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GARY HOLT Explains Why Learning Riffs Wrong Can Be A Good Thing

"We learned them off records, and we usually learned them wrong"


In a recent fan Q&A held at Seattle's Diablo Guitars, former Slayer and current Exodus guitarist Gary Holt named Ritchie Blackmore as his guitar hero and explained why learning riffs by ear wrong isn't necessarily bad, after all.

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Holt said that he learned how to play guitar by listening to Blackmore's playing and trying to figure out the notes by ear. He often got the notes wrong, as anyone would when learning, but that it actually helped him to develop his own style.

"When I was a kid, we learned everything we wanted to learn from our heroes by listening to records," Holt said, "we couldn't slow them down and keep them in pitch. We didn't have the Internet with tabs. So, we learned them off records, and we usually learned them wrong…I learned a lot by learning things wrong."

"But, learning those lead licks wrong turned them into yours. I saw Richie so many times, and I saw him once in a club, the last time he ever did a Rainbow tour, and I was third row center in a place that held 800 people. And I realized that every riff I thought I knew was wrong."

Holt has also talked about his early influences, including Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, among others. In the same Q&A he was asked about Randy Rhoads, and he offered: "Randy's a fucking legend, of course. Everybody has their favorites, and Randy's one of my favorite guitar players, but he's not the guy that I listen to and mimic. I think 'Mr. Crowley' is one of the best guitar solos ever written."

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If you're an aspiring guitarist, I encourage you to take Holt's advice and learn how to play by ear. It's a valuable skill that will help you develop your own unique sound, and as ironic as it may sound, you might even learn a thing or two by getting the notes wrong.

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