Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in Interview | 0 comments

We had the chance to have a chat with Stephanie Pickard. Being a guitar player, playing in a band, and teaching guitar as a profession, we think she would be a prefect candidate for our very first interview! You are a Musician’s Institute graduate. What was your major? Was it genre specific?
Stephanie Pickard: Yes, I went to MI and majored in guitar. The way they separate the programs there isn’t by genre, it’s by instrument so you do actually end up playing and learning a lot of different styles and techniques. The way that they gear it more towards your personal interests is with your private lesson instructor and you do also get to choose which live playing workshops you decide to participate in, which are anything from reggae to metal. How did you decide to study music?
Stephanie Honestly, there was nothing else I wanted to do. I was actually having a hard time towards the end of high school because I just wanted to start my life and focus on music. I was a hard worker but not one of those kids that school just came easy to and I was ready to focus on my passion. And I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else besides playing guitar. That being said though, just because you are passionate about it and you know what you want to do, it’s still not an easy path by any means. What was the experience like? I’ve heard that it can be quite stressful and overwhelming. Is going to a music institute for everyone?
Stephanie You definitely get what you put in and it goes by extremely fast. I’m sure it’s not for everybody, but you’re gonna find out really fast. I think there is something for everyone there but you have to be willing to not just be naturally talented and buckle down and learn theory, sight reading, ear training, all of it. I think it can be hard sometimes for some people when their hobby or passion starts to feel like work. But at the same time you are at school or work with a guitar in your hand, and I’d take that any day of the week! So you are gonna have days where you feel on top of the world and days where you want to quit but you just have to push through. You also had a chance to work with Chris Broderick, Bruce Bouillet and Paul Gilbert. How were those experiences?
Stephanie I feel very lucky to have been able to study guitar from all them. I only had a few lessons from Paul through Musicians Institute but he is a player that I have looked up to for a long time, not only for his obvious ability but his attitude. I think it’s awesome that he is one of the best guitar players pretty much ever, and is so modest and friendly.
I started studying with Bruce after I graduated from MI and that was really awesome because he was my first teacher I felt like was equally as direct with me as he would be to a guy. He wasn’t mean, he was honest and to the point and it helped make me a better guitar player and actually mostly with my rhythm playing. I had always focused a lot more on lead and not being a strong rhythm player and Bruce told me he didn’t care how well I could solo until I could play an AC/DC riff that would make his head turn. That was very eye opening for me.
Chris is a great teacher, he has a really good personality for it and you can tell he really enjoys it. He also approaches the guitar differently then most people and always presents things in a very clear way. He will spend time watching your hand and pointing out little things that you do, that if you just changed slightly would be much cleaner. He also recognizes rhythmic values and theory faster than anyone I have ever seen. But again they are all amazing and I feel very lucky to have gotten to study with all of them. I think it’s really cool to study from different musicians because everyone looks at the guitar in a different way and everyone has something to teach you. For how long have you been listening to metal? What are your influences?
Stephanie I got into guitar kinda late, I guess not that late, but I wanted to be like one of those kids like 5 and ridiculous. I started when I was about 14 or 15, and at first I was into whatever was cool at the time but as I started to get a little bit better, I heard Hendrix was the best, so I was all about that. When I was a senior in high school, I was friends with all the metal kids ‘cause they all liked music. They were telling me about Children of Bodom. I was kinda like “well whatever, how good could they be” you know but then I went home and listened to them and my jaw just dropped. “I was like, ok, they are awesome, I need to do this! This is what I wanna do!” Ever since I found Children of Bodom, I was just all about metal guitar. Before I had liked Metallica and stuff like that, but I didn’t know about anything that wasn’t as mainstream as Metallica. I fell in love with Children of Bodom’s sound, and I love Megadeth, Death and all those bands, but Children of Bodom was the one that definitely switched me over. I had never heard solo work like that before. I didn’t understand speed picking and stuff until I got into metal. So who is your favorite guitar player? Who is your idol?
Stephanie My idol? Well, it has been Paul Gilbert, for like ever. I still think Paul Gilbert is probably my guitar idol but I’m currently listening to a lot of Born of Osiris and Periphery. For lead work, probably more Born of Osiris. Periphery, the overall sound is really cool, their mixing and mastering is just ridiculous. But as for my idol, probably still Paul Gilbert. Because he has the best attitude. But I like Paul, and Jeff Loomis and all those people. You have a band, As Fate Paves Ruin. Could you tell us more about it? How long have you been with them or did you start the band?
Stephanie Yes! It’s me, Sean Bauer and Alex Rees. Sean actually suggested it, we had been dating for a while and were doing our own projects. I was working on my solo project and Sean and Alex were in another band called Karcist. I was around when they were recording and Sean helped me record some of my music and we just thought it would be cool to do another project all together as a side project, that became our main project. In my solo project I write everything and I’m all by myself, so when this opportunity came up, it was really exciting for me, because all of a sudden I was playing a 7-string guitar, which I hadn’t really done before, and I was in a project with someone I was already close to and respect personally and musically, and together we create a whole different sound than what I was doing by myself. Sean writes really cool parts and always has a vision for where the song should go. Plus, his growling mixed with the 7 string guitars make it really heavy and then adding my clean vocals on top of that creates something really cool and different. Playing in this band and writing with someone so talented has really pushed my ability and taught me a lot.
