Fret12 has recently released Mark Tremonti: The Sound and the Story, an instructional DVD featuring former Creed and current Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti. Thanks to Fret12, I’ve been watching the DVD over the past few weeks and highly recommend it.
The DVD is divided into three parts covering three hours of content. The first part is called “The Story” and features mostly background information about Tremonti, including a tour of his guitar rig. The second part features guitar instruction by Tremonti. The third part features guest lessons by some tremendous shredders. The DVD also comes with a 30+ page tab booklet, a Morley sticker, and a pick, which is a nice touch.
I’m somewhat of a biography buff, so I enjoyed this part. It was interesting to find out that Tremonti was only the second artist to receive a PRS signature guitar. Santana was the only other artist with a PRS signature guitar when Tremonti received his. It was also interesting to hear others speak about how much he plays the guitar; it sounds like if he’s awake, he’s playing guitar, which is probably one reason why he’s such a great guitar player. And, he is a great guitar player.
Even though he’s won numerous guitar magazine awards, in my opinion, Tremonti’s an underrated guitar player. This is partly because Tremonti was often overshadowed in Creed by frontman Scott Stapp’s numerous antics. Regarding Creed, there’s virtually no mention of his time in Creed. I understand that Tremonti has moved on past Creed, but given that Creed is a big part of Tremonti’s musical past, it would have been nice to have heard a little bit about how we wrote some of the music in Creed. However, it was interesting to get a backstage look at how Tremonti warms up as well as writes songs.
Tremonti’s lessons are divided into two parts: solos and techniques. The solos section covers eight of Tremonti’s solos from Alter Bridge’s latest album, Blackbird. I like the approach that is taken with this section. The solos are played full speed and then played slowly. The tab booklet includes tab for all of the solos, so you can follow along. There’s also some live footage of Tremonti playing the solos with Alter Bridge.
While I enjoyed the solos section, I am getting more out of the techniques section. There are some great technique exercises on the DVD; these alone are worth the price of the DVD, in my opinion! Tremonti demonstrates exercises for fingerstyle/alternate tunings, legato, vibrato, picking, and rhythm. Like the solos section, Tremonti first plays the exercises at full speed, and then plays many of them slowly so that you can really get a feel for them. Additionally, the tab book includes tab for many of the exercises.
The fingerstyle/alternate tunings exercises are very interesting and are quite nice. In the exercises, Tremonti demonstrates his approach to alternate tunings on an acoustic guitar. He mentions how sometimes if he gets writer’s block, he’ll use an alternate tuning to help break free of the block. For each alternate tuning, he includes what I would call etudes demonstrating how to play in the tuning. The etudes are very nice pieces in and of themselves.
The legato exercises are brutal! He displays a technique he learned from Rusty Cooley (who is one of the guest artists on the DVD) that helps improve finger strength and finger independence. I can already tell a difference, and I thought my fingers were pretty strong already! I suspect that I’ll be working on these exercises for some time to come.
The picking section covers techniques such as alternate picking and string sweeping. I’m still working through these exercises, but I can say that they really help you focus on picking. I found it interesting that Tremonti first fully warms up his left hand before working on his picking hand, which helps him ensure that any picking problems are actually a result of his right hand and not his left hand. This is an interesting approach that makes sense when you think about it.
The rhythm section also focuses a lot on picking technique. One thing he recommends during this section is “playing to failure.” I think this is a great recommendation. The only way to strengthen your hands and fingers is to build them up, and that requires working them to failure. Too often, I quit working on a technique when it gets hard, but in order to truly see results, I need to work to failure. This is some advice that I put to immediate use and can see results.
Tremonti invited several of his friends to provide guest lessons for the DVD. The guests include Miles Kennedy, Michael Angelo Batio, Troy Stetina, Rusty Cooley, and Bill Peck. Each guest provides a unique insight into some of the techniques that they use.
Aside from Kennedy, who is the lead singer for Alter Bridge (and is a very good guitarist in his own right), the guest artists are some of the most elite shredders in the world. Batio is very well known for being a great shredder, as is Cooley. And, Stetina’s Speed Mechanics for Lead Guitar is one of the most influential instructional books for metal guitarists.
Each guest has their own section and feature their own techniques. And, each guest lesson is high quality (although Cooley’s is a little lower quality due to the fact that he couldn’t make it to the studio to record his section). I think the guest lessons are a nice touch and help bring a little variety to the DVD.
As I said earlier, after watching this DVD for the past few weeks, I highly recommend it. Not surprisingly, much of the information focuses on metal or shred guitar, but many of the techniques displayed will help you improve in any style of music. Tremonti is a great guitarist and a great teacher, and this DVD proves both. The lessons are top-notch, as are the guest appearances. If you’ve never really been into guitar instructional DVDs, this is a great introduction to the genre.
Additionally, the Fret12 Web site is a nice companion to the DVD. There’s a lot of information on the site, as well as community forums.
The following is a trailer for the DVD, which is available from Fret12.com: