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Todd Duane - Shred's Unsung Hero

Todd Duane burst on the shred scene after the release of Guitar on the Edge (Volume 