Be Proud of Your Musical Influences… No Matter How Bizarre


In a previous Tone Talk I confessed that I used to absolutely love heavy metal… when I say love… I mean I lived and breathed heavy metal… the head banging, the sheer volume, the mosh pits… yep I checked those all off of my list.

So now I feel it necessary to explain and in a way save face. I mean, I am an acoustic guy through and through for crying out loud.

My musical journey has been filled with twists and turns. When I look back I often times wonder how the hell I ended up being such a die hard acoustic guy… I mean I go to bed thinking about vintage Gibson and Martin guitars, and wondering what tone wood combinations would be interesting to try. So what gives why the heavy metal?!?!? Please let me explain…

The Early Days…

The first cd that ever came into my world was Dan Fogelberg’s, Greetings From The West, the album was released in ’91 and I believe I ended up stealing it from my father (… sorry dad). Now I realize this is about the furthest thing from heavy metal, but it was my first glimpse into the power of a full album. Front to back, I listened to it over and over again… and again. Hence, my desire for music was born, and the search was on.

Next up, was me trying to define my own musical taste, so enter the whole grunge thing… I was a 6th grader wearing flannel, converse all stars, and sporting a pearl jam shirt… and yes I thought I was cool. At this point of my life I was listening to Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Blind Melon… and Aerosmith (not so sure how that one got in there… but it did). I felt as if I had discovered a musical movement, I guess I felt like it spoke right to me. Still no heavy metal yet…

The Rock Days…

On to junior high, where quite honestly I wasn’t sure what the hell happened. I figured I should at least try a cigarette or two (sorry dad, I stole those from you too), and listen to everything my parents hated; Green Day, Pantera, and still Nirvana (those guys hung with me for a while). So I guess as I was getting older I was honing in on heavier and heavier music… still no heavy metal though.

The Metal Days…

Enter high school, I played hockey and pretty much spent most of my days at the ice rink when I wasn’t in school. I had a discman to help pass the time and this is where I spent many an hour bonding with bands like Slipknot, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under… nice names right?!?!? Yikes!!! With incredibly high volume I whisked away the time soaking in all of the tunes I could. Yes, heavy metal finally arrived in my life.

The Classic Rock Days…

Now, I feel it necessary to say that still by the time I graduated high school I had never played a guitar, I hadn’t even held one yet, and I had no aspirations to even learn how to play, but I sure did enjoy music… a lot.
After high school I wasn’t playing much hockey anymore, so I had to fill the time somehow… so enter guitar, and a whole new musical experience. My ears opened up considerably and in my “old” age I began to discover The Doors, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Allman Brothers… Basically the “classic rock” category (which I find to be a horrible descriptor, but hey it’s really late).

Today – The Acoustic Days…

And now I listen to bluegrass and just about any acoustic music in general. Anything that exhibits great tone and excellent musicianship I am all about. In fact what I am listening to currently (The Infamous Stringdusters, Tim O’Brien, The Punch Brothers etc.) has nothing to do with heavy metal at all in no way, shape, or form… or does it?

So if you have made it through my list of musical growing pains I first must virtually pat you on the back and second… well… it’s time for me to make my point.

Every one of us acoustic guitar lovers has these lists of oddball musicians and bands that we like or have liked, and we literally have all of those artists to thank for exactly where we are musically today. All of the heavy metal and crazy music I listened to has influenced not only my musical taste as far as what I listen to, but also how I play… Yes… all of that music influences how I play today.

As far fetched as it seems, the drop tuned guitars, heavy percussion, and chunky rhythm that I loved about heavy metal all comes into play when I pick up an instrument today. Am I playing the riffs from those metal songs that I loved? …no, but there are little nuances of that music in everything I play. All of the music I have listened to has accumulated through the years and has shaped my playing and how I perceive music.

Even though we view a lot of music that we used to listen to as a fad or just a phase… it is far from that… everything we listen to shapes us and lasts with us one way or another… often times for a lifetime.

So wave your musical freak flag, appreciate that music that has formed you and dust off those old albums. Listen to those oddball tunes again; it is incredible how it takes you back to a specific time and often in hindsight you can hear how it has impacted your playing today.

Happy pickin’



Tony Polecastro is a certified “guitar geek” who drinks three super sized coffees every day. When he’s not doing YouTube guitar reviews for the Acoustic Letter, he teaches guitar, dobro, and banjo to over 50 students locally and worldwide via Skype. You can get free tabs and video lessons for the Acoustic Letter demo songs on his website