Tom Morello Masterclass Review

Published by: Julia

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Tom Morello’s electric guitar masterclass is extensive. It is a great way to learn how to play, create your own songs, perform live and much more besides.

Tom Morello’s guitar playing style

For 40 years, Tom Morello has been pushing the boundaries of guitar playing. His career really took off with Rage Against the Machine. He later also experienced success with Audioslave. Since 2016, Tom has been a member of the supergroup Prophets of Rage.

Over the years, he has played with and collaborated with some truly amazing musicians. Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen are just 2 examples.

Musically, he refuses to stand still. His playing style has continually evolved, so you never know what he will do next. Tom has gone from playing mainly rock music to incorporating EDM and hip-hop styling into The Atlas Underground album, which was released not long before I wrote this review.

He has many talents. One of which is being a truly excellent teacher.

This is a fantastic course. One of the best on the 60+ courses that are available from masterclass.com.

It is squarely aimed at guitar players. But… anyone would enjoy this course. His eclectic musical tastes shine through as he teaches you about how to write songs, play live, master your nerves, effectively practice any instrument and shares guitar playing techniques.

Developing your creative voice as a guitar player

Tom encourages you to go beyond simply imitating your favourite players. He explains that you need to be willing to push the boundaries and explore to engage properly with your instrument and develop your own playing style.

His take on what makes you an artist is an interesting one. Tom believes that everyone has a creative voice. In the first video in the course, he explains how you can quickly find and use yours.

Learn electric guitar playing techniques from Tom Morello

Before I took Tom’s course, I completed Carlos Santana’s guitar course. Unlike many other people, I actually enjoyed Carlos’ masterclass. But, if you are interested in learning techniques, you will likely be a bit disappointed by his course. This is because Santana’s course is more about the creative process than it is how to play.

Whereas, Tom’s electric guitar masterclass’ main focus is teaching you to play. As you will see if you want to learn how to get the most out of your electric guitar, Tom’s course is definately right fo you. Here is just a taste of some of the playing techniques he covers in his masterclass:

Morello riffs

Powerful riffs are at the centre of how Tom plays. So, it is no surprise to see him teaching his students how to play the heavy riffs he is so famous for. In this section of the course, you will learn about how to experiment with the following:

  • Tuning enhancements for dynamism
  • Adding holes
  • Slides
  • Double picking
  • Chukkas and pauses
  • How to follow your instrument’s tone
  • Locks and fills
  • How to invert classic riffs

Experimenting in this way is key to developing what Tom calls your own voice. If you want to play fantastic rock riffs follow his key choice tip. It is a really simple, easy to implement, yet effective tip that is sure to surprise you.

Finger exercises to help you to play faster

Tom explains how performing mind-numbingly boring exercises can eventually enable you to play faster. In the workbook and video, he provides you with several exercises, a great place to find more and the tabs you need to practice some of the basics.

When it comes to playing guitar what you put into it is what you get out of it.

Tom Morello – electric guitar masterclass

The technique he shows you is super easy to follow. You will also learn how to use a metronome to gradually speed up your playing.

Pentatonic and blues scales

Personally, I don’t think that Tom’s course is really designed for people who are completely new to playing the guitar. I am not saying that beginners will not get anything out of what Tom has to offer. It is just that a lot of what he covers would be difficult for a complete beginner to relate to and recreate.

However, Tom’s “Pentatonic and Blues Scales” video is squarely aimed at beginners. About 5 minutes into this video, Tom very slowly plays the pentatonic scale in the key of A. Up and down again. Then he explains how to use that simple exercise to start improvising and play your first solo.

Unlocking the fretboard

Then, Tom takes things to the next level. He shows you how to truly master the rest of the fretboard. You are taken through the minor keys, taught to solo in any key and show how to incorporate these scales into your jamming. Then he shows you how to build on that by playing the same notes in a different key.

How to improvise when playing the guitar and perform solos

Tom is the king of improvisation. His solos are the highlight of many of Rage Against the Machine’s shows and tracks. But, that has not happened by accident. Tom is constantly pushing himself out of his comfort zone. As a result, his ability to improvise has only got better as the years have gone by.

Tom’s guide to mastering pedal effects

At various points in his masterclass, Tom takes you through each piece of equipment and explains how to get the most out of each item. He dedicates a whole video to pedals and effects. In it, he takes you through how to choose the right type of pedals and set them up. Tom then goes on to demonstrate how he produces these effects listed below:

  • Wah-wah
  • Whammy
  • MXR phase 90
  • DOD EQ
  • Delay
  • Tuner
  • Space station

Interestingly, Tom does not think that the gear you choose really matters. He no longer fusses about things like whether the fret should be made from mahogany or not.

Creating unique sounds using your electric guitar

In his “tones and sounds” video, Morello explains how he uses pedals to explore and develop new sounds. I was stunned to learn that you can make an electric guitar sound like a cello or bagpipes. This video totally blew me away.

In it, he explains how he uses what he calls his “noise chart” to track each sound element he creates. It is a great way to capture your innovations so you can easily recreate them when you want to.

This is a technical skill that I have never seen shared before. It is a pretty technical part of the course, but the language Tom uses means that I could follow it. Personally, I doubt I am ready to put this method to use.

But, more experienced musician are certain to be able to benefit from this part of the course. Even non-guitarists can create and use a version of Tom’s noise chart to track their own innovations, so they can make the music they create more interesting.

