Let it all out
Most of the time, we love playing guitar (that's why you're here, right?), but on occasion, you just want to hurl the thing across the room - and you're not alone.
We quizzed 21 big-name guitarists on what grinds their six-string gears, and they didn't hold back: trust us, it doesn't get any easier when you go pro.
String changes, gear failures and travelling rank high on our guitarist pals' lists, but there's also the matter of nickel allergy, straps and, erm, STIs.
Read on for guitar pet peeves of the highest order…
Compiled by Amit Sharma, Rich Chamberlain and Michael Astley-Brown
Ben Weinman, The Dillinger Escape Plan
“You know, I would have to say my biggest gripe with playing guitar is putting my rig together on fly dates. I just really hate plugging and unplugging all my gear, night after night after night, when we are playing on rented gear that isn’t ours.
“Luckily, at least when we play or tour through the States, I have my own rig out with me, all tied into my rolling head case, so there is very little troubleshooting when something goes wrong!”
“I hate getting writer's block; that's the biggest frustration for me. Writer's block makes me cringe. I can't stand getting into a room with other musicians and you can't come up with anything good. I hate it as well when I'm at home on my own trying to write and nothing will come up.
“I've had times where I just say, 'This is not working right now; I'm going to walk away.' I'll come back and the ideas will flow out like a river.”
“Man, I hate changing strings. There should be some sort of iPhone app. I only ever do it when I have to.
“Very often, my engineers will go, 'What the hell guitar was that and why does it sound so funny?' And I'm like, 'Well, the strings are four months old, and I didn't bother changing them before I played that solo!'”
Mårten Hagström, Meshuggah
“That’s easy: I would say the biggest thing that sucks about playing guitar is… me! Hands down. I would prefer to be better at my instrument than I am right now.
“Out of all the things I complain about, like a G-string that’s been incorrectly packaged by the manufacturer or my nickel allergy which means my hand can start bleeding on some tours, it’s my own shortcomings that I get most frustrated about. I can get close, but sometimes I can’t get exactly where I need to be in order to deliver what I want. I don’t have time to practise one single lick, there’s so much going on and shit needs to get done!
“For all our rhythms, it's all about the right hand… Everything you do as a guitar player needs to be driven by the right hand. You can do all the legato shit, learn how to move your fingers like that, but it won’t drive the rhythm all the fucking time, every note. If your right hand is down with it all and you’re perfectly on time, then the left can follow. Let the right hand lead and it will be easier to get your head around our rhythms.”
Anders Nyström, Katatonia
“To be extremely honest, I’d have to say there have been some times I regret I didn’t use those eight hours a day or whatever as a kid to fulfil myself and get to a point where technique would always be in my luggage, so to speak.
“There are still things for me to learn that I could probably have learned back in the day… but I cheated! So this better be the last time I ever say that, because now I’m going to shred and practice the hell out of this thing, haha!
“The thing is, with Katatonia, there’s no need for it. There’s never been a need for it, there will probably never be a need for it in that regard, but personally… yeah, it would be a cool thing to say, ‘Been there, done that!’ with all the shred guitar stuff.”
“The guitar is such a great thing to me… but I’d have to say travelling and flying with your instrument. Sometimes they won’t let you bring it with you on the flight and you have to put it in the hold or whatever.
“I love being a guitarist and I don’t really have any issues at all… it’s my love and I enjoy it. So making sure my equipment gets everywhere when I need it and in good condition is the only really annoying thing for me!”
Björn Gelotte, In Flames
“There’s a bunch of things that annoy me about playing guitar! First of all, I’m way too lazy and probably not talented enough to be a shredder like Malmsteen, Petrucci or Vai.
