Arts & Entertainment, Music

Tom's Influences: Rock, Jazz, Classical, and Folk

Tom Morello

Lesson time 12:09 min

A diverse set of musical influences can help you take your playing in exciting new directions. Learn how Tom incorporates the genres that have made an impact on him into his own music, and how you can do the same.

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Topics include: Rock: Write in Drop D Tuning • Jazz: Experiment With Outside Playing • Classical: Challenge Your Limitations • Folk: Get Heavy With Your Lyrics


As a guitarist, no matter what genre you love or favor, you can always find inspiration in others genres of music, like I have from EDM to classical to folk music to continuing to find new inspiration in rock and roll. And I think that's one of the great challenges and great ways to push yourself as an artist is to find elements in genres of music that you may favor or you may not, and find ways to add them to your own DNA to make your playing more unique, make your playing more special and more diverse. I learned to do drop D tuning from Maynard Keenan of the band Tool. I was over at his apartment in Hollywood years ago, and we were talking about Soundgarden and their song "Outshine." It goes like this. [PLAYING GUITAR] Excellent rock song. And he was playing that for me. I was like, why are you-- you're holding one finger down. What is that? He said, it's drop D tuning. Drop D tuning is simply where you take the lowest string, which is normally an E, and you tune it down one whole step to D, which reconfigures the neck in a way that makes for interesting-- may make for interesting choices. Immediately-- he handed me the guitar, and right away, I played this riff. Just the first thing that came to mind was-- [PLAYING GUITAR] I was like, that's a pretty rocking riff. And so we sat there, and we fiddled around with that song for a while. And I actually loaned it to Maynard. I said-- he was working on a Tool song. And I said, you can have that one. Later on, I called him back and said, I'd like that one back. That later, of course, became "Freedom" by Rage Against the Machine. But it was well into my rocking I learned something brand new from rock and roll music. In rock and roll, I'd like you to tune your guitar down to D and come up with a drop D riff of your own. Simple as that. Rock it to your own taste. [MUSIC PLAYING] Just the intro of Alan Holdsworth's "Metal Fatigue" really was a north star that I guided my outside guitar playing from. The two things-- the first and most important was how did he get that sound. How did he get that tone? Well, I realized that it was a-- he was playing through a harmonizer. And he's playing-- so you're hearing the note he's playing and a fifth above it. And I didn't have a harmonizer, so there was no way I could sound like Alan Holdsworth of the time. And it's one of the reasons that eventually led me-- the principal reason that eventually led me to buying the Digitech whammy pedal, which was a signature part of my sound. I bought a rack-mounted piece of gear that was a harmonizer pedal. It was very complicated, and I had trouble plugging it in. It seemed to ruin my amp sound. And so when a simple effects pedal that allowed me to play to a fifth like Alan Holdsworth did on that song that you just heard, I was in heaven. Now, that also then cracked the door open to the other sounds that were incorporated in the Digitech whammy pedal but led to a good deal of my sonic reperto...

About the Instructor

Tom Morello is a two-time Grammy winner and one of Rolling Stone’s "greatest guitarists of all time." In his first online guitar class, the co-founder of Rage Against the Machine will teach you the riffs, rhythms, and solos that launched his career and sent his music to the top of the charts. Tom will share his approach to making music that challenges the status quo and teach you how to create your own musical style.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Tom Morello

In 26 lessons, Grammy-winning musician Tom Morello will teach you the guitar techniques, rhythms, and riffs that define his signature style.

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