In this wide ranging conversation they discuss prog metal vs prog rock, modes, the tutorial generation, music gear, early influences, and how they practice.
Prog Metal vs Prog Rock
Guitar sound can dictate the genre, if the tone has a lot of gain, edge, more on the metal side, more mids on the Rock side.
The tone of the guitar can often lead the direction of the song genre.
Harmony (b5) can elicit dark “metal” moods.
Your intent is of paramount importance to deliver a metal mood.
Many aspects of our life are in odd-time (the way we walk, talk) – so the odd time signatures used in prog music are in a sense “natural”.
When learning modes, many ways to learn and teach them – ultimately comes down to how they sound, what moods do they invoke?
The Tutorial Generation
Today you can learn almost anything as a guitar player online (YouTube, Instagram)
Sure you can learn the techniques, but what is your goal? What is the practical purpose for learning these techniques? How will you apply them?
Pros – you can learn exactly how something is played, the tone that was used.
Cons – you miss out on the struggling involved, to develop your own unique sound, to develop your ear.
Gear (Digital vs Real amp)
Digital vs Real amp: a key missing piece from digital is the “randomness” of the tone coming out of the physical amp due to the subtle differences in how the air is pushed through the amp, the randomness of what is occurring in the physical space.
Ultimately pick what works for you! If it’s digital, go with digital. If it’s a real amp, go through a real amp.
No right answer here.
Mixing Dream Theater guitar & keys
Insight was to treat keyboard (lead) tone like a guitar – on latest record ended up using the Plini Neural DSP plugin to process the keyboard lead sound, gave it it’s own distinct tone that worked well with the guitar mix (vs mixing a stereo lead keyboard sound).
Tosin: Liquid Tension Experiment, Dream Theater, Meshuggah
John: Steve Morse, Rush, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Judas Priest
Devin: Enya (Watermark album), King’s X, Metallica, Def Leppard, Theater soundtracks (Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story)
Evolution of John Petrucci’s Tone
Large part due to the evolution of his signature guitar: Neck-Through, different woods, evolution of pickups.
Improvements in technology for recording sound (mics, software). John really likes the sE Electronics VR2 microphone.
Home Studio vs Regular Studio
Risk at home studio is you have no time restrictions, so it’s easier to start second guessing yourself and potentially moving slower.
Devin likes to record drums in a traditional studio and finish the other parts at his home studio.
Devin Townsend Tuning
Devin uses an Open C tuning (C, G, C, G, C, E)
John: Practices everyday. Steve Morse inspired alternate picking exercises (1 note per string, 2 notes per string, 3, 4 notes exercises). Don’t need to play fast, in controlled way, 20-minute exercise.
Will pick out challenging areas from Dream Theater songs that are on the current setlist, set a 5 minute timer and work on each part with a metronome.
Tosin: Various exercises from Rock Discipline. Puts on a backing track and improvises.
Devin: Morning routine, makes coffee, has a Helix looper, turns on a YouTube video of a train ride (cab view) to the North pole, and jams to that. Eventually things evolve and become ideas and material for songs.