“Those guys spent a lot of time practising and they also have the talent for it. I’m not that kinda guy! I always need to play for a couple of hours before I hit the stage to get up to speed and warm up or look over anything I missed the night before…
“Then finding out I had a nickel allergy really sucked, being a guitar player that uses nickel-wound strings. My fingertips would pop - it wasn’t so much the pain, but more the blood getting sticky that would put me off and make it hard to play. So that was very annoying, but now Dunlop have created these coated strings for me, which I’m super-grateful for…
“And finally there’s all the damages. One time we were playing in Europe somewhere and our lighting guy brought the lights down right where my guitar rack was sitting. The rig cracked the neck of one guitar, then dented two others. That’s three Gibson Les Paul Customs!
“The one that broke was this beautiful white one, which I’d only use for a couple of songs, and my number one was dented. The tour manager at the time actually told everyone not to mention it to me and they’d try to exchange it so I wouldn’t notice. Err, yeah, as if I wouldn’t notice… the dumb shit. Of course I noticed. That almost annoyed me more than the guitars getting damaged! I wasn’t pissed, but more sad.”
“I would have to say the worst thing about playing guitar is all the catching herpes, venereal diseases, crabs and even syphilis. All of that kinda stuff is a big problem for us; it can get pretty rough and damn expensive to get fixed up.
“Forget about how impressive your guitar equipment is for a second and let’s start talking medical bills, bro! It’s like you go and play a keg party, you hook up with Julie the Town Whore, and the next thing you know, you’ve caught gonorrhoea and syphilis. It’s terrible, man… terrible!”
Rick Nielsen, Cheap Trick
“I hate it when I can't get the right guitar sound for a particular song. But now that I've been doing this for a few years I'm usually right with the sound, thankfully. Usually, if the sound isn't right, I can make it right with my playing now.”
Joe Duplantier, Gojira
“I don’t know much about the gear that’s out there, I’m not able to explain the technical specs of any guitar like the pickups or wood. Just give me the guitar and I’ll beat the shit out of it!
“I’m not a nerd that tries to understand that stuff. It’s very primitive. I don’t even really consider myself as a guitar player, but more of a producer. I see guitar players that go into a studio and are obsessed with their gear. For me, when it’s time to record, I just run around, try to find my guitar, quickly get it all working and wrestle it into submission.
“We’ve always been very minimalist, mainly because of my lack of knowledge. I have my signature guitar and my Tele. That’s enough for me.”
Olavi Mikkonen, Amon Amarth
“My biggest issue with playing guitar is that if I have two pints, I can’t play any more… I completely lose it! That could be a good thing, though, because now I know I can’t drink before the show. [singer] Johan and [bassist] Ted can get away with it, but I can’t! Maybe two pints, but no way could I have four pints. So it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, maybe it’s good that I’m not drunk all the time, haha!
“Overall, there’s nothing negative to being a guitar player; we don’t have much to carry around. Drummers have so much more, so in that sense it’s cooler to be a guitar player. And if you get sick or lose your voice, you can still play the show… the singer can’t! So I would say, personally speaking, being the guitar player is easily the best gig in the band.”
Luke Kilpatrick: “If we still changed our own strings, that would be the worst! I guess my least favourite thing about guitar is the fact that I’m not passionate about it. I’d love to spend time and be passionate about it… but I’m not. So that’s something I don’t like about guitar, haha!”
Jeff Ling: “You can’t help what you feel and force shit to happen. The thing about Luke is he’s a really good guitarist and can pick things up super-quick, but he just doesn’t care about it that much... He can fully get the job done though, haha!”
Steve Von Till, Neurosis
“Mine would definitely be not having enough time to play! Time runs out, absolutely. I run our record label out of the barn on my property, and 15 feet away from that is the home studio. It’s torture to sit in there paying bills and filtering through emails, putting out fires while the equipment is right over there, calling me...
“I’ve found my new witching hour to be creative and that’s around 5.30am, when my family is asleep and it’s before I get busy. So I’ve been heading to the studio first thing - I just turn on amplifiers and synthesizers and trance out, recording whatever happens. 5.30am is a great time for that as it turns out!”
