Martin Miller is a talented young guitarist who is based in Germany. He is quickly developing a name for himself as one to watch, possessing a highly developed and tasteful approach to the instrument, with a great balance of chops, technique, tone and phrasing!
His website recently went live, and Martin is in the process of writing and recording his debut CD, which promises to be seriously good!
Do Fret caught up with Martin for this exclusive interview.
Q: Tell us how you first got started on the guitar?
Hey Trev, thanks so much for having me! I wish I had a really cool story to go along with this, but I really don’t! I started out self-taught when I was about 8-9 years old. My dad is a huge music lover and both my parents raised me up musically, so my interest in music was always big. Since we had a cheap acoustic around the house I would occasionally pick that up with my father showing me how to fret a few notes and how to play a chord, nothing out of the ordinary. I enjoyed it a lot and was fooling around with it quite a bit, but my interest got really ignited, when my cousin brought along a cheap
Strat copy and a Marathon amplifier with reverb and distortion! That sound immediately struck a nerve with me and the way a note would pop out of an overdriven amp got me hooked up to these days!
On a funny sidenote: I blew my dad’s beloved Hi-fi, when I got my first electric guitar, cause I didn’t have an amp and I could only get a tad bit of distortion by cranking the thing to the max!
Q: I know you had a number of years of formal training. What did that involve, and what aspect of your musical education helped to improve your playing the most?
Oh yes, musical education has been quite a big part of my development as a musician. After some bad experiences with a classical guitar teacher, my parents soon decided to send me to the local conservatory, where I received quality guitar as well as music theory and ear training lessons for 6 years. I was also involved in several combo and big band projects and felt like I was part of an actual scene! It seems to be pretty rare these days for a young guitarist to have band experience. It’s something that I would not want to miss! There are a million tiny lessons that I learned during those years.
As the time moved on, the thought occurred to me to try to make a living out of music. So for 6 months I locked myself up in my basement and did some intense preparation for college auditions. Luckily, I got
accepted and my 5 years of college training started. That really changed my approach towards music completely. I got to hang out and play with a lot of great musicians and first and foremost could
justify having to fool around with music 24/7! My main teachers lessons (Stephan Bormann, Google him!) were invaluable for me. He has a lot of experience and skill, so his musical concepts are a lot more
holistic and practical than the stuff you’re used to finding on your average shred-related website. I also got my share of classical guitar training, piano lessons, sight reading (still horrible at it), sight
singing, arranging, etc., all of which made me become a more well-rounded musician.
What else helped me improve a lot? I guess interacting and playing with all kinds of instrumentalists, ranging from pianists to trombonists broadened my horizons. If you ever feel like you’re in a
rut, ask a sax player how he approaches playing over chord X. All of a sudden you’ll have a truckload of new ideas to work on!
Q: You have great tone and phrasing. How has that evolved over the last few years?
Thanks a lot Trev! That involved a lot of trial and error. When I was still in college, I would have a new favourite guitarist almost every week. I went through my Steve Lukather, George Benson, Mike Stern, Pat
Metheny, Carl Verheyen, Scott Henderson (etc., etc.) phases and stole my elements from any of them. When I got really aware of what phrasing means, I started listening to my favourite guitarists more actively, trying to soak up any detail of their notes (or rests!). I got obsessed with time feel and spent a few ages working on that. Unfortunately I still have a loooong way to go in that department. Later on I started getting crazy about bending and vibrato. So yeah, what you’re hearing really is a sum of getting in and out of many obsessive phases!
Same thing with tone: there were months, where I didn’t go near within a mile of a distortion pedal. The next few months I’d be sporting the Stern-esque chorus/delay tone, then back to the dry, raw Gilbert
distortion. It’s not always healthy to have a broad taste! :) This kind of identity crisis also kept me from writing and releasing an album. Thankfully, I finally found the tone that I’m going to stick with. For the first time ever, I feel that I’ve kind of found my voice on the guitar, as cheesy as it sounds!
Q: What's your practise routine like?
I have none, although I do think having a practice routine is very healthy. What really helped me is leading a guitar practice diary. Just write down and/or notate whatever you worked on each day and start of your daily practice by going back for half an hour. There’s so much stuff that you’re working on that never pops up in your playing, because you’re not repeating it. But yeah, usually I’m working on whatever I’m up to at the moment. Be it the preparation for a gig, a recording session or just a new chordal concept that excites me.
Q: I loved the Suhr Mega Jam that you and a bunch of other top players put together! How did that come about and are there any plans for any more videos? Might you guys all get together to jam in a live setting one day?