Creating your own tracks

There’s a fundamental difference between being a musician and being an artist.

Tom Morello Teaches Guitar – Masterclass.com

Tom’s masterclass is about far more than just playing the guitar better. He really does want his students to find their own sound and create their own music. So, a fairly large part of the course is about doing this. To help you to do that, Tom goes over these subjects in quite a bit of detail:

  • Rock songwriting fundamentals
  • Riff rock writing: verses and multitracking
  • Riff rock writing: chorus, solo and arrangement
  • Writing poetic lyrics
  • Creating a melody that fits
  • Getting the most out of each studio recording session

Tom Morello’s guitar gear guide

Knowing what each piece of kit is used for. Tom goes through the following items in quite a bit of detail.

  • Pedals
  • Guitars
  • Amps

Tom’s pedals video is a real eye-opener. It is truly amazing what you can do with the right set of pedals. The better you understand your equipment and explore it the more creative you can be.

However, Tom makes it very clear that you do not necessarily have to invest in expensive kit to be able to produce an interesting sound. In fact, at one stage in his career, Tom had no choice but to settle for using cheap pieces of kit, during which time it pushed him to explore and be more creative.

Morello electric guitar case studies

To further cement what he is teaching Tom shares 2 case studies with his students.

  • Killing in the Name
  • The Ghost of Tom Joad

I really enjoyed hearing him break down how he created and plays these 2 fantastic tracks.

How to play live

Rage Against the Machine’s live performances are legendary. At about the mid-point of the course, Tom explains how he and the rest of the band prepare for their performances.

This section of the course is spread across 2 videos. The first one covers the following subjects:

  • Developing the right philosophy
  • Handling your nerves
  • How to find your authentic voice as a performer

In the 2nd live performance video Tom goes over the following points:

  • How to warm up your hands for a live performance
  • How to craft the perfect setlist
  • Creating a great experience for any audience

Morello’s musical influences

Having taken most of the 9 music-related masterclasses I can tell you that anyone who wants to become a legendary musician needs to look to others for inspiration. People like Carlos Santana, Deadmau5, Itzhak Perlman, Timbaland and Christina Aguilera all do this. They have eclectic musical tastes and have all learned from musicians who play all genres.

Tom is no exception. During his electric guitar masterclass, Tom shares details of some of the people who have influenced him. He goes through the following genres, one-by-one and shows you some of the playing techniques he picked up and developed as a result of listening to the following genres:

  • Rock
  • Jazz
  • Classical music
  • Folk music
  • The blues
  • EDM
  • Hip-hop
  • Non-guitar sounds

As you will see, Tom has picked up far more than just playing techniques by listening to such an eclectic mix of music styles. He has picked up attitude, melody, style and sounds from all kinds of people.

I’d like to teach a class that makes your guitar playing meaningful to you.

Tom Morello – masterclass.com

Effective electric guitar practice drills

We all know that “practice makes perfect”. But, it is not as simple as playing a lot. You need to do so in a mindful and effective way. It is important to recognise any bad habits you are developing and correct them as you go. As you will see, how you practice is actually more important than how long you practice for.

In his course, Morello takes you through how he practices. He provides a series of exercises for you to try and a list of places where you can find more drills.

Tom Morello’s masterclass workbook

This is the best masterclass workbook I have seen – by far. It is yet more proof that Tom has carefully planned out his guitar masterclass. He clearly wants his students to be equipped to take action.

It is really easy to navigate this workbook. You are provided with a summary of what each chapter contains. There are also assignments and details of where you can learn more. Tom is definitely not one of those “my way or the high way” teachers. He has clearly drawn inspiration from all kinds of sources, during his career, and he wants to equip you to be able to do the same.

Each assignment is tagged with the time point in the videos where Tom plays the piece or demonstrates the technique. They are spot on. So, you can easily dip in and out of this course. Find what you want, go to the video, see how Tom does it, then use the workbook to practice.

However, I do have one criticism, there is no index at the start of the workbook. That is a pain because you have to scroll through the chapters to find the one you want or use the titles of the videos in the course to navigate to what you want.

Who is Tom Morello masterclass suitable for?

This was an amazing course. One I can recommend without hesitation. Tom Morello clearly sat down and thought his course through before recording it. He worked out what people needed to know and how best to deliver that information.

It is an excellent course for anyone who wants to learn how to play the electric guitar. If you are just starting out, you will not be able to replicate a lot of what Tom teaches in the course. But, it will definitely inspire you and show you what is possible. Knowing what you are aiming for will help you to focus in on when learning the basic guitar playing skills you need.

From what I saw and speaking to friends who play regularly, I would say that the players that will benefit the most from Morello’s masterclass are intermediate guitarists. But, his playing techniques are advanced, so even experienced players are likely to enjoy this course and potentially pick up some extra tips.

The fact that he has collaborated with the likes of Bruce Springsteen means that you are tapping into the knowledge he has gleaned from the world’s best electric guitar players.

However, I would also recommend that you invest in an all-access pass and take some of the other music-related masterclasses. Tom’s course is excellent, but each of the other teachers offers you something a little different. So, you can become a more rounded musician and performer by taking as many of the music courses as possible. The all-access pass costs just $180, which is the same price you would pay if you were to buy 2 individual masterclasses. As you can see from my masterclass review each course is made to a high standard and offers you a chance to learn in several ways.

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