John Petrucci: 'Just Because Something is Very Technical Doesn't Mean it's Not Melodic'

"Just because you've developed the craft on your instrument doesn't mean you don't have the ability to be expressive emotionally," says Dream Theater axeman.

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Dream Theater axeman John Petrucci brought up the matter of high technical skills robbing guitarists of genuine emotion and expression, an opinion widespread among his critics, as well as the critics of his fellow axe virtuosos. The guitarist reached the given subject during a Grammy chat, initially saying that "it's really hard to describe music without alienating somebody. You can say that this album ["Dream Theater"] sounds a lot heavier, and people would say 'That sucks.' Some people might be really happy about that. Or you could say it's a lot more melodic, and people could get mad like you said." Petrucci then switched to more specific examples. "To me, that mentality where it's one or the other drives me nuts," he said. "To give you an example as a guitar player, there has always been this argument, like these two sides where guitar players can only be technical or play with feeling, it's one or the other." The guitarist continued, "But to me that makes no sense whatsoever. My favorite guitar players have both. Just because you have developed the craft on your instrument doesn't mean that you don't have the ability to be expressive emotionally on that instrument, or vice versa. Just because something is melodic or catchy doesn't mean that it doesn't have depth and substance and progressive sensibilities. "Just because something is very technical or heavy doesn't mean that it's not melodic. You know what I mean? To me, it's not one or the other. That's part of the progressive spirit, that's part of the spirit of Dream Theater we try to keep all of those elements in mind when we write," he concluded. Dream Theater are currently warming up for the release of their new, self-titled album on September 24 through Roadrunner Records. The record was recently streamed in full, you can check it out here. Can too much technical skill truly rob you of guitar emotion? Let us know in the comments.