What we’re working on right now is actually much different than we currently have up online. I can’t wait to get the new music out there, what we have up right now is a demo from pretty much right when we first started and we hadn’t totally found our sound yet. Since then, Sean has been focused on mixing and mastering, comparing it to Periphery and Born of Osiris, and basically doing it all on our own. We have also added a lot more solo work, too which I am really excited about! What are your short terms plans? I think you are recording right now?
Stephanie Short term, yes! We redid everything. We put out this EP really fast and now we kinda changed our entire sound, the chorus is different, everything is different. The focus right now is: the mix that we set for this one specific song is actually going to be the whole album’s EQ, so that’s why we are spending a lot more time on it because we want the album to sound the same. So the short term plan is to get this song out there, promote it that way. Then probably come out with a 3 song EP, and then the album. The goal is to take this band as far as we can. Once we get this song out, then we will start being able to do more of the YouTube videos and everything like that and showing more of what we actually have going on. You also teach guitar. How long have you been doing it? You also teach globally on How does teaching remotely differ than teaching in person?
Stephanie It’s different! I have been teaching for about 6 years now. I started off only in stores, and then independently and in stores, and then bandhappy came along. Bandhappy is really cool, I was really honored that they had me be a part of it. It is definitely pretty crazy and I think it is something that will, and is, changing music lessons forever. It’s a way for people in different states and different countries to be able to have lessons from anybody they want. When you are at a store, it’s more ,people are assigned to you and it’s a big age range. It can be anybody from 5 to 40+. Usually it’s whatever their goals are but generally introducing them the guitar in general. The same for independent lessons, but that’s with people who are more interested in your teaching specifically. And Bandhappy, is mostly people who either have seen you on YouTube or know about your band. A student, like someone from Japan can log onto their computer, and a teacher from California can log onto their computer and you’re giving a live guitar lesson, it’s really cool. I have had a really good experience with it. I’ve taught lessons from California to New York, Ireland, and Japan, Japan a few times. It’s really cool, it’s kinda funny with the time difference, you know? Somebody would want like a Saturday morning lesson in Japan, and it’s Friday evening for you. But it’s just right in your house, it’s really cool because you can book things back to back, you are not driving, you have everything at your fingertips. “Oh, you are 7-string student? Let me grab my 7-string” instead of lugging and bringing multiple guitars. And it’s more actually, what I have noticed is, at least for me, it’s much more metal students and solo techniques, where as in a store, I don’t have as much say, it can be anything from you know, Hanna Montana, or Slayer, you know? Someone who wants to learn Paul Gilbert, or someone is 8 and love the Jonas Brothers. You have to be a lot more versatile in the store and I think bandhappy is a lot more specific to the type of player that you are. How would you describe your style?
Stephanie I like a lot of vibrato. So I think vibrato is the most thing important thing. The way that you land on a note, even in rhythm is so important. If someone is shredding all day long and then they land on that last note and it just doesn’t do it for you, it’s kind of a mood killer, you know? So for me, I think vibrato makes a huge difference. And of course I love speed picking, I can’t help that, it’s just the way I am. One thing I’ve noticed about my playing is, what I am trying to do when I am writing something, I try to make is as unique as possible to me. Maybe you learn a technique from Paul Gilbert or someone else but you can’t just grab it and slap it in your solo because people can already go see Paul Gilbert. So you try and say like “ That’s a cool string skipping thing he did, instead of doing that pattern that he did, what if I did this but tapped this note and took it somewhere else?” You try to mix it into something else. If he is picking, maybe I would legato it, or I would use a tap slide when I go to a certain spot. You try to take all of your influences and mix them to the best of your ability. I always try to throw in something a little weird, so I guess my style is weird haha! Do you have a practice routine that you follow?
Stephanie I try to. I play guitar a lot of the day, but depending on my day, it could be when I am at work, and I have a guitar in my hand but I don’t have a say on what I’m doing because I’m teaching but I try to make a point out of warming up. That’s really important. I do vocal warm ups too. But for guitar I do those quasi-chromatic scales, where you go play straight down 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, on each string, and then mix some string skipping, mix the patterns as much as I can to get my fingers moving independently. Since I have been playing longer, I don’t need to warm up “as” long, and I usually tend to jump in a little sooner than I used to, which maybe I shouldn’t. But I do try to make a point to practice with a metronome. Especially if its something that I find is a little bit harder for me than other stuff, like sweeping, I try to make a point to sit down with the metronome and be as mature as I can, go slow, then speed up. Whatever I am working on, I try to keep somewhat of a routine but I kinda go with my mood as well. Do you have any advice for the young guitarist out there, who wants to get into metal, and especially for the girls who want to play metal guitar.
