“Believe that you can take on Eddie Van Halen. Even though you can’t – believe it”: Nuno Bettencourt offers advice to young players
The Extreme guitarist shares his thoughts on the abundance of guitar learning resources available to younger players today.
Nuno Bettencourt. Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty
Nuno Bettencourt has said he thinks it’s bad for young guitarists to learn music note by note, arguing that “it’s great until it’s not great”.
In an interview with Ultimate Guitar, Bettencourt says that while he would have “loved” to have had access to as much free music as young people do nowadays, learning to play from YouTube tutorials doesn’t give as thorough an understanding of music as they need.
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“One of the tools that they have right now, that we all have right now… But as young guitar players, they have everything. They have the internet,” he says.
“What does that mean? That means that they can look anybody up – a Van Halen, Eric Clapton, Five Finger Death Punch, whatever they want. And almost learn it verbatim note for note, slow it down on YouTube, do whatever they want to do, see the guys show you, maybe even see the actual guitar player show you.”
“It’s great until it’s not great. What do I mean by that? Meaning that I would have loved to have [had] that when I was 15, 16, 17, 18. But at the same time, I had the archaic version that was like, ‘Oh my God, you got a take a needle off an album,’ put the first riff down for Runnin’ with the Devil, and hope that I remembered exactly what I played and grab the guitar and do just that little bit. And then go back and forth, go back and forth, go back and forth.
“But, by the time I learned what I thought [Van Halen’s] Mean Street was, I realized that… I believed that I was playing it just like Edward. And I discovered later that I was playing it in a different part of the guitar, I was playing the notes in different octaves – a different area. I didn’t see exactly how we did it. I didn’t know what amp was used. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Bettencourt says the benefit of that approach was that “it allowed me to interpret my version of Edward, my version of Brian May, my version of Led Zeppelin.” He goes on: “And later, when you saw it live, you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I wasn’t even in the same stratosphere.’”
Bettencourt adds that he thinks the amount of information available already is “almost too much” and suggests how young guitarists can find their own voice.
“I think they have to take those tools, learn from the guitar players they love, but then stop,” he says. “What I did was take everything you want from everybody and then go bury them. Go after them. Go take them down. Believe that you can take Eddie Van Halen down. Even though you can’t, but you believe it. You know what I mean? And you end up creating your own soup with those ingredients.”