37 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I enjoy a bit of Dream Theater and I can recognise that they are all very talented musicians, but sometimes I feel like they're being technical for the sake of it and not really pushing many boundaries. Petrucci does make a good point though, a lot of good music has the best of both worlds.
    Yeah I feel the same way about DT myself but I definitely 100% agree with him here. He also makes another great point about how something can be both heavy and melodic at the same time. Songs like Fight Fire With Fire or In The Name of God [in Petrucci's case] are perfect examples of that.Its this characteristic I mainly look for in metal bands and you'll notice that the best bands manage to combine both consistently.
    Whilst John is one of the rare players that can combine the both, I do see a lot of players today who do concentrate on one or the other. I know plenty of shredders who write songs that no one but shedders would want to listen to. In my opinion if you can shred a scale at 200 bpm, but cant create an emotive song, you're failing as a musician.
    Agreed, this is a fundamental part of why people like Steve Vai or Joe Satriani are so appealing to listen to, a lot of people I see who take up the shred don't actually realise this.
    i would say petrucci fits both sides of this argument as a guitar player. the dude can shred like crazy then bust out a beautiful melodic solo
    To people that say the more technical you get the less feeling you put into your works, all i can say is flamenco. It's simply gotten more and more technical over its span as a genre, and it never lost the feeling put into it. I mean just look at Estas Tonne. He plays some very complicated out there stuff, even for flamenco, but it doesn't have any less feeling. While there's a different type and level of technicality in metal today than what is truly comparable to flamenco, I still submit that the basic fact is that technicality on the guitar is simply another means by which to express feelings and thoughts that the artist decides is expressed BEST by said technicality. Nothing more, nothing less.
    Personally id say if your just shredding for the sake of shredding sure it can ruin the melody, and emotion is different for everyone
    The most famous riffs are often the simplest. Nowadays, I imagine the difficult part of writing a catchy riff is keeping it short and sweet.
    John Petrucci may actually be the best melodic guitar player around - just check out his solos in Another Day, This is the Life, Trial of Tears, Goodnight Kiss, Breaking All Illusions, Learning to Live, Peruvian Skies, The Spirit Carries On, etc.
    Wise words from Petrucci. I've heard from countless people, musicians and non who say DT and Petrucci are too robotic and have no emotionm or they aren't melodic. I then revert them to Breaking All Illusions, Under A Glass Moon, The Spirit Carries On, Trial of Tears, and In The Name of God, among others
    "Soul" isn't a real, tangible quality of a song or piece of music. It just comes down to personal taste. People are quick to rationalise their opinions by assigning properties to subjective things in their own favour. To affirm their beliefs with very bold, absolute claims. Music that is hard to play often gets unfairly dismissed as "noise" too quickly. Its fair enough if it doesn't appeal to someone; but the fact that it is technical shouldn't add or detract to the music or its fanbase.
    don't like petrucci at all, but hes right. The only people that knock shredding/technical playing are the people that can't do it themselves.
    This "shredders suck because they don't play with feeling" attitude has got to go. I remember it starting in the 90s when half the top bands could barely play an AC/DC solo. If you think Petrucci or even Yngwie can't play a slow emotional solo, then you are deluded. Just because the music is going too fast for you to (play) understand the emotion behind it, don't bash it. You hear very few shredders bashing non-shredder music. Okay, Ygnwie does but he is a minority.
    Sorry if that came off a little strong there, but I hate the argument that shredders make by saying that we don't understand. It makes you seem just as narrow-minded as the "feeling" argument that bands who don't shred make.
    Also, on the other side of the spectrum: Shredders need to get past the whole self-righteous, egotistical "you don't understand" attitude that a lot of shredders have where they think they're better than other guitarist who don't shred. By saying we "don't understand" makes you seem like a pompous prick. We do understand, we just don't like playing like that, so we don't. That's it. It's not because we don't understand, it's just very unappealing to play sixteenth-note sextuplets with sweep picked arpeggios all the time.
    Well, I think people might be excusing it both ways now. Can't think of a memorable melody or catchy solo? play this scale lick 4 times at max speed. Can't play this 16th note run at 180 bpm finishing with a 6 note tuplet sweeps and taps? that's because I have too much feeling to lose it in the notes. I tend to think the beautiful melodies are slower than the shred, so it pays to understand tonality and slower tempo to make dynamics deliberate. whereas shred has a wow factor to it and there is nothing wrong with a little flash. Shred is where your skill as a musician comes out, feeling is where your musician comes out
    You CAN have technicality and melody! Listen to Enigma Machine and Surrender to Reason!
    I agree 100% with this statement. but I have to say that to my ears, dream theater can often sound too technical. you that sound that your ear persieces as 'out of tune', but its actually in tune in some jazzy way. that sound is the reason why I have never really gotten into dream theater. but thats just me and my preference to obvious melodies. "the best of times" is a DT song thats blown me away with its very melodic and technical solo.
    I understand what you mean there man. That being said, I think that is just generally how Dream Theater write music. I was always wondering if they all just play like that just for the sake of being technical but after listening to solo Petrucci stuff, solo Rudess stuff, Liquid Tension Experiment and hell, even Winery Dogs you can see that the guys just write music like that! N.B. The Best of Times is awesome!
    "Just because something is very technical, it doesn't mean it is good". FIXED
    Who are you to tell me what is good or not? If I personally enjoy it, then how is it not good to me? Music is not black or white; enjoyment of a certain musical piece varies from person to person.
    Most music fans don't understand this, and act more like team sports fans.
    I didn't give my opinion on anything. I said just because something is technical, doesn't mean it is good. A valid point many people seem to miss. Also EXACTLY the same point that HitmanJenkins made and got the gold medal for. I never said anything about DT, nor did I tell you what is or isn't good. Get off my back please.
    link no1
    Your comment was out of nowhere and not related to anything in the article. Nobody said that technical = good, it wasn't even vaguely mentioned yet, you bring it up. It looked like an insult and was unnecessary in the first place for having little relevance to the article.
    in what terms!!! beauty lies in the eye of beholder!! i've seen ppl who tend to incline to so called expression or feelings don't have the capacity or such ability!! its just an excuse for them!! its only the matter of taste which is different to everybody!! learn to cope with different sound or jst stay away!!
    I actually think Dream Theater kinda lost "the sound"... The band always had a groove amazing sound, plus the all the tecnical stuff... this last cd is all the tecnical stuff... but that "groovey" is missing.
    What are you talking about, man? There was plenty of groove on their last release. DT isn't one of those bands that is groove heavy, but their last release was no less "groove-y" (in the loosest sense of the word) than any of their previous releases.
    Yeah, I'm also not too fond of the new album, at least after a first few listens