John Petrucci Reveals How Much He Practices at This Point in His Career and If Using an 8-string Guitar Was a Challenge

Dream Theater axeman John Petrucci recently sat down with us here at Killer Guitar Rigs to discuss his newly launched company Tonemission and its first official product, John’s impulse response pack. Of course, apart from that, Petrucci talked about a variety of other stuff, including his use of an 8-string guitar on Dream Theater’s album “A View From the Top of the World” on the song titled “Awaken the Master.

In the second part of the interview that we’re publishing, John goes into more detail about how he managed to shape his tone for his new Ernie Ball 8-string signature guitars, as well as his current practice routine.

You finally used an 8-string guitar on a Dream Theater song. And you recently talked about this “seamless transition,” how you didn’t want to play an 8-string guitar until you got your prototype from Ernie Ball. But as far as you’re getting desired tones, was it a challenge to get things going with your amps and gear while dealing with these lower frequencies, which are basically like a bass guitar? You’re in that territory. Was that a challenge?

“It actually wasn’t a challenge it. What happened was, I had recorded some stuff with the 8-string just through like my normal amp settings that I was using on the rest of the record. And it sounded great.”

John Petrucci (Dream Theater) on his new company Tonemission, his new IR Pack, Shred vs Feel & more

“But one day I came in and my engineer had said, ‘Hey, I got out another head and I just tweaked it a little bit. And I think he had reamped it to see what I thought. And he did make some small adjustments, anything you’d have to do, like just carve out a little bit of low end or add some more gain or take some middle out. Whatever he did just slightly adjusted it. And I was like, ‘Well, that sounds awesome.’ [Laughs]”

“So it wasn’t at all a challenge for me, because I didn’t really have to do it. I walked in, and he had made those adjustments, and it sounded killer. So that’s what’s great about, you know, having great people surrounding you doing great work so that, part was easy. [Laughs]”

Before the album came out, there was a lot of talk how there’s been an 8-string on there. And knowing how a lot of modern progressive metal musicians are using 8-string guitars, extended-range guitars — did you feel any pressure to start using this? Or was it just the thing where it was something that you liked and you wanted to try it?

“I didn’t feel any pressure, I was interested in what it would be like, in the same way that I was interested at the time and playing a 7-string. It sounds really cool when you extend the range of a guitar, or even if you tune your guitar differently. I played baritone guitars in the past where the low note is an A or B-flat. There’s something that’s cool about that sound.”

Ernie Ball Music Man: John Petrucci "Awaken The Master" 8-String Majesty Demo

“But if you noticed, even in the times I’ve used 7-string, baritone, drop C [tuning]… All these different things… And even with the 8-string — I don’t really change my style to go with what you would expect out of that guitar. In other words, I didn’t get an 8-string and be like, ‘Okay, now all of a sudden, I have to write music that sounds like all of this other music.’ I just got an 8-string and I wanted to write the way I write. So that was what I did.”

“I didn’t get one to chase a style or want to be part of a scene or anything. Because that’s not authentic. That’s not the way I am. It’s not the way I work. I think of it this way — if you look at a piano, there’s so many lower notes you can go to.”

“So it’s kind of fun to be able to have that range on a guitar, like, why not? But not to chase anything or try to mimic anything or imitate anything that I wasn’t feeling was going to come out of me genuinely. Because you’d see right through that if, all of a sudden, I started writing 8-string stuff that sounded like all these different bands. It’d be like, ‘Okay, this doesn’t sound like Dream Theater, this doesn’t sound like John.'”

New Music Man John Petrucci 8 String!

After all these years, your playing seems to be getting better and better. And I really wouldn’t need to ask you — how much do you practice at this point in your career?

“Well, thank you for saying that. It’d be horrible if my playing was getting worse and worse. [Laughs] I’m always practicing I mean, we’re on tour right now, on the Dream Sonic tour with Devin Townsend and Animals as Leaders. We play a two-hour show and I’m still practicing during the day for a few hours. And sometimes you gotta watch it. Sometimes I over-practice and then… [Laughs] You’d go walk on stage and then you’re tired for this gig.”

John Petrucci - Temple of Circadia (Official Video)

“I mean, I love playing guitar so that always draws me to the instrument. But I am always physically drawn to wanting to be able to do this stuff that I write and that Dream Theater writes. In order to be able to do that, you have to be conditioned all the time.”

“You can’t just get lazy and not practice and expect ‘Oh yeah, I’m gonna play a concert of my solo material.’ It’s like ‘No you’re not.’ [Laughs] That stuff needs to be worked on daily. It’s a challenge.”

Photos: 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, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.