Welcome to the second ever Guitar Domination Q and A. Last month was the first of our monthly Q and A’s and that was with singer songwriter, Harry Harris. This month, we have someone totally different, a world reknowned guitar teacher and a great guy too – Drue James.Drue runs a site called Learn Guitar In London, but he doesn’t just teach the good folk of London, he teaches many all over the world on his huge YouTube channel which has amassed over 60k subscribers.
He’s a great teacher who keeps things nice and steady and although he specialises in acoustic pop and rock for guitarists everywhere, you’ll find in this months Q and A, there is plenty more to him than just modern pop tuition.
In fact, Drue is a superb guitarist as well as teacher and he has some very eclectic taste. Read on to find out more about Drue where I’ll be picking his brains and getting his best advice for all you guitarists out there. Enjoy.
Bands and Inspiration
Your favourite guitarist?
Michael Akerfelt from Opeth. I really like his feel, I like the fact that He’s not theoretically trained and his solos have a lot of feel and a lot of emotions in them and Yes, he could do the ripping metal stuff but when he’s out doing breakdowns and solos it’s just so good – it’s very emotional.
Best band or artist you have seen live?
It would be Foo Fighters at Reading Festival when I was 17 so I can’t remember the year. They were touring ‘The Colour and the Shape’ at the time and it was just an incredible gig.
If I was hard pressed it would either be The Bends by Radiohead or Okay Computer by Radiohead and I suppose if I had to say one for sure it would have been The Bends.
I preferred their Indie slightly more trimmed down songwriting. Whereas OK computer is fantastic and a really good album and where they got to maturity, I felt they started to get really artsy beyond there and I preferred it when Thom Yorke was talking about his breakdowns and the characters in his life and what was going on in the band so I really liked that.
Favourite song to listen to on a depressing day?
I really like Avril Lavingne; I like Alanis Morissette on a low energy day. I find myself listening to girl solo singers. And If I had to choose one song it would be Birdy and ‘Wings’.
That’s a great example, a really good classic pop song – a great kind of brilliant clean singing voice, and it’s a good album, I like her.
Greatest guitar piece ever recorded?
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin; nothing can really touch that, I don’t think
Best guitar of all time?
I’m not really a geek when it comes to gear and I’m very much of the opinion if it fits my hands and if I like the sound of it and if I like the look of it, then that’s my guitar and I’ll stick to that and I’ll be faithful so I don’t do much shopping around for others.
I mean I play Furch acoustics. I own a PRS and PRS SE custom for my electric which I’m about to perhaps upgrade to either an SG or a Tele.
I’ve played some really nice acoustics over the years but I think Furch seems to be absolutely kicking out the park at the moment. I’ve got a Furch D31 so I suppose that would be my best guitar of all time at the moment.
You as a guitarist
Most difficult thing you’ve ever learned to play on guitar?
I’m always challenging myself so I’m sitting a Grade 8 acoustic exam this year and I’m learning a piece at the moment called ‘Fuel’ out of the grade 8 RGT book and the Grade 8 RGT book and I’d say that that’s pretty challenging, lots of double thumb thing going on.
Favorite guitarist ever?
Once again that would Radiohead closely followed by Oasis. Oasis got me into guitar music when I was a kid, when I was 14 when I listened to Champagne Supernova and it just gave me that epic chills down the spine thing.
There’s no doubt about it, it made me realize that music can touch lots and lots of people and there are people writing songs out there who feel the same way that I do and that made me want to be a song writer and an artist before I became a teacher.
What’s the first song /riff you ever learned on guitar?
It was the theme tune from a Marmite advert!
Why did you choose to play the guitar?
I decided to learn guitar to support my voice so I could sing some songs. A lot of bands I was interested in were playing and a lot of my buddies played it a lot in school so I suppose that was the main reason.
What’s the first guitar you owned?
Yamaha F310, it was a beginner Yamaha and that’s what I suggest to my students to get as well because they are easy to play; the necks are nice and slim so it’s easier to get up and down the neck.
They just make good guitars and they are not so cheap that you can’t play them and they shred your fingers like a lot of high action beginner guitars do.
Self-taught/ formal lessons?
I was self-taught for the 1st year of learning. I did have one lesson at school with a teacher, but it didn’t work out. When I really started learning is when I started writing songs, so I was writing songs every day.
That meant I was playing guitar every day so I was getting better and I learned a lot from friends and jamming with people and I think that that is a really valuable way to learn.
Any unusual tunings you like to use?
Not really, I like the sound of DADGAD and I been learning a couple of things by Gordon Giltrap called Beachcomber which is in DADGAD.
Songs you’d most like to cover, but you haven’t yet?
Nothing really, it would be nice to do a full instrumental of a song I suppose or a total finger style instrumental.
Why did I choose to teach guitar?
I fell into it by accident, I enjoyed it, and I love music, I love watching people getting better and it doesn’t feel like work.
