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Tim Henson: “When you compose something, it should sound good in its most bare state. Once it sounds good, you can add whatever you want”

Tim Henson of Polyphia
(Image credit: Future)

Of all the boundary-smashing guitarists in the world today, few are as forward-thinking or innovative as Polyphia’s Tim Henson. Take his playing in Playing God – from the prog quartet’s forthcoming album Remember That You Will Die – for example.

Over an intricate trap-style beat, Henson plays a series of jaw-dropping noodles on an Ibanez Talman nylon-string acoustic guitar, and in the absence of much signal processing, lays his formidable compositional and playing skills bare.

As the guitarist explains in an interview in the new issue of Total Guitar, getting the actual composition of his guitar lines as perfect as possible is the key to ensuring a smooth ride in recording and post-production.

“I’ve been a firm believer, even before I picked this [Ibanez Talman] up, that when you compose something, it should sound good and complete in its most bare state,” he explains. “Once it sounds good by itself, you can add whatever you want in post-production, or move it to a guitar with a whammy bar. If it sounds good on [a nylon-string], it’s most likely going to sound good on anything.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Henson shares what he’s learnt since diving deeper into the world of classical-style playing.

“You have to be a bit more accurate,” he says. “The meat of your finger has to land exactly where it’s supposed to and stay very stable. You end up mainly vibratoing like a bass player where you’re shifting between two frets. Bending the string doesn’t really give the same tonality.”

Back in May, Henson published a video of himself offering a flawless performance of Playing God in its entirety. Check that out to watch the enviable accuracy of his playing in all its glory.

Polyphia are gearing up to drop Remember That You Will Die, though no official release date has yet been announced. Two singles have thus far been released: Playing God and the rage beat-inspired Neurotica.

Last year, Tim Henson made waves in the guitar community when he referred to “boomer-ish bends” – guitar bends you’d typically hear in traditional blues-style playing – and how he prefers to avoid them.

His comments sparked a sort of generational divide, with younger players embracing his forward-thinking, past-discarding attitude, while older, more seasoned players seemingly regarded his views as a threat to their very existence.

Read all about Tim Henson's newfound penchant for nylon-string guitars and more in the new issue of Total Guitar (opens in new tab).

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Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar (opens in new tab).