Nuno Bettencourt, Extreme
“There is nothing wrong about being a rock ’n’ roll guitar player. If someone tells you there is, then they are fucked. The truth is, until you become a singer, you don’t realise how lucky you are to play guitar. Singers have an instrument that can’t be completely controlled. You don’t sleep, then you’re fucked!
“Guitar players can get drunk before they go on and still look cool trying not to fall over. It’s hard not to be when you're the guitar player! As for all the travelling and doing all the other stuff… who cares?! That’s just part of getting somewhere. I can’t find much wrong with it. Being a singer is hell, and I’ve done it on my solo tours; it’s absolute hell.”
“My stupid little finger... it doesn't play well with others. I've been teaching some friends recently and it's really highlighted quite how stupid and little my stupid little finger really is.”
Ben Bruce, Asking Alexandria
“If I’m completely honest, it’s all down to the live aspect. We probably play over 300 shows a year; we’ll be on a solid run and 25 shows in with everything running smoothly. And then all of a sudden, during that 26th show everything decides to take a shit. The guitars get all sorts of interference, the tone has changed and everything’s cutting out.
“I’m always amazed at how it decides to happen to me… it’s never the bass or the drum mic or the backing tracks, it’s always the fucking guitar. And it really, really does my tits in! To the point where it happens and I look at my guitar tech, who tries to quickly sort it, but then it will happen again, so I always end up throwing my guitar across the stage, like, ‘Fuck you, guitar!’ It’s almost as if it does it on purpose, just to piss me off!”
“Recording a guitar is a particular pain in the arse to me, too. That’s just because guitar is not a perfect instrument. That wasn’t a big deal in the '50s, '60s and '70s, but now everything is expected to be perfect. Playing a perfect chord that's perfectly in tune is damn near-impossible, especially that annoying G - it’s always slightly sharp or slightly flat. That can be a real nightmare.”
Scott Middleton, Cancer Bats
“My biggest pet peeve with guitars is definitely something that relates to a touring musician more than anything, and it has to be… guitar straps!
“Now, when you’re at home jamming, most of us don’t need a strap, or we get a cheap $15 strap that barely gets used. But when you’re performing live constantly, you’ve got a whole mess of problems coming to you that are all symptoms of guitar straps!
“First off, they absorb your sweat, and stink worse than an old pair of underpants! They collect all the spit, blood, beer that gets thrown around the stage at a gig and have more germs and bacteria than the six-week-old prawn vindaloo sitting in the back of your fridge! And, let’s be honest, you can’t actually wash them. I’ve probably got a wanted poster with my name on it at every other Laundromat across North America and Europe for nearly destroying washing machines with my filthy straps, and the rusted-on strap locks that are permanently cemented to them!
“Secondly, I’m sure I could probably have started my own blood bank with the amount of plasma I’ve lost due to straps constantly slicing and cutting into the side of my neck!”
Matt Heafy, Trivium
“Currently, it's how much time I've been putting into trying to learn classical guitar. The fingerpicking and reading music and everything else. I put so much time into guitar that when I can't pick something up quickly I get frustrated.
“Maybe I just need more patience. Classical guitar is something I've always wanted to learn, and I've been working on it, taking lessons and practising on the road but I need to work more on it, and my slow progress frustrates me.”
Dustin Kensrue, Thrice
“I hate changing strings and I hate lugging gear. When we have techs with us on tour, that’s a beautiful thing.”
DJ Ashba, Sixx:AM
“The one thing that really irritates me is rehearsing for a tour. Playing to a brick wall really irritates me.
“I’m an entertainer and I love being in front of a crowd. I love to perform and I feed off a crowd. Rehearsing for tours is just annoying to me and it always has been, although it is incredibly important, of course.”
And, on the bright side, Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top
“I find all aspects of playing the guitar enjoyable, especially since finding light-gauge strings, which are easier to bend and hard to break. It is all a delight these days. Just turn it up loud and all problems are solved.”