Joe Satriani Remembers Giving Guitar Lessons to Kirk Hammett: 'He Was Already Shredding'

Guitar master gives Metallica kudos for pioneering guitar efforts.

Ultimate Guitar

Apart from being one of the top guitarists of all time, Joe Satriani is well known as the guitar teacher of some of the prominent axemen such as Alex Skolnick, Steve Vai, Rick Hunolt, Larry LaLonde and Kirk Hammett.

Recently asked about the Metallica guitarist, Joe shared nothing but praises for Hammett's guitar playing, as well as the band's contribution to music.

"The main thing with Kirk that was really a lot of fun was he was a really good guitar player when he walked [through] the door," Satch told Concertfly. "He was already playing lead guitar for Exodus, so he was already shredding. He had a great right hand, he knew most of his chords, he just didn't learn how to play in an environment where he learned all the names and how to connect everything together.

"So my job was to take advantage of the fact that his fingers were already moving like crazy, and we could focus entirely on melodic and harmonic possibilities that he hadn't yet been exposed to, which means I would show him more developed chord structures," Joe continued. "I would show him how to figure out what key he was in, and I would show him all the different melodic possibilities that exist, scales basically. That's a fancy way of saying I had to show him scales and he had to practice them all over the neck.

"The thing that was very interesting that a lot of people don't realize, is that it was very exciting because I noticed that Kirk's age, all the way down to let's say about 10 years old, my students were at the very beginning of what turned into thrash metal, and what became what everybody knows as Metallica and every other band that was sort of under their wing there," the guitarist further explained. "They were coming up with material that changed the harmonic structure that a then budding lead player would be stuck playing over. So for instance, I wouldn't know the names of the songs, but Kirk would bring in some chord progressions and he’d say, 'Hey, me and James were working on this thing and I think there’s going to be a solo over this section, but I have no idea what key it's in.'"

Giving Metallica kudos for pioneering efforts, Satriani added, "In those songs people hadn't really soloed over chord structures like that, they weren't blues chord structures, they weren't pop structures, they weren't jazz structures. It wasn't cut and dry, and I think if you took even somebody as accomplished as Steve Lukather, who during that time was the first-call electric guitar player in LA for sessions. He probably would have looked at the chord progression and gone: 'Oh my god, what are you going to do over this?' What it took was the new generation to say 'Okay, I'm not going to get psychedelic, I'm not going to get bluesy, I have to create a new path to solo over this new kind of chord progression.'"

34 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'm not too keen on either of them as Guitar players HOWEVER, this was really interesting to read and a breath of fresh air from all the negative articles being posted. Both seem like nice dudes that just love Guitar.
    Kirk is a great guitarist regardless of what people may say, especially when it comes to his use of the wah pedal. It's a tool, just like any other pedal, he just happens to use it a lot. Nobody ever bagged on Tom Morello for his extensive use of the Whammy Pedal in RATM, that's just one example. Can't stop the negative comments I suppose, when a band is as big as Metallica it draws them in...
    What a glorious time it must have been back then just as thrash was kicking off.
    "I'm not going to get bluesy, I have to create a new path to solo over this new kind of chord progression." So let's just stay in pentatonic scale the whole time how's that? oh don't forget we can just do very quick chromatic descending licks with Wah, that'd do it. That way we don't need to care bout what damn key we in!
    I'm sure Kirk's a pretty decent player. It's not like he writes all the songs or anything. Kirk's kinda just settled into the style he's comfortable with.
    great story and all, but i gotta say satch should have kirk back for a lesson or two, to maybe reignite his guitar work from the kill em record and turn off the wah for a bit. love kirk but c'mon guy why all the wah?
    I respect Kirk for being part of the creation of a new music genre, and the influence he had on thousands of guitarists, including myself. I just don't understand why he stopped improving as a guitarist, it's not even that he stagnated, he's actually a worse guitarist these days. I find that truly uninspiring. I'd like to know if he is able to write a song from start to finish, like Satriani does. I wish he would attempt to record an instrumental solo album, with WAH on every single instrument of course :
    It's great to see anything about Joe. Honestly, for all the garbage that gets posted in the UG news you'd think there would be more about actual serious guitarists.
    Yeah. For a guitar website there is not enough stuff from guitarists about guitar. I'm not saying that they should stop doing general music news, but they should focus on what the masters of the craft are saying about the instrument. I remember when the interviews were on the front page.
    Kirk revolutionised lead guitar playing back in the day and thats a fact, dont let anybody tell you otherwise
    Great article. Joe and kirk are my top 2 favorite guitarists. I always wondered what Joe thought of him.
    Didn't he teach Alex Skolnick too?
    I'm sorry, but how did you miss the second bolded thing in the article? "Apart from being one of the top guitarists of all time, Joe Satriani is well known as the guitar teacher of some of the prominent axemen such as Alex Skolnick , Steve Vai, Rick Hunolt, Larry LaLonde and Kirk Hammett."
    I would not criticize either of them from a playing point of view, but Joe's headgear..... Hmmmmm!!
    he was being nice, what was he gonna say? 'kirk blows" ? And how did kirk 'make' metallica. they ripped off mustiane And We All Know That, i love joe, but this wasnt thought out at all..... WHA WHA WHA .....