Hudson Valley musician Brett Miller has been offering lessons to beginner and novice musicians at the Axe Shop located in Wappingers Falls New York for the last few years. Brett is a classically trained musician who shares his passion with students across the world through Skype lessons as well in his office. He has written multiple books on the subject and is just finishing up with a Kickstarter campaign for his new book, "Beginner Guitar, No Wimps!" which should be released soon. His courses and books that are available include: Sweep Picking: Steam Powered, Magickal Writes: Guitar Practice Journal, Speed Picking: Daily Guitar Gains, Modes? Mastered!, The Chord Book, and the Metal Mailing & Master's Arena series of monthly subscriptions.
"Beginner Guitar, No Wimps!" is a 21-session guitar lesson that is designed to give you everything you need in the exact order that you need it to learn how to successfully play guitar. No timetable is set for you to master each session, you take as long as you need. Each session has a Physical and Mental area to help you build the skills that show the results you are looking for. From learning how to hold and use a pick for speed and power, to the placement of your hands these sessions tackle everything needed for solid guitar playing; this includes how to master the notes on the guitar neck, the understanding of scales and their relation to chords and how they are used to write songs.
We spoke with Miller more to get the inside scoop. If you're looking to take your music to the next level, he offers private guitar coaching. You can contact him through his Facebook Page or website listed in this interview.
AXS: At what age did you know you wanted to be a musician?
Brett Miller: I remember being moved by music – classical music, stuff on the radio, stuff my dad would play in the car – for as long as I have memories. The magic age for me figuring out “Hey, I could actually do this too, if I wanted!” came at 10, when I first got an electric guitar – a Strat-style Epiphone starter one. I’d moved around a lot as a kid, and we’d just moved to Rochester, Minnesota for a couple of years. The guitar came with a couple of group guitar lessons, from the store my parents had bought the guitar from. I’ve got a distinct memory of this nasty instructor pretty much telling me to my face that I probably wasn’t going to stick with it. Who does that to a kid? Anyway, here I am…if I knew who the guy was, I’d challenge him to a public shred-off!
AXS: What musicians were your biggest influence? Why?
BM: In the words of the great philosopher OJ Simpson: “Absolutely, positively, 100%...Angus Young!” I got into him as a kid, and still think Angus Young from AC/DC is amazing, the solo from “Hells Bells” is hands down still one of the greatest rock guitar solos ever. AC/DC was the gateway guitar drug for me to get into Metal. As far as the instrumental guitar gods – Steve Vai and Joe Satriani were definitely huge influences on me. I tend to think of my own stuff as sort of heavier, prog-ier Vai/Satriani. With Metal, it was everything from Pestilience, Corrosion of Conformity, Carcass, Death, Coroner, neo-classical stuff like Yngwie Malmsteen, weirder stuff like Meshuggah. Thrash stuff like Exodus…just so many Metal bands, I went through a big Frank Zappa phase too as a teenager!
AXS: Have you performed with other musicians? Which Ones?
BM: Probably no one that anyone has heard of! Actually, I started doing solo albums sort of as a backlash against having bands all the time that never seemed to work out. There’s definitely been a lot of abortive efforts to get bands going over the years – the trouble was, it was often with people who lived remotely, and we’d send files back and forth. That can work sometimes, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I do love playing with people, and especially enjoy just plugging in and doing total improv with open-minded musicians – no crappy jazz charts, I’m talking real improv...just plugin, look at each other, and start playing. That takes some balls!
AXS: When did you decide to start teaching music?
BM: I started doing private guitar instruction about 15 years ago; it’s been a huge and very rewarding part of my guitar career. Thinking about music constantly, and having to explain some pretty complex concepts, has made me a better musician and player, no doubt about it. The teaching has expanded a lot through my company Metal Guitar Academy MGA. I’ve written a lot of books and courses, so now guitar players all over the place can get a taste of how I approach guitar instruction.
AXS: What professional training have you taken over the years to further your musical knowledge?
BM: My educational background is in classical composition, so I’ve always been fascinated by music theory, orchestration, things like that. I started with all that stuff at Berklee College of Music in Boston and got my degree from there. Before I taught guitar a lot though, all of those concepts seemed not as applicable to Metal guitar (except for the obvious, frankly kinda cheesy “neo-classical“ stuff). Now, it’s all like one giant Matrix – all of these concepts, even esoteric ones, have found their way into my guitar playing and writing, and it’s extremely natural to blend elements of modern classical, jazz/fusion, blues, whatever, into my style of Metal. Teaching so many students over the years has been a big factor in that mental metamorphosis, as well as constant reading, listening, writing, and recording.
AXS: What projects are coming up for you?
BM: I’m putting together a band called 1-900; it’s Power Metal meets Synthwave. I’m on guitar and also vocals, which is new for me! The bassist is a totally sick player named Dennis DeRobertis, and the project involves a sci-fi storyline set in the 80’s. We’re partnering up with Marcelo Orsi Blanco, the fantasy artist from Argentina who did all of the Lovecraftian artwork for the “Oath Of Dagon” record. I won’t give away all the secrets, but it’ll be launching soon, and we’re pretty excited about it.
I’m also in the middle of releasing my new Metal Guitar Academy book that was just finished, “Beginner Guitar: No Wimps!”, which was 500% crowd-funded on Kickstarter. That one was a hell of a lot of work, but I think it’s just about the best guitar book out there for total beginners!
AXS: How can someone contact you about lessons?
BM: Contact me at MetalGuitarAcademy.com – there’s a Contact link at the bottom of the first page. I do Skype lessons with people all over the world, so the only hitch is working out the time zone differences!
AXS: Where can the fans locate your music online?
BM: BrettMillerMusic.net is the hub! All the records, news, etc. can be found there. For streamers, it’s on Spotify and most of the other services. By the way, I need more Spotify listeners! There was this other pretender-to-the-throne named Brett Miller, who makes all this pop stuff, and his music was mixed in with my records on Spotify. I asked them to fix it, but then my whole profile or whatever you call it was completely deleted and redone – all the listeners and followers were gone, and now Spotify says I sound like KISS and Nirvana! Yes, I’m bitching and moaning, but Metal and guitar fans, please help me rebuild the Spotify listener count, it’s embarrassing!
AXS: Do you plan to expand your music/projects to include other musicians?
BM: 1-900, baby!
AXS: What advice would you give to a musician just starting their career?
BM: If music isn’t Magick to you – and that’s with a “k”, in a real spiritual, transcendental sense – then it’s going to be hard for you to actually persevere through all the hard times. And frankly, your music will probably suck. You might make some money temporarily if you’re cranking out easily consumable, passably produced pop stuff, but even that’s a pretty slim possibility. In the long run, you’ll probably become disillusioned and quit. To become a Doctor or a Lawyer Man. So, be passionate, and do it for the right reasons – contribute to the world with some real art. You’ll be successful in the end.