Great to hear you enjoyed it. I love the video as well and still watch it a lot, so many good licks on there! I had the idea of getting a few of my guitar player friends from the net together and having them play
on the same track. When I finally had the gear to make good looking/sounding videos I knew it was time to try to pull it off. I wanted to make a really cool, professional product, so I got a real band to back the guitar players up. Sebastian Persini, the drummer, is just grooving his ass off on this! Tom, Andy and Rick were the first three guys that I had in mind for this and they were up for it. It was a breeze working with them. We’re definetly going to do this more often. As a matter of fact, I just received the drum tracks for Mega Jam Nr. 2. Bass is being recorded by Goran Vujic right now AND we might have a celebrity guitar player join us this time around! Keep an eye out!
Q: You are working on a solo CD - what is the time scale for that and what can listeners expect?
I’ve been working on some solo pieces on and off for about 5 years now. It’s just now that I feel confident enough that my guitar could actually carry a 50 minute effort, so this time around I’ll be getting this thing done. As a matter of fact, I finished writing the last song with my pianist friend today. The album is gonna be extremely diverse, featuring a lot of styles ranging from Drum n’ Bass to Fusion to Metal. Just pretty much everything that I’m into, summing up what I’ve been up to musically for the last 5 years!
It’s not going to be a sheer guitar shred fest either. I’ll have players from all around the world breathe life into the music and I’m leaving space for any of them to shine! I’m really anxious to get it out there to you. Recording sessions start in a few weeks. The thing might be done at the end of 2010, but realistically I’m aiming for an early 2011 release.
You might want to check out this teaser videos for some ideas on what to expect:
Q: Your website has recently gone live. Where can people check that out and what do you offer in the way of lessons?
Yes, www.MartinMillerGuitar.com is finally done. It’s been on my agenda forever but never really got to take care of it up until now. I’m a bit lazy when it comes to the business side of things!
I plan on expanding a lot in the field of internet tuition. Right now I’m offering Skype lessons for a very reasonable price (at the moment I charge about 40 USD for a 60 minute lesson). The lessons I’ve had so
far have been a blast and I almost feel bad for charging money because it’s just so much fun and I learn a lot from my students. I take teaching very seriously and try to offer a professional work atmosphere and some in-depth information to help every individual progress on the guitar. I have several years of music school experience on my back as well as a degree in music tuition. So if you enjoy my playing and want me to show you some approaches to playing the guitar that you might have not heard of before, just get in touch with me through my website.
I’ve also gotten a few requests regarding custom video lessons that I’m putting together at the moment. So if there’s any subject you want me to shed some light on, we can work out something via email. These new ways of tuition are truly exciting! I got a few more ideas, that I’m working on. Check my website regularly!
Q: The inevitable gear question! What's in your current set-up? Any other player's whose tone you really dig?
The most obvious and exciting piece of my gear would most definetly be my Suhr Modern Custom. It’s mahogany/maple top guitar with mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard. I can’t say too many good things about this instrument. The fretwork is flawless, the tone is warm and creamy, the sustain second to none. I just keep discovering new tones every day. The complete spec sheet can be found on my website.
For my single coil duties I own an Ibanez AT-300, which has some of my favourite pickups, the Dimarzio Cruisers. They sound so thick, yet are extremely dynamic. Next thing on my to-buy list would be a S-S-H style Suhr Standard or Classic guitar.
As far as amplification is concerned I’m using a Laney VC50 (combo version of the famous VH100R) with a 2x12 extension cabinet for bigger gigs. It might not be the most expensive amp out there, but it’s
incredibly versatile, transparent and has a sweet overtone-y top end. I know Alex Hutchings uses it and Andy Timmons used it for a bunch of his recordings, so I’m on the right track.
For effects and direct recording purposes I own a Line 6 PodXt Live, that I wouldn’t wanna miss either. You can get fantastic results if you know how to use the it right. I can get very similar tones from both setups (I’m a firm believer of tone being in the fingers!) and haven’t decided on what to use on the album yet. We’ll see…
Whose tone I dig? I love numerous tones but some favourites are Scott Henderson, Joe Bonamassa and Guthrie Govan for distortion. Eric Johnson, Pat Metheny and Brent Mason for cleans.
Q: What's your recommended listening for instrumental guitar CD's?
I’m not sure whether I’m the right guy to ask, because I’m not really a guitar nut. I enjoy listening to the Chick Corea Akoustic Band equally as much as to Guthrie Govan. Let me think for a minute… In my
opinion every guitar player (or musician for that matter) should familiarize himself with some Pat Metheny. The man’s catalogue is just absurdly diverse and tasteful. He has the most scary articulation and timing as well. I absolutely love his trio work on the 99-00 Live disc and Letter from Home by the Pat Metheny Group is just one of my all time favourite albums. If you like things a little heavier, the Scott Henderson Trio Live disc features some amazing vibe, tones and band interaction. His playing is as savage as Hendrix’ and as sophisticated as Wayne Shorter’s at the same time!
Check out Martin's music at:
Thanks to Martin for his assistance!