Ryan Roxie, who is well known for being Alice Cooper‘s longtime lead guitarist and collaborator, is now helping people who want to learn how to play guitar. He and his team dubbed the Roxie Guitar Army, have come up with an innovative and unique approach to learning to play the guitar using instructional videos called the System-12 Guitar Method. It’s designed for beginning and intermediate players who are looking for a fun and easy way to learn the fundamentals of playing while being inspired to learn how to play songs. The system not only offers instructions by Ryan, but incorporates the latest technology to show students multiple angles of the neck, scroll notes, tablature, and a virtual neck with finger positions on the frets. If there was ever a time to learn guitar using a well thought out and detailed method, it’s now!
Our correspondent, Robert Cavuoto, spoke to Ryan about his new guitar teaching method, how it’s funded, and why it’s better than any method out there! To learn more about the System-12 Guitar Method, check out the interview with Ryan below and then visit this location to sign up!
Tell me a little about the System-12 Guitar Method and your involvement in creating it?
System-12 Guitar Method is a new way to learn how to play guitar. It pulls from all my years of experience whether being on stage playing with 100 or so bands; 98 you never heard of [laughing]or from when I was a guitar teacher starting at 16 years old. There is also a team of teachers involved, and we got together to combine our collective experience to offer “guitar life-hacks” which makes playing the guitar easier, more simplistic, and faster to learn. With this method, you will get a solid foundation that you can springboard off to go on your own. We intend to give students a basic knowledge of the guitar, from beginner to intermediate. You still need to have these fundamentals in place regardless of where you are with your playing! Once you have that, you can continue on your own guitar journey. Hopefully, students will walk away with good memories of how we taught them and recommend us to their friends. That’s how we plan on spreading the word.
How do you keep learning fun and not intimidating?
That’s the biggest problem when anyone who is starting to learn the guitar. It is very intimidating, but we try to take as much of the intimidation and fear out of the equation. We do that by not overwhelming the student with technical content. We do it in a completely different way that’s fun and inspiring because you will learn a song in the first lesson. Its only three open notes, and 99% of the people can play it correctly on the first try. Learning a song gives you a sense of accomplishment and gets you one step closer to writing your own music. You will learn 12 songs and riffs throughout the 12 lessons. At the end, you will have these under your belt to give you confidence to play guitar. Playing the guitar is all about confidence. It’s all about keeping yourself interested, learning the fundamentals, and pooling different techniques to help give a solid grasp of the guitar; while learning songs that you are familiar with in your everyday life. It will keep you coming back to the practice room to develop your motor skills, which is one of the key aspects of playing guitar. Motor skills allow your hand to move up and down the neck of the guitar. When your heart tells your head to play something inspirational, you know what to do with your hands to make them work. Inspiration along with imagination are other key aspects. That’s what drives you to create great songs and riffs. Those aspects will allow you to take things to the next level musical; maybe join a band or buy the guitar you always wanted.
You’re very personable from when I have met you backstage, interviewed you, or watched your YouTube videos. How important is it to have a teacher that students like and can relate to?
I think it is really important to learn guitar from someone that you respect, listen to, and know. When I was a kid, I would have jumped at the opportunity to take lessons from my heroes like Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, or Brian May. That aspect is very important in the learning process. Then you can combine the techniques and fundamentals with it. We also add the latest technology into the mix. That is why I think System-12 Guitar Method shines above anything else because we provide a good mentor with solid principles all in one course.
So many instructional videos on YouTube are poor quality and have bad angles, which make it hard to see what the instructor is doing. How are your videos different?
Our courses are different as we are upping the game from the quality of the videos to the camera angles to me mentoring you through the process. We utilize the latest technology that incorporates tablature and notes that scroll on-screen along with the instructions. We found a way we can sync all that together, plus there is a virtual guitar neck so you can see the finger positions on the frets. There are multiple ways to look at the guitar, not just by watching me.
How does the Kickstarter fund work?
We are well on our way with this course and filmed it the exact way we want. We have the demos completed and know what will go into the final version. It’s looking pretty good using this technology. We are raising money for the final version. People can make donations to fund the final version and they will get our beta version the day they donate.
You have a very realistic donation tier from $5 all the way to $5000, where a student can get one of your guitars.
There are options that everyone can afford. Not everyone can afford an Alice Cooper stage used guitar, but they are there for uber Alice fans or collectors. They could want one of the best tools to start them on their guitar journey. The guitars that I play on stage with Alice are set-up perfectly. If anyone wants to hear how they sound, go on YouTube and search for Alice Cooper live [laughing]. There are plenty of videos where you can hear the guitars that are being offered.
A good guitar makes learning and playing more enjoyable. Do you offer advice on equipment choices?
That’s a really good question. We have a private Facebook group that is dedicated to those types of questions. When you decided to start your journey of playing, you will come across little hurdles like searching for information and opinions on what equipment you should have and buy. With System-12 Guitar Method, students will have the Roxie Guitar Army behind them, that’s all the people who have worked on this guitar method. On this Facebook page, we will point you in the right direction, whether it’s finding the best tuner, guitar, or practice amp for you and your budget. This is all designed to maximizing the learning experience for the student. If you start with a good set of tools and lessons from the right place, the rest is yours to work at. Guitar playing takes work as it won’t play itself; you’re learning a skill. This is the perfect time to learn a new skill during the quarantine. You may want to sit back and be entertained with other people’s work; I too watch comedies and podcasts, but you also need to learn new things to better yourself. If you always wanted to learn but couldn’t find the time, now you have the time, and you should apply it to learning something. It will help you in the long run. We have been working on the System-12 Guitar Method for years and were going to release it during the Alice Cooper summer tour. The tour got postponed as the entire world was going to be spending a lot of time indoors. We needed to fast track the final version but want to introduce the beta version to students now while raising funds for the final version. We want to get this on people’s computers, iPhones, and iPads as quickly as possible. We didn’t come up with this method just because of the quarantine; it’s been in the works for a long time.
