Skip to main content

Neal Schon: 5 things we learned from his Ernie Ball String Theory episode

Journey axeman Neal Schon stars in the latest episode of String Theory, and you can watch it above.

A web series created by Ernie Ball, the show explores sonic origins of influential and innovative musicians. In the episode, Schon discusses his history with guitar, playing with Santana and Journey, and much more. 

Below, you can find five facts revealed in the episode.

1. Schon's cousin taught him his first few songs (0:24)

"One of my cousins played guitar in a Paul Revere and the Raiders cover band. I used to go to this roller rink with my cousins, and he was playing guitar. And so he taught me the first few songs that I learned; Louie Louie, Gloria, and then I just took off from there. 

2. He used to hide in basements of clubs while gigging underage (0:54)

"I was playing around a lot in the Bay Area. Broadway - when it was all blues and jazz clubs - I would just walk around up and down with a guitar. Any club owner that would let me play, because I was underage, would keep me in the basement. They'd say, 'You can come up and play, but then you gotta go back down to the basement. Don't drink any water - don't drink anything!'" 

3. His parents laughed at him when he told them he thought he'd join Santana (1:58)

"I remember sitting down at the dinner table with my folks, and I said, 'You know, I think I'm going to get in this band, Santana. I think they're going to ask me.' And they both start hysterically laughing...The next day the Santana guys asked me to join."

4. Eric Clapton asked Schon to join his band while he was in high school (3:19)

"I picked up an acoustic guitar, and I played him - pretty much note for note -  Crossroads, Spoonfull, stuff that was off the live Wheels of Fire record. He gave me a great compliment, and then he proceeded to ask me to move to England to join the band. So I said, 'I'd love to play with you, but I don't know if I'm ready to go to England. I'm actually still, legally, in high school. I have to get my parents' permission to be able to go do anything - even if it's with Santana!'"

5. He believes the idea of bigger strings for better tone is a myth (6:14)

"Some days, if I'm practicing straight for 6 hours, 5 hours, I'll play with 8s on a Strat or a Tele. And it feels great, and I love it. I'll play 9s mostly, but then other times I'll play 10s. They all sound good to me. I think it's more between your fingers, and the amplifier and the guitar. I'm gonna play what's comfortable to me."

Of course, these are just five facts pulled from the clip. You can watch the entire episode above. 

Watch more Ernie Ball String Theory