In a sea of guitarists all vying for a slice of the YouTube pie, Bradley Hall seems to have stumbled upon a winning formula for success. Blending both his formidable electric guitar skills and undeniable knack for comedy, his videos have garnered a following of over 240,000 subscribers at the time of writing.
But the British shredder asserts that his YouTube success is simply a result of “sheer persistence”. “Since my channel started to gain some momentum in 2019, I became pretty damn obsessed with YouTube and have been uploading, on average, two to three times a week since then with minimal breaks,” he says.
Harnessing this obsession, Hall has become one of the biggest players in the YouTube guitar sphere, building a name poking fun at heavy metal bands, stereotypes and clichés and showcasing his enviable musical ability while doing so.
Take his five-minute speed-run series, for example, in which he attempts to compose and record his own songs – with full instrumentation and vocals – in the style of famous metal bands in only 5 minutes or less. Thus far, he’s tackled the likes of Slipknot, Iron Maiden, System of a Down, recreating their respective musical styles with impressive accuracy given such a restrictive brief.
“I work out loose structure in my head beforehand and have a quick couple of run-throughs on the drums, just so I know it will fit roughly within the five-minute timeframe,” he confesses. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do a little bit of prep!”
But he confirms that the performances, guitar riffs and lyrics are off the cuff. “The aim of this series was to try and capture the essence of a given band as quickly and as raw-ly as possible, so it would defeat the purpose if everything was thoroughly thought out,” he says.
Ambition is also a key contributing factor to Hall’s success. His content output reached an apex earlier this year when he turned The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring into a three-hour metal song, stripping away Howard Shore’s legendary orchestral score and replacing it with shreddy six-string leads and chuggy powerchords.
The project, he says, took “just under four months from inception to completion”, though he admits it would have taken “well over a year” if he wasn’t able to work on YouTube full time. “It was an insane amount of work due to the film’s excessive runtime, and came very close to burning me out,” he reveals.
Hall’s guitar playing history is rich – he began his six-string journey almost 20 years ago. And over the course of two decades, he’s been inspired by a wide range of influences, some from well outside metal – or indeed the music sphere in general.
“I spent countless hours watching Disney’s Fantasia on VHS as a little kid,” he recalls, “which sort of embedded classical music into me and is probably my biggest musical influence. Then when I was 13, I discovered Megadeth’s Rust in Peace and The Darkness’s Permission to Land, which are the two albums that got me into guitar music and led me down the heavy metal rabbit hole.
“I also spent a lot of my 20s in various places around Europe, thus being subjected to copious amounts of Europop, which no doubt had some sort of effect judging by my Spotify history. That sort of music has such an optimistic, strong sense of melody – I love it!”
But as you’d expect, Hall lists a selection of shredders among his inspirations, including former Megadeth man Marty Friedman, and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, who he describes as “one galaxy-brained musician”.
Like many YouTube guitarists, Bradley Hall takes a forward-thinking approach to his equipment. Keen-eyed gear-heads will have noticed a Kemper amp modeler lurking in the background of many of his videos, a unit he describes as a “life-changer”, adding that it “made everything about writing, recording and performing music infinitely more practical”.
“As fun as it is standing in front of a big-ass valve amp turned up to 11, traditional amps have always just been a source of frustration for me,” he says, listing technical faults, weight and varying acoustics depending on location as pain points.
“I’m not really that much of a stickler when it comes to guitar tones, so it doesn’t bother me at all that using modelers isn’t the most ‘authentic’ experience. I love the fact that someone who knows what they’re doing can dial in a sick tone and I can just nab it for myself!”
As for wisdom he’d share with those looking to build a following on YouTube, his advice is threefold. First, you must play “the YouTube game”.
“Unless you're in the 0.1 percent of god-tier players who can be carried by talent alone – which unfortunately most of us aren't – then you really do need to embrace clickbait and memes, whether you like it or not!” he explains.
“Find creative ways to package your videos, for example instead of calling a video ‘My New Shred Guitar Solo 2022’, call it something like ‘When You Play a Solo and Accidentally Open a Wormhole to the Fifth Dimension’, complete with an equally intriguing thumbnail. Coming up with a hooky title and thumbnail is a skill in itself and something that I put a lot of effort into.”
Second, it's important to pick a specific niche. “I know it's tempting to post lots of different types of content but while you're still growing your channel you really shouldn't,” he says.
“Pick one type of content – be it gear, reviews, covers, memes, whatever – and go hard on it. When you have a solid following, you can start experimenting with different types of content, but until then you will grow so much quicker this way.”
Lastly, “don't be afraid to talk in your videos and inject some of your personality,” Hall adds. “The last thing the world needs is another anonymous headless YouTube guitarist!”
For all his acquired wisdom, Hall confesses the success of his own videos remains something of a mystery.
“As for why people are drawn to my channel, I'm not sure,” he muses. “I guess some come for the guitar playing, some for the silliness, some for the beans. But I think if you're genuine and passionate about what you do, people pick up on that.”
Like many musicians making YouTube videos, it's often only a matter of time before they dabble in writing and releasing their own material. Back in 2020, Bradley Hall dropped his first official single, Secrets of the Dream, a “light-hearted, balls-to-the-wall melodic metal escapade” featuring fellow YouTuber Chance Battenberg on vocals.
And while he admits he prefers making videos to writing music, he plans to release more original material in 2022.
“I'll be releasing a thrash album within the coming months which I'm super-hyped about,” he reveals. “It's got a proper old-school crossover vibe à la early Anthrax/Dirty Rotten Imbeciles/Municipal Waste, with silly lyrics and ridiculous guitar solos in abundance.”
Hall is keeping his cards close to his chest regarding an exact release date, so you'll have to stay tuned to his official YouTube channel (opens in new tab) for more info. But silly lyrics? Ridiculous guitar solos? We reckon Hall fans are gonna love it.