What was your approach to learning how to play guitar? Did you have a teacher or were you self taught?
I had a teacher and I still remember his name, Steve Philips! He was the cool dude at Dublin Music in Northern California who also played in a local band. He was the biggest rock star I knew at the time [laughing]. He taught me “Stairway to Heaven,” the riff to “Smoke on the Water,” and some Peter Frampton songs. I can still remember him teaching me all those songs as they are ingrained in me. He was great to learn from and that is why I feel so strongly about good mentoring. Looking back, he taught me the traditional way of starting with first position chords. He taught me from the high E string to the thickest E string. This is completely opposite from the way System-12 Guitar Method works. Our system starts with the strings you are going to use most in rock and will enable you to start playing songs immediately. We begin with chords that allow you to work on songs and get your hand comfortable on the neck rather than twisting in a lot of positions that don’t feel comfortable. What we do is a little non-traditional but will save a lot of time when starting to play.
What was the first song you learned to play in its entirety?
The first entire song was “Your Momma Don’t Dance” by Loggins and Messina. This was before Poison covered it years later. Because it’s a 1, 4, 5 blues progression, I was able to learn it then sing it as well. Being able to sing and play guitar at the same time was a big deal for me. That is probably why I have been trying to do it ever since, like on my solo albums and some of the bands I play with. We teach things that are obvious and simple to play. You won’t be that guy at the guitar store trying to play “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” which is too advanced of an opening riff for any beginner.
When Alice introduced a third guitarist with Orianthi and now Nita Strauss, how did the band work out the guitar parts so all the guitars sounded clear and crisp rather than a wall of noise?
I’m so happy to be in a three-guitar player band as I have been able to figure out my role and utilize my playing strengths so they shine. We’ve been doing a few songs from the mid-80s with Alice, so it’s a no brainer that Nita is the best person to play the shredding leads. She loves that style, so I lay back and do the harmonies to support what she is doing while Tommy is laying down the foundation chords. On the classic 70s Alice songs, I’m going to jockey for a position to get that solo because blues-based melodic solos are one of my strengths. Whenever those songs come up in the set-list, it’s my turn to get the spotlight. The same applies to Tommy when there is solo he’s is perfect for. When we learn a song, we try to break it into two really strong rhythms so we all aren’t playing the exact same chords at the same time. The third guitar will be playing more of the overlaying harmonies or more of the percussive guitar chords which are used to accent certain beats. You will very rarely see us all playing the same note or the same chord at the same time. We want a wall of guitars, not a wall of noise, and the end of the day when we all play the same A chord, it sounds monstrous, and that’s the way we want it to sound at that particular moment.
Kudos to you and the band as you all do a great job of dividing the parts nicely.
Thank you, that’s the benefit of going to an Alice Cooper show multiple times. If you see our show the first time, you are probably focusing on Alice 99% of the time as he such a terrific entertainer. The more you go, the more you will start to see all the nuances of what each of us are doing up there, even what FrankenAlice is doing! Every night you will see a different show within the same show.
What is one of your favorite aspects of playing with Alice?
Alice has his ego in check and comfortable with his celebrity status and allows all of us to take a turn in the spotlight during the shows and shine. He wants us to go for it as much as possible. He knows his name is on the marquee but knows we help support the show. He gives us our time in the spotlight, and we are very grateful and happy that we have a boss like him.
The Goon Squad [Chuck Garric, Glen Sobel, Ryan Roxie, and Tommy Henriksen] did a tribute to Jimmy Webb by performing a song and posted it on social media. Due to the success of that broadcast, are there plans to perform and broadcast more songs?
The idea came quickly when our buddy Jimmy passed away. I knew he liked Iggy Pop, so I asked The Goon Squad, which is our side-band that plays clubs on our off nights from touring with Alice if they would like to do a tribute to him. We play songs that we were influenced by growing up, like Motorhead, Cheap Trick, Iggy Pop, and Marc Bolan. We also play songs off our solo CDs and some Beasto Blanco tunes. I wanted to do a fitting tribute to Jimmy as he was such an icon on the New York music scene. I recorded “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with a cowbell click track and sent it to Chuck to record and film. We did that with each member, and then Tommy, who is a great producer mixed the song. He sent it over to Dave R., aka the Ratt, who mixed and edited the video. What you see is the final result of us in our home studios just doing the one-track recording. It took me five minutes to press record on my four-track and camcorder. I’m happy with the way it came out and hope Jimmy is happy with it too. I think we will be doing more as The Goon Squad enjoyed doing it and the response from the fans has been great. I feel the door has been left open for more and maybe not just with The Goon Squad, but maybe we can bring in Alice and Nita to have the complete Alice Cooper band. I think that would be really cool.
I saw Alice Cooper perform in Allentown, PA last July and you played a beautiful Trans Am Firebird guitar. Can you tell me about it?
I wish that guitar was mine! Our buddy Joe Campbell made that guitar. On stage, it looks incredible, but up close, you see all the detail and it’s even more killer. It has mag wheels for the knobs and pin-striping all over the place. I have a 50th Anniversary Gibson Firebird in gold that was put out in 2013. It was “reliced” but I “reliced” it more by playing it for two years on the Motley Crue Tour. It was during the Final Tour…or was it? I love that guitar. That one is not on the Kickstarter campaign as it goes everywhere I do!
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