At age 12, Jeff McErlain picked up a guitar and never looked back.
Inspired by Beck, Hendrix and Page in his early years, he attended
the Berklee College of Music where he was introduced to legends
like Coltrane, Miles and Monk. After school, he headed to New York
City, where he hooked up with Liquid Hips, a funk-metal group. After
releasing three CDs and touring Europe, he started an instrumental
trio where he has focused his efforts since. Jeff also produces and
writes music, teaches at the National Guitar Workshop, and has a successful
How many TrueFire courses have you authored?
One: Blues Rock Evolution
; I’ll be filming a roots-rock guitar
course later this year.
Is there something you’d like to teach that you haven’t yet?
I am fortunate enough to make a living on the instrument and I think
that is something people can learn. Schools don’t really teach you what
you learn on gigs. For example, as primarily a rock guitarist I didn’t learn
the importance of repertoire. I found out the hard way that I really didn’t
know a lot of tunes and that worked against me at a lot of sessions.
Is there a mistake practicing guitarists frequently make?
would you suggest to correct it?
Most players try to play things before they actually know what it is they
are trying to play. If a student is having trouble with a song or riff, I ask
them to sing me the melody and then play it. The student is often surprised
that they didn’t actually know it. Once they have the melody in
their head the difference is amazing.
What drew you to rock?
I have always loved blues influenced music like Zeppelin, The Stones,
The Doors and Sabbath. I am also a big fusion fan. There is an emotional
component to the blues that can speak to everybody. You don’t need to
be educated in music to understand Muddy Waters when he sings – it’s
just the truth coming out. Mix that with a Strat and a Marshall and to me
that is what guitar is.
What is your idea of good “tone?” Whose tone do you
really look up to?
A good tone helps you express what you hear in your head. Ultimately
tone is in the hands; it is a cliché, but it is true. No matter what I play
through, I still sound like me. After that, there are many variables, especially
for players using distortion.
A few of the guys I look up to for tone are Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray
Vaughan, Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Brian May, Hendrix, Mark
Knopfler, Michael Landau and David Grissom. All of these guys sound
like themselves; the second I hear them I know who it is. To me that is
What is one suggestion you’d give to students trying to improve
Play with less distortion! Heavy gain sounds are very difficult to translate
|Jeff’s Gear Box
1998 Custom Shop Strat Relic
Grosh Retro Classic
|Amps & Cabs
Germino Club 40
THD 2x12 Cab with Celestion Greenbacks
Tim Boost OD pedal
Fulltone CLYDE Deluxe Wah and Fat Boost
T-Rex Replica delay
Analogman Sunface Fuzz
DiMarzio pickups and cables