Skip to main content
Summer Camp enrollment is open! Enroll here.

Who's Your Guitar Hero?

 by Terri Paglusch

Guitar Hero, Jimmy Page

In looking back at music throughout history, one thing keeps coming up. Every great musician was influenced by other musicians who came before them. While they were influenced by others, you would never say that they just copied each other. They took in the music they loved, and it shaped the kind of music they made.

This is definitely true of modern rock guitarists. Early rock & roll guitarist Chuck Berry was influenced by Robert Johnson, one of the most famous blues guitarists. Chuck Berry went on to influence The Beatles. Eric Clapton was influenced by Muddy Waters, who defined Chicago Blues with his song “I’m Your Hootchie Cootchie Man.” The list of guitarists who include Eric Clapton as one of their influences is long, and includes Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Johnny Lang. Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio is quoted in the BBC News, as he inducted the band Genesis into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, as saying it was "impossible to overstate what impact this band and musical philosophy had on me as a young musician. I'm forever in their debt."

Music House Guitar Teacher Share Their Origin Stories

The guitar teachers at Music House all have their stories of how they got started playing guitar, and who some of their early influencers have been. Here’s a few of their stories, in their own words. Maybe you or your child have been influenced by the same artists. Listen to some of the artists who influenced them, and you might find your music taking new directions.

Brian Kephart:


I didn't specifically pick guitar! I actually just wanted to be in a band and didn't really care what I played. When a buddy of mine got a new guitar he lent me his old one for a couple of months. I practiced like mad, and my parents took the hint and bought me my first guitar for my fourteenth birthday.

My first guitar hero was Barry Blair from Audio Adrenaline, followed by John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Since then, I've spent time ripping off Joe Pass, Bill Frisell, and John 5.

It was the 90s, so every song had a riff, and I copied everything I heard. One day a couple months after I started playing, just by coincidence, I accidentally played the first two notes of a song I had on CD. I put the disc in and figured out the rest. Until I joined my first band, I thought that's how everyone learned songs. Basically, I was a one-man riffology camp year-round.

Becca Kephart:


My dad plays guitar so I grew up with guitars around. It wasn’t until I was about 11, right about the time grunge started, that I got really serious about playing. But my dad only taught me Beatles songs when I started, so John Lennon and George Harrison were certainly the first guitar players I emulated. I'm still a big Beatles fan!

I also listened to a lot of punk, ska, and grunge when I was first learning, so I learned a lot of stuff by Nirvana and Green Day.

I was definitely one of those kids who figured out how to play riffs off the radio. Since it was the 90’s, and the internet was just starting to be a thing, I’d wait for songs to play on the radio or VH1 and then try and figure them out. But there was guitar in almost all of the popular music, so I wasn’t lacking examples.

I was so excited when I figured out how to play "Shine" by Collective Soul on my guitar. I’m pretty sure I figured it out from memory though, and since I didn’t own their album, I think I figured it out in the wrong key, but it still sounded right! I also wowed my friends by figuring out how to play "The Sweater Song" by Weezer. Again, in the wrong key, because I didn’t know about tuning the guitar down a half step yet. I did that with a lot of Nirvana songs too. But in the 90’s even bands with your not-typical guitar gods still had decent guitar players that came up with a lot of cool riffs.

Amanda Johnson:


At 11, I started playing flute and realized immediately I wanted to be a music teacher, which meant learning every instrument I could get my hands on. By the time I finally got to try guitar, just before turning 13, I played a few other instruments as well. It wasn't until I started preparing for being in the high school jazz band a year later, on guitar instead of flute, that it became my MAIN instrument. Being able to play interesting chords and compose the foundations of a song had me hooked and enhanced all other instrument learning afterward!

In jazz, I was influenced by Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery, though I count John McLaughlin in there as a crossover into Prog-Rock along with Steve Howe. Can't forget Jerry Cantrell, though.

I've always listened to entire compositions, but I started paying more attention to specific guitar parts when I taught myself how to read guitar TABs with "Black Hole Sun". Kim Thayil's parts in the song, with the high arpeggios in the verse, and the low down-tuned ones in the chorus, changed how I compose my own guitar parts.

Brandon Vogt:


A good friend of mine had this old beat up acoustic guitar that I would play every time I went to his house. I just figured a few little riffs out. Also, my twin sister’s boyfriend would sometimes come by the house with his guitar. When I heard him play, I knew I had to get an instrument of my own. Since I got that first guitar I have played every day.

The first band I was really into was 311. Tim Mahoney played a lot of cool riffs and also played great solos. Soon after that, I was listening to Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd). They were my initial hero's. Now I have too many to keep track of. Ha!

"Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits really had an effect on me. I remember listening to the guitar on that song and just wanting to sound exactly like it. I poked around with it for a while and was able to learn some of the licks and riffs in the song, but the song was more advanced than I could handle at the time. But just knowing a guitar could sound like that inspired me to work hard and get better at the instrument.

Andy Launder:


There was a lot of really great rock guitar music happening in the 1990's and that's probably what got me interested initially. Specifically, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana made me want to pick up the guitar and learn to play.

I'm also influenced by Jimmy Page, Trey Anastasio, Jerry Garcia and Eric Krasno (from Soulive).

One of the guitar parts that I really wanted to learn to play as a kid was the opening to "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It doesn't get much more epic than that. I spent much of my time in high school trying to recreate Trey Anastasio solos from Phish songs, like "Down With Disease" and Jimmy Page solos from songs like "Black Dog" "Whole Lotta Love" "Heartbreaker" and Kashmir.

If you are a guitar student, you too will be influenced by the music you listen to. If you only listen to one genre of music, you might want to try expanding the artists and even genres you listen to. Explore to find out what you like, and when you discover something new that you love, try playing some of that music. What you like about other music will influence the way you play cover songs (you’ll “make it your own”) and will “show up” in your own music that you write.

Just as famous guitarists, and Music House guitar teachers, had their music influenced by those that came before them, they will be the influence on the next generation of guitarists. Who will have the biggest influence on your music as your style evolves?

Who are your guitar heroes? Want to learn to play like them? Check out Music House!

Free eBook - Get started in music with over 20 pages of helpful tips

Written by Terri Paglusch
Terri Paglusch
Terri comes to Music House with extensive experience in business management. At Music House she spends her time working to make the client experience the best it can be.