Stephanie For all guitar players: Practice slow. Especially with metal because we get so excited to play fast, we see videos of people who are amazing, Chris Broderick, Paul Gilbert, Jeff Loomis, John Petrucci, all these people that play so effortlessly. We’re like “Look at him! I wanna do that!” And we tend to try just jump right in at full speed, but guitar is a muscle memory thing and you end up messing up, and keep messing up. Your head knows what to do but your hands are doing something different. The key to playing fast is actually playing slow, at least for a little bit. So the best thing to do is stay disciplined with your metronome, play it slow, test it fast and see what you need to do. What I have noticed from teaching is, people get pretty good pretty fast, but to really get that extra mile, you have to be clean and you have to have the little stuff. For girls, I would say, try not to read anything anybody writes about you ever haha. Go to YouTube for example. I mean I have never been a boy, so I don’t know how it is for boys, but as a girl, I think that the feedback you get is much more exaggerated. It’s either stupidly positive or horribly negative. It’s either “Quit guitar! You are awful!” when you don’t do anything wrong or maybe messed up a little, or “Marry me, you are the most amazing thing ever”. So I think you need to just be true to yourself, act like you are an equal because you are an equal, and ignore the comments, don’t read anything. Just play and do what you need to do. And be positive. I think it is important as a musician, also as a person, to find the good in everything. The better I get, the more I look at other people and I just see the good in their playing. And if you’re open to it you can learn from anybody. Do you have any future projects in mind? It may even be a fantasy or a dream project? Or a project you would love to be part of?
Stephanie I always do. I always think of million things I wanna do. Right now, I really enjoy playing guitar. I enjoy playing a lot of different stuff, I just prefer metal, because in my opinion it has the coolest notes and it sounds the best to me. As far as other bands and projects, I am always open to hear other opportunities, but right now I am super focused on As Fate Paves Ruin and my solo project. As far as long term, for touring, and really pushing something forward, that’s what As Fate Paves Ruin is to me. For fun and spare time, I love writing and started the solo project but am more interested in making that an online thing and possibly placing those songs in TV or movies if I could. I don’t know if mainstream is the right word, but because there is no growling and it is just me singing, it is something I could probably get away with it. It’s still metal but I do have a more of like an “Evanesence”y voice, which I used to be more embarrassed of but now I think it’s actually cool. But I used to be like “Oh my god, I just wanna be like Pantera and I have this pretty little girly voice!” I used to be really embarrassed of singing because of that but that’s just what I’ve got and I do think it’s cool now. Actually I teach a lot and help a lot of younger girls that play acoustic guitar and sing, I help them write a lot, too. So lately, I have become really interested in becoming a song writer and selling or being hired to help other artists.. I noticed that if it’s not about me, it’s a lot easier for me to do quickly. When it’s my stuff, I’m always thinking that “It has to be cool enough, it has to be this, it has to have that”, where I am probably just over analyzing it. But it’s for someone else, it’s almost like “Here, that’s cool, let’s do that!”. That’s something I would be really interested in, too. But really I just wanna keep taking As Fate Paves Ruin as far as we can. I would also be interested in doing instructional DVDs or trying little inventions for guitars because I watch Shark Tank a lot haha. So I try to think of the things that I could invent that would be cool. Now a few question, just for fun :) What is your favorite cartoon character?
Stephanie I like Metalocalypse. I think it is so funny. The way Toki and Skwisgaar argue with each other reminds me of MI, or I guess any guitar players, so they are my favorites. Do you have any geekiness in your blood?
Stephanie I guess I answered that in the last question. Well, maybe not as a geek like a super tech-savvy, but I am probably more of a nerd than super cool haha. All I do is pretty much practice guitar and hang out with my boyfriend. I like to make stupid jokes. Especially with puns. I named my old cats Dimebag Hairball and Vinnie Paws after Dime and Vinnie of Pantera haha. And I do play a little Diablo, too. Do you name your guitars?
Stephanie I don’t! I don’t know why I don’t because I like to name anything that I can like a Shred Pun that something I think is funny but I don’t name my guitars. I don’t know why. Do you name yours? [No, I don’t either!] I think it’s a boy thing! I was working on a custom guitar and the best name I could come up with was The Shred Master 5000, something kinda silly haha, kinda sounds like a vacuum’s name, but never anything like a person’s name. Is there anything you would like to say, to share with readers?
Stephanie I think they should definitely keep checking out your site. I think girls playing guitar is becoming more prominent, and I think that’s awesome. It is not really a man thing, but sometimes it kinda seems like it is considered to be. You are using your arms, you don’t need to be a boy to do it. Especially vibrato. I remember my guitar teacher in MI saying “You have to have good vibrato. Guys think that it’s a man thing, like it’s a muscle thing”. It’s kinda funny, it’s not like you are weight lifting. But it is really nice to see, especially in metal, that there are girls playing 7 and 8 strings guitars now, playing really technical songs. It’s really cool that you guys are pointing it out more and it is happening more in general.

Wow! Haven’t noticed for how long we have been talking! It was a great pleasure to talk with Stephanie and we are looking forward to hear their upcoming EP.

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