Ernie Ball: String Theory featuring Kirk Hammett


(slow guitar music) – Guitar playing to me is such a large part of my life. I mean, I can safely say that guitar, it’s beyond just playing it. It’s become a behavior of mine. It’s something that helps
define myself to myself. It gives me a real sort
of foundation as to what I feel and believe
I’m put on this earth to do which is to make music. And you know the guitar
is the foundation of that. (guitar strumming) If I’m bummed out, I’ll go to my guitar. A lot of times when
I’m really stressed out or I’m dealing with anxiety, I’ll just play til I calm down. When I’m feeling like I have this feeling inside that just needs to get out, guitar helps that feeling. It’s a creative tool but on the other hand it’s also rehabilitative,
emotional and spiritual tool that I use as well to feed my inner soul. (guitar music) My household, when I was growing up, ever since I could remember, ever since I was a toddler, there was always a radio going on and a lot of that had to do with the fact that I had an older brother who’s 11 years older than me and so there was always music going on. When I was in seventh grade, a friend came over and
said “look at this band. “Look how cool they are!” And he showed me the album cover and I was looking at it and I thought wow, what a strange looking band. What are they called? And my friend said Kiss! I’m thinking, hm. And so we put the album on and all of a sudden, it was exactly what I wanted to hear. Strangely enough. And this friend came
over with other albums and we started listening to Kiss, Skynyrd, Thin Lizzy, ZZ Top. (hard guitar music) The very first guitar player to really have a huge impact on me
was probably Jimi Hendrix. I think I was about 13 or 14 years old when I saw the documentary called a film about Jimi Hendrix. It’s the one where he’s sitting on a stool playing a 12-string guitar. When I saw Hendrix up on the screen, I was just blown away ’cause I was seeing a complete package. I was seeing a guy who
could play guitar amazingly, who looked so different and so unique. He was just so much of
a dynamic performer. It was everything you know? And it was everything that I wanted to be and at one point, I thought this guy, he’s the ultimate in guitar playing and I want to be just like him, I want to play just as well as him. I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix. (fast guitar music) All the traditional guitar
players up to that point were a huge influence on me too. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and then American guitar
players like Eddie Van Halen, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford,
Pat Travers, Thin Lizzy. And then I discovered UFO. When I first heard UFO,
first heard Michael Schenker, my whole attitude changed. And to this day, Michael
Schenker and Jimi Hendrix are some of my main influences. (guitar music) My first decent guitar was a Fender Strat. And I ratted out the pick up, put a humbucker in there
because that’s what everyone else was doing,
right at the bridge position. After getting bored with that, I moved on to Gibson Flying
V which I still have. And then I realized I needed
a second back up guitar. So I bought a Kramer and this is when Floyd Roses had just come out. I’d go to rehearsal, you know, X this, start playing, go for the whammy bars, start doing this and pop! And I’d go dang, okay. What was that pack of strings? And I read it and go, okay. Not gonna use those. Go to the store, buy a
different pack of strings, play at rehearsal. Use the whammy bar, pop! Look at the pack of strings, okay. Not gonna use those. Third pack, you know, third try. Go to rehearsal, whammy bar, all right! It’s all right! Check my tuning, it’s staying in tune. End of rehearsal. I didn’t break any strings. What was the name of that? Those strings? Ernie Balls Super Slinky. Okay! Ernie Balls Super Slinky,
these are the ones we need. I was 18 years old. I started using Ernie Balls Super Slinkies because they didn’t break. (soft guitar music) My tack is just heavy handed so I need strings that can take that heavy handedness, stay in tune and still sound clean
and shimmery and shiny. The only strings I’ve
ever found to do that were Ernie Balls. I mean, end of story. (guitar music) So what I use is the three top strings are from a 10 set and then
the bottom three strings are from a 48 set and the reason for that is, as a lead guitar player, I need to be able to bend out the light strings and if I have 11’s on, I notice that over the course of a tour
my hand gets fatigued. But if I go to 10’s, it’s okay
over the course of a tour. It’s so bizarre and it
only took me like 10 years to realize that. Obviously, the bass strings
are on a heavier gauge so that it sounds heavier, it sounds fuller when I play. (hard guitar music) You need a solid musical idea and the solid musical idea can come out anywhere in anything. Now, that can come out
of an acoustic guitar, it can come out of an electric guitar, it can come out of like
me just messing around with a recorder and singing
something into my phone. What I do is I ask
myself, is this something that I’m going to be
playing quietly or heavy? Tons of distortion or minimal distortion? Lead sound, rhythm sound, clean sound? Echo effects? I go down a mental list of
the obvious possibilities for this musical idea. All the stuff gear wise, equipment wise, is added after I have
a solid musical idea. It’s very rare that the
equipment will dictate any sort of music idea for myself. Nothing beats just having
that good, solid basis for your idea and then taking
it through the equipment. Rather than the other way around. (fast guitar music) We’ve been around for over three decades. We’re in our fourth decade
and we’ve been around so long and people have
seen the Metallica name for so long that through pure osmosis we’ve become part of American culture, our social culture. Now we have fans who have been born and have always had Metallica. Metallica’s always been in the background. To those people, we are something more than just a band. We’re part of the cultural landscape. I like to see it as doing my job as far as furthering the
course of music, you know? I just hope that the job I’m doing is good enough so people can say that’s pretty good and
I like what he’s doing. I can do that. And they pick up a guitar
and try and do what I do. (guitar music) I’ve been inspired so much from my idols that it just took over my life and thank God it did. Thank God it did. And I’m hoping that there
are people out there who I can inspire to do the same and become good, honest musicians who play with a lot of
sincerity, integrity and emotion and create good music for me to listen to 20 years from now. (guitar music) For me, it’s all about just having fun and being creative and doing things that are different and new and exciting and also checking out
what other discoveries and explorations other people have done and seeing what new and
cool and different things they’ve done and hopefully
that stuff inspires me. I’m a guitar player but I’m still a player in all this too you know in that I’m still checking people out, I’m still looking at equipment, I’m still looking for something that I’ve never heard before. I’m still curious about
music and other musicians and other techniques and
approaches and perspectives. If I can further that, that
sort of musical curiosity along and inspire that in other people, then I think I’ve done my job. (guitar music) – How do I get in guitar clubs by 19? We used to go over and drink beers and do other things at our buddy’s house and his dad would play Bob Dylan songs and I just went to a pawn
shop and got a guitar. I immediately started writing songs…

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