Dave Weiner: Finger Picking Good

Musicians are a funny lot, especially guitarists. Many believe they are blessed, or have been given a special gift from God, not Dave Weiner, he thinks anyone can be a Guitar Hero™. It just depends on the amount of work you are willing to do to make it happen.

Dave Weiner guitarist

He is one of the worlds most technically gifted guitarists and Dave practices (quite literally) what he preaches. He has a hugely successful YouTube channel called ‘Riff of the Week’. If you are learning to play the guitar, chances are you have already watched some of his excellent tutorials.

And when he’s not sharing his skills he’s out on the road playing rhythm guitar with legendary axe man Steve Vai.

He’s also branched out on his own and his second solo record On Revolute, is a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack to a great movie they haven’t made yet. I spoke to him from his LA studio on a rare day off.

How long have you been playing the guitar?
Originally I started playing drums around age 8 and then switched to the guitar around 10 years old. I loved to play drums and still do, the visual thing always appealed to me and I love still watching drummers, but once the guitar bug kicked in I had guitar lessons once a week or so for about 4 years. Initially it was just basic chords and riffs and then I moved on to scales.

It’s good to get perspective by learning other peoples songs and I would play along with a ton of records to have fun, but soon I was like ‘OK, I can do this but I don’t really understand WHY I am doing this’. You see a lot of people and although they can play along with records still don’t really understand WHAT they are doing.

Pretty quickly I wanted to know about the background and structure behind these songs I was playing (this was when I was about 14), and the teacher I had wasn’t really up to that job, so I started teaching myself more and more about the theory of playing.

I always say theory is the boring, but necessary part of music. It’s important because it gives you the tools and understandings on how to become a better player and you can use these tools to save you time for the rest of your life.

I also went to the Musicians Institute Music College in Hollywood for a year, it enabled me to get my feet wet in a couple of genres I’d not got into before, so that helped with my musical education too. I don’t really believe in natural ability, you either want it or you don’t. The players that become the very best do have natural ability, but they also want it more than the rest. If anyone is dedicated enough and persevere they have the potential to become a great player too.

Riff of the week – Is it easy to keep coming up with new riffs?
I’ve been doing the Riff of the Week thing since 2005, and I’m always trying to progress my own skills and come up with new stuff, so yes there is always something new we can go concentrate on. I say to my students you should always try and write a new ‘lick’ every day if possible, so the ‘Riff of the Week’ series is just a natural extension of my own ideas.

We talk about all different kinds of genres and playing styles so there is a lot of scope. Sometimes the techniques I cover are complicated but hopefully I explain it in a way that makes things easier to understand. It’s also a lot of fun to do.

I’m actually updating the web stuff and we now have a new HD ‘Riff of the week’, with more camera angles and stuff and extras on my site. I also tutor students individually online and its something I’ve done over the internet for some years, fortunately through technology like Skype this has been a lot easier in recent times.