Interview: Zakk Wylde on becoming a guitar instructor on DVD

Want Zakk Wylde to be your personal guitar teacher? Your wish is his command.
Want Zakk Wylde to be your personal guitar teacher? Your wish is his command. (Image credit: Jeff Gerew/Corbis)

Over the years, Zakk Wylde has been many things to many people: guitarist, songwriter, producer, actor, clothing designer, devoted husband and father - "Don't forget bed maker and dish washer," he adds with a laugh. And now we can add master guitar instructor to his ever-growing list of credits.

Beginning 1 October, The Zakk Wylde Signature Edition Guitar Apprentice, a six-DVD instructional course, will be available at Guitar Center stores across North America. (The set will be available worldwide in November.) Recorded live at Wylde's "Black Vatican" studio in Los Angeles, the course features guitar instruction by Wylde himself, breaking down songs from Black Label Society's most recent Order Of The Black album in two ways, with the guitarist teaching and demonstrating face-to-face along with the patented Guitar Apprentice visual learning method.

The set also includes detailed explanations of signature rhythm patterns, solo breakdowns, tones, pedals and gear. What's more, the Guitar Center exclusive edition is jammed with 60 minutes of extras - for more information, click here.

We caught up with Wylde recently to talk about the Guitar Apprentice course and for his thoughts on how he rates himself as a teacher.

How did the idea of an instructional set of DVDs come about?

"The guys behind the project approached me, basically. They asked me what I thought of Guitar Hero, and I said it was awesome. Who knows - you could have the next Jimmy Page or Dimebag or Yngwie coming out of that thing. Some kid starts out on that, and eventually he says, 'Man, I want to get a real guitar.' That's what you want to happen. To me, anything that promotes the guitar is good.

"So the guys with Guitar Apprentice came to me and said that it would be like a game, but you'd actually learn how to play. It's not like you're playing with a controller or anything like that - you're using a real guitar. I said, 'Yeah, of course. Sounds great!'

"I added a couple of songs from the new record that they wanted to do. Overlord came up, so did Crazy Horse and Parade Of The Dead. I performed the songs from beginning to end, and then we broke them down. When you're playing the game, you're learning the song. You're learning how to play. And you learn the scales and how they connect. It's cool."

But why not have kids learn the way you did - slowing down vinyl records to 16 rpm, making tons of mistakes, that kind of thing. I'm kidding, of course.

[Laughs] "Without a doubt, man. But something has to be said for that. Hey, I'll learn how to drive a stick shift. I might fucking destroy the transmission, but eventually I'll get it. But this is just 'Let me show you how to do it before you kill the fucking car.' Put it this way: when I was 15 years old, if there was something where Randy Rhoads himself showed me how to play Over The Mountain, I would buy it. That's what's cool about it."

There's 15 levels of learning provided per song. That sounds like a lot.

"Yeah, well, we're talking from a very beginner to being about to play the solo to fucking Crazy Horse. And you can do it, too, but you have to put in the hours. You've got to practice and get your technique together. But it's all there, man."

Oh, so I have to actually work.

[Laughs] "Yeah, a little bit. More than a little bit. It always helps to work."

A lot of great guitarists don't really analyze their playing - they just do what comes naturally. Did you learn anything about your style in making these DVDs?

"Well, no. You know, I know the names of the modes, the names of the scales - I know the shit that I'm playing. [Laughs] I don't just go, 'Yeah, use this fingering…' I know more than that. Tell me an F #, and I'll show you all over the fingerboard where an F# is. I've studied theory, so I've got that down."

Aside from breaking down the songs and solos, you get into other areas in the DVDs.

"Totally. We show my pedalboard, my amps, mic setups - all that stuff. It's pretty cool. Back in the day, you never knew how Eddie Van Halen was miking his amp or how Unchained was recorded, how Randy Rhoads was doing his thing. When I was 15, I didn't know any of that shit. Putting a mic in front of an amp - they do that? [Laughs] So we get into all of that."

We know Zakk Wylde the player, but how is he as a teacher? Is he nice and patient?

"Without a doubt. When I was teaching guitar back in the day, before I got the gig with Ozzy, I always liked doing it. You'd get the prize student who sinks his teeth into it and actually practices and learns the language. It's cool when somebody takes the time to understand it. Some people grasp it naturally, and for other people it's hard."

As a student yourself, have you checked out other instructional DVDs and tapes?

"Absolutely. I bought a bunch of them. Whether it's Joe Pass or Albert Lee or Allan Holdsworth, sure, I've studied what they do. John McLaughlin, Al Di Meolo, I've got those ones. They're cool, man. I like these kinds of things. That's why I was into doing my own. There's a lot for people to tear into. If they put in the time and want to understand playing, I break it all down. Have fun with it. Put in the work but have a blast."

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.