“10 years ago, I would need a record deal. But because of my social media following, I don’t need a label’s capital to fund my music”: Meet Jon Dretto – the online shred star whose guitar playing pranks have helped him clock up a billion views

Jon Dretto
(Image credit: Sincerely, TK)

The name Jon Dretto might not ring any immediate bells, but chances are you’ve already seen his handiwork. Over the past year, the 24-year-old New York-based guitarist has racked up more than 100 million views online for his hilarious video series, Pretending to Be a Beginner, Then Shredding.

In each clip, Dretto strolls unassumingly into a music store, where he elicits smirks and chuckles from clerks and onlookers as he struggles to pick out a few notes on a (sometimes outrageously expensive) guitar. Then in a flash, he lets loose with a dizzying and immaculately played flurry of fretboard wizardry… leaving jaws agape.

“The whole thing’s been a lot of fun,” Dretto says. “I wanted people to laugh and think, ‘This kid is gonna get roasted.’ In the end, everybody is in on the joke. I’ve actually made some good friends at the stores.”

Dretto came up with the idea for such pranks after he paid a visit to a “big management company” in Nashville. “I thought my 20,000 online followers meant something,” he recalls, “but a rep said, ‘This conversation starts at a million.’” 

Dretto blew past that number in short order, and his most recent video series, Begging for Guitar, in which he solos vocal melody lines of famous songs by the likes of Adele, Dua Lipa, and Lady Gaga, has racked up a staggering 1 billion views across various platforms.

Now that he’s amassed a sizable audience, Dretto – who, by the way, is no slouch in the singing department – is beginning to issue his own music. His debut single, Broken Promise, is a rousing pop ballad highlighted by his rip-roaring soloing. 

“The response to the song has been fantastic, and I’m going to put out more songs soon,” he says. “10 years ago, I would need a record deal to do what I’m doing, but because of my social media following and how I’ve structured my career, I don’t need a label’s capital to fund my music. It’s pretty cool.”

Ahh, but the big question: Can we expect more guitar shenanigans videos in the future? Dretto laughs and says, “I don’t want to ruin any surprises. All will be revealed in time.” 

  • Broken Promise is now streaming. Find out more at Jon Dretto.

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Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar World, Guitar Player, MusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.