that is not composed of guitar players only, so not only will you not impress the crowd by overplaying, but you'll ruin the song and bore everyone to death. The most famous players are not necessarily the fastest ones, but they're always the most expressive ones. Still if the moment is right, you should take the opportunity to shred... you only live once you know...

From a Teacher’s point of view, what is the number one roadblock to becoming a better player?

I'd have to say not focusing on the little things enough. Most players are content when they can play a lick decently, but they should focus on playing that lick perfectly, and it takes a very different level of dedication and precision to achieve that. A lot of prospective students come to me saying “I don't want to be Vai or Malmsteen, I only want to play For the love of God or Black Star”. What they don't realize is that in order to play those songs, they'll have to reach a level of mastery and control on the instrument that is pretty much equal to the level of those players when they recorded that song to sound any good. People are generally too easily satisfied with their own work, and don't push the enveloppe enough, and that makes the most difference in my opinion. Also having the right mindset is the mother of all improvement.

What makes a good student? Describe the student who progresses really quickly.

A good student focuses on the details, practices more than what's required, and in the exact way the teacher tells him to. Also a good student asks questions, but doesn't challenge the teacher's methods. People who actually listen and pay attention improve faster.

Do you find that older or younger students progress faster/learn quicker?

It's not a matter of age. It's a matter of dedication and desire. Age is only a mind thing. That being said, the younger people will get faster results in general but will get discouraged sooner when they start hitting a plateau. Older people have usually learned the value of patience and perseverance.

What is your teaching format?

I teach private lessons, triples ( three people at a time ), thematic monthly masterclasses are coming back soon, and larger groups ( no more than 8 people in a class though ). I teach in both English or French.

What models of learning benefit the student the most?

I don't think there's a Holy Grail of all models. It really depends on many factors, such as what is being practiced, who is practicing, is it a group class or a private lesson and what the goal is.

Is there one piece of advice that you can give the readers to improve their playing right now?

Two actually : believe you can do it. Trust yourself : there's no going around that part. And your heroes were beginners once, too...

And pay attention to whatever you're not paying attention to usually. If you're focused on your left hand 99% of the time, I bet your right hand does things it shouldn't. Things that hold you back are more often than not those you don't focus on enough.

How can prospective students contact you for lessons?

They can email me directly at or visit my website

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