Hear how the bluegrass-blazin’, death-metal-rooted wiz twists the traditional music of Kentucky toward the psychedelic sounds of San Francisco.

Born William Apostol, Billy Strings (a nickname given to him by his aunt because of his fluency on several instruments) sharpened his chops in bluegrass alongside his father in Michigan. But to play music with musicians closer to his age, he started shredding in bands inspired by death metal bands Cryptopsy and Cannibal Corpse. While the death-metal thing never stuck (he’s still a regular listener of the genre), the energy, string-splitting proficiency, and raw power trickled into his bluegrass performances. He and his stalwart bandmates logged over 200 shows for a handful of years before recording his 2017 debut Tinfoil and Turmoil, which has many pillars of bluegrass (acoustic instruments, no drums, lightning-fast picking, strong vocal harmonies), but also features the rowdiness of death metal, modern-day tales of drugs and debauchery, and hallucinating delays and reverbs that usher in progressive jams.

Months before his sophomore release, Home, hits the shelves, Billy Strings had the honor of headlining one of the Ryman’s Bluegrass Nights. And that’s where PG’s Perry Bean had the pleasure of spending some quality time with Strings to talk about the perfect acoustic guitar and why he uses pedals to break down bluegrass barriers while still paying reverence to the music’s forefathers like Doc Watson and Bill Monroe.

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Intermediate

Intermediate

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  • Examine drone points of reference from an array of genres.
  • Learn how to use standard, drop D, and uncommon alternate tunings in drone contexts.

Playing a melody or solo with a “drone” means playing over just one note or, in some instances, one chord. Besides playing without any harmonic accompaniment, it is about as simple a concept as one can image, which also means the possibilities are endless. We’ll look at ways to use drones in a variety of contexts, from ancient to contemporary, blues to metal, traditional to experimental.

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See a sampling of picks used by famous guitarists over the years.

Marty Stuart

Submit your own artist pick collections to rebecca@premierguitar.com for inclusion in a future gallery.

How does a legacy artist stay on top of his game? The pianist, hit singer-songwriter, producer, and composer talks about the importance of musical growth and positive affirmation; his love for angular melodicism; playing jazz, pop, classical, bluegrass, jam, and soundtrack music; and collaborating with his favorite guitarists, including Pat Metheny and Jerry Garcia.

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