The time flies by continuously and I’m motivated by it and it has possibilities online to reach people from all over the world and to help these people get free or premium lesson, it’s incredible and probably the best thing that has happened to me so far.
Best thing about being a guitar teacher?
You get to choose your own hours, which are awesome. You get to meet a lot of cool people, who are like you if you do your marketing correctly, then you are going to meet people who are just like you, they love the same music that you like and have the same outlook as you in life.
Hardest thing about teaching the guitar?
A lot of teachers say patience, I think for me it’s, the organization side of things like invoicing, numbers that kind of thing, it’s not a forte of mine therefore I get someone else to do it. I have to deal with that sort of work. It’s the small details of running a business.
Your music and gear
Best ever gig?
I had a band called the Nocturnals about three years ago and we released our first album, which was called ‘Doubts’ and we did a gig in London.
I have won a couple of band competitions when I was a kid, when I was 18/19 as the front man of the group band. That was pretty cool. But, I think I am yet to have the best ever gig. I reckon that’s going to happen eventually.
Favourite effects to use and why?
Because I am an acoustic player I don’t often find myself plugging in but when I do, especially with my electric guitar, I do a chord progression using my loop pedal and then play over the loop with some delay and I really like that.
The other thing is my compressor, I’ve got the TC electronics compressor and I guess that makes a big difference to the signal.
What does your current gear setup look like?
On my electric guitar I’ve got a power block, a pedal board, chromatic tuner, a compressor and then I’ve got my loop station, my delay, distortion and I’ve got holy grail pedal.
One piece of gear you couldn’t live without?
My acoustic guitar. There’s no way I could function without that.
Favourite song to play live?
‘Chasing cars’ by snow patrol
Most embarrassing moment on stage?
Being on stage with flies undone!
Best moment of being a performer so far?
I think my favorite moment is when I look around the band and everybody is just having it. They’re all on point and they’re all enjoying it and that is a song that you’ve written.
Where do you find inspirations for your song ideas?
A lot of stuff I write these days are instrumental, acoustic stuff and the last song I wrote was based on ‘The Masterplan’ by Oasis.
Who would you most like on backing vocals, Dave Grohl, Rihanna, Barry Manilow or Chaz and Dave?
Rihanna. Her voice is exceedingly unique and I think she would suit a backing vocal better than the rest of them. I wouldn’t imagine Dave Grohl doing backing, I mean that guy has got a huge voice.
Barry Manilow, not a fan of. Chaz and Dave…, well they would be good to just have them there in between vocal takes, they could just take the mickey out of you and yeah I think that would be awesome.
Tips and advice
Top advice for new bands/artists trying to make it?
My advice is, you got to love it, if you are not enjoying it, then there’s no point in making a career out of it.
Write down your reasons for why you want to make it as a profession. What are your motivations to do it and then decide if that’s enough to make you happy, if that’s what you really need to make you happy.
That’s the best advice I can give you; you’ve got to love it. If you don’t love it, then there’s no point.
What does your typical day of routine practice look like?
My typical day really is dealing a lot with the business side and video side of learn guitar in London and teaching guitar lessons, but when it comes to me practicing, I do have around 45 minutes a day, that’s all I get time for.
At the moment my practice routine involves around improving my fingerstyle guitar and studying for my grade 8 acoustic guitar exam I’ve got soon.
Any tips you’d like to share with other guitarists?
Don’t quit the day job until you get to the point when you got a buzz around you, there are regular people turning up for your gigs and there are enough people around you that believe in your music.
As much as you do, I think at that point it might be time to switch over, but I wouldn’t do that until I got to that point.
Greatest ever chord?
I like the E Major 7th chord.
Best advice for beginner guitarists?
Come and have lessons with Drue James, check my channel out. You can learn to read music which is important, but learn to listen to music and work out how things are being played by listening to it.
The other piece of advice would be to improvise, to jam, to play with others as much as possible.
Best tip or one piece of advice you were ever given as a guitarist?
Don’t be in a rush; don’t feel that because someone else can do it, you should be able to do it by now.
General thoughts on learning guitar for our readers?
I would say don’t overdo it. When I started learning I got a ‘Learn to play Blur’ book and I was getting the chords down, I got obsessive so I played for three hours, making my fingers bleed.
I got blisters on my fingers and I don’t think that’s the way to treat young fingers. You’ve got the baby skin fingers and you need to build them up through a regular short buzz of practice.
If I did want to play a bit longer on baby fingers, I’d do half an hour take a break and then another half an hour after that.
Best music festival you went to?
I’d probably say Glastonbury three years ago.
Bands you would most like to tour with?
Festival you would most want to play?
Thanks to Drue for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. It always good to read what others are upto and pick their brains.
If you want to learn from Drue, check out his site over at Learn Guitar In London.
If you are a working guitarist in any field and want to be interviewed for upcoming Q and A’s, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org