Profile: American Guitarist John “Overlord” Petrucci

That’s right, we all know that Petrucci is the greatest and most diverse guitarist alive today – no question, but if you happen to have doubts, read this.


In the early days

John Pertrucci, originally form Long Island, New York, began his incredible career by attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. This is where he hooked up with the legendary drummer Mike Portnoy, and with the help of childhood friend John Myung began a band called Majesty, which would later blossom into Dream Theater.

In Petrucci’s biography section on his website, he lists some influences such as Steve Morse, Al DiMeola, Steve Howe, Allan Holdsworth, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Randy Rhoads, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Alex Lifeson, Yngwie Malmsteen, Rush, Yes, Iron Maiden, The Dregs and Metallica. Knowing as much as I do about his career and past work, I believe this list to be an accurate description of how he plays. Notice Rush and Yes have two mentions, the guitarists and their respective bands, it maybe redundant but I think it says something about his take on Progressive Rock.

Scenes from the Dream Theater

When I was about 14, I thought that if I could play any Metallica song, I would be great. Then at 15, I thought that if I could play any Iron Maiden song, only then would I be great. Then I discovered Dream Theater from a friend of mine and that was it for me. After listening to Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence and Scenes From A Memory I was hooked. Petrucci’s riffs and soloing may seem a bit flashy, but remember he is a progressive rock musician at heart; it just comes out of him. To this day when I dig into attempting a John Petrucci song, I still fall flat on my face. Its not that I am a terrible guitarist, it’s just that Petrucci is one of the best. Not only is he lightning fast, but when he needs to be, he is also crazy about rhythm, which can be incredibly tedious to emulate, but the challenge only makes you a better guitarist.

Listen to Liquid Tension Experiment 1 & 2, then tell me what Petrucci cannot do. The track Acid Rain, will humble the most boastful and tell them that’s ok, just practice more.

Shortly after becoming obsessed with Petrucci, I searched from articles, lessons and videos he has made to better my own playing. There is so much out there. I have a vivid memory in high school of sitting on the edge of my bed and watching the DVDs 5 Years in a Livetime, Images and Words Live in Tokyo and Metropolis 2000:Scenes From New York over and over again with a guitar in my lap. At that point in my playing, the only song I remember keeping up with is YTSE Jam. Petrucci also has a guitar lesson video out called ROCK DISCIPLINE (I made that bold and italic for a reason), ROCK DISCIPLINE is essential viewing for anybody who wants to discipline their fingers. Even at age 21, I still practice with exercises from this video to this day. Here’s a taste of some of his exercises:

Not only does he have an impressive career of his own, playing, writing and producing for Dream Theater, he also has side projects and features on other people’s albums, such as Jon Finn’s album Wicked. Jon Finn is a professer at Berklee College of Music in Boston, with whom I was lucky enough to take a class with one summer. Finn is and excellent guitarist and a fellow Ibanez endorser, which is how they met.

Music Man

Petrucci doesn’t support that 1980’s African inspired Ibanez anymore, now he has his own Petrucci Music Man.

Oh, and now he’s a body builder too

I cannot emphasize this enough. Petrucci practiced and practiced to get to the level he is at today, and he is at the top of his game. Petrucci is consistently named best guitarist of the year by various different organizations. He has the discipline of a saint when it comes to guitar and fairly recently, it has carried over into bodybuilding. We, as budding guitarists can all learn something from Petrucci, if you work hard, results will follow. My recommendation to all readers is to take a song of his that blows your mind, (there will be many) and dive right into trying to play it. I do not care what you use… tabs, sheet music, GuitarPro, whatever. Keep at it for a while. Weeks, months, in my case years of working on Glasgow Kiss.

Just start at half speed and work yourself up, pay attention to how you sound as much as grabbing the right notes, and anything else you delve into will benefit from this practice.

Oh, and if you get frustrated, watch these:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbTnnjcIt7M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3okO9qGt7A4&feature=related

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  • I’m exactly the same as you apart from I never got into Maiden too much. I bought John’s guitar in the hopes that something magical would happen…it didnt 🙁

    Great post!

  • Stan

    I saw Dream Theater once – they were sorta half-opening for “Yes” half headlining along with “Yes”…

    I must say I was very, very impressed!!!

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