John Petrucci Explains How He Practices at This Point in His Career, Reveals ’Unnerving’ Aspect of Dream Theater Shows

Guitar YouTube and owner of Solar Guitars Ola Englund recently released his highly-anticipated interview with Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci as a part of his “Coffee With Ola” segment. During the chat, the two reflected on the topic of practicing and John’s development as a guitar player from a young age. Asked about how much practice he put in back when he was young, Petrucci replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“I practiced a minimum of six hours a day. In fact — and I’ve said this before — this was a pact that John Myung and I had that we had to practice six hours a day in school.”

“So let’s say it was a Friday night, and you heard about a party that night, if you went to it and the other guy wasn’t there, you would assume he didn’t get his practicing. But if you saw him there, there was just like the unspoken ‘I put my hours in.’ So it was like really like that. We had to practice six hours a day minimum.

When asked to compare the time invested in practicing to what he does today, Petrucci replied:

“I could sit there for hours and do it. And I do kind of similar thing of what I used to do when I was young where it wouldn’t just be six hours straight. I practice for an hour and a half, and then take a break, and then practice an hour and a half now, it’d be three hours, halfway there.

But as far as what he plays, Petrucci currently focuses on the music that he’s playing live. After all, it makes the most sense because, as he explains, people are paying to see you play live and you have to respect that. Asked about what he practices, John said:

“So right now, I’m practicing the music that I’m playing live. Because I think of it this way… I mean, guitar is fun as you know. And you can go online or on YouTube, or Instagram or something and see somebody do something crazy. And you’re like, ‘What are they doing there,’ and you want to try to do that.

Dream Theater - The Count of Tuscany (live @ Nokia Arena, Tampere 2.2.2023)

“And you can sit there while you’re on tour, practicing that backstage. But then you flash forward to yourself on stage, playing the song and everybody there who bought tickets expecting you to do it.

“And you’re like, well, really, the only thing I’m responsible for right now is to be able to play my own music. [laughs] So a lot of times, I will drill the difficult sections of the show. And still not play it right and then walk offstage and be like, ‘Alright I have another day to practice’ and try it again.”

Further on, Ola Englund asked John about how he deals with the overly judgmental portion of the audience. You know, those who stand in one place with their arms crossed and are inspecting, or are pretending to inspect, every single note that a progressive metal band plays. Reflecting on the matter, Petrucci said:

“Yeah, you have to kind of block it out. Because if you’re too conscious of that, you’re going to become self-conscious. It’s definitely unnerving. But if you just kind of block it out… Sometimes I set my eye line kind of above people to do that. Because that could freak you out. If somebody’s that close, and you’re playing something that is challenging.”

Hanging with John Petrucci at Sound Check

Since Dream Theater are currently doing a tour in support of their 2021 record “A View from the Top of the World,” Petrucci recently discussed the current issues that touring bands are facing. Even a band as famous as Dream Theater seems to be having major problems with John offering in an interview:

“Well, it is really, really challenging now. For young bands, it’s so expensive to go out and do this on any level. And my advice is, you got to be willing to put in the hard work and make really big sacrifices if you want this.“

“I remember doing this as well, back in the day, on our first tour. We had a van and drove ourselves, didn’t get any sleep, and didn’t get any money [for performing].“

Dream Theater - The alien [LIVE @ RIO] [2022]

“And eventually, you know, [we] made things happen. I think bands need to have that reality check. And the ones that do and are willing to do it – and do it with a great attitude – I mean, a lot of these guys, they don’t have a tech, they’re their own tech, they’re packing up their stuff. There’s one crew guy, if they’re lucky.“

“It’s hard. It’s a hard, hard life at that early stage. So, as long as you have perspective on that, and you’re willing to do that… It’s that type of thing [that’s] always easier when you’re young…“

“But you know, we also do it for the same reason – for the love of music, and playing, and being in that position – as I always say, providing the entertainment for the evening. We love it.”

Reflecting on the band’s Grammy Award in the Best Metal Performance category the last album’s song “The Alien,” Petrucci said:

“The point I wanted to try to get across [at the Grammys] was that we’ve been doing what we do for a long time, the way we do it, against all odds, and we built a career out of it. And then, to achieve that sort of recognition from that community was really just great.“

Dream Theater - The Alien (Official Video)

“Because it’s not like it was some sort of pop version of us… It was probably one of the most complicated songs we ever wrote.“

“So, my point was: Do what you do, believe in what you’re doing, and do it with a ton of conviction. And then, when moments [like that] happen, it feels that much more satisfying.”

Photo: MorganaPhotolive (Dream Theater (27153401432))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

    View all posts