John Petrucci: recording guitar is like beard trimming

John Petrucci performs during the G3 concert at Eventim Apollo on April 25, 2018 in London, England
(Image credit: Neil Lupin/Redferns)

It’s hardly news that John Petrucci is one of current rock and metal’s greatest electric guitar players, landing spots on our lists of the best solos and best riffs of 2020.

But over the past few years, the man has also vaulted to the very top of the list of facial hair farmers, even releasing his own Nebula line of beard and mustache grooming products.

Now, in a new interview with Petrucci has brought together his love for shredding and shaving. Asked whether he ever has a tendency to “go back and re-record” something that he initially improvised on guitar, he said:

“Yes I do, I do but a lot of times I’ll end up using the initial recording because for whatever reason it happened organically and it’s better. There’s something to overthinking where you could actually take away from the feeling of it, so you’ve got to be careful with that. You have to kind of know when to stop.

“It’s like trimming the beard – if you try to get it exactly symmetrical you might just go in a little too much and next thing you know you’ve got to shave the whole thing off!”

As far as whether he improvised any of the leads on his new solo album, Terminal Velocity, Petrucci said, “I’m purposely not improvising. It’s like a painting, you’re trying to get the exact colors right and blend. I’m purposely trying to make the notes interesting and slow down my thought process, so that I can make something cool musically and interesting.” 

He continued, “Some of those ideas, they do stem from like seeds. With Terminal Velocity the opening motif was a song seed that I had collected over the years. The way it happens, I’ll be playing guitar and all of a sudden, I’ll start to stumble upon something that sounds cool. So, I’ll just record it on my phone and put it aside.”

Even while Petrucci is out promoting his solo effort, the guitarist today announced a reunion with Mike Portnoy, Jordan Rudess and Tony Levin for a new Liquid Tension Experiment record. The prog supergroup will release a new album in Spring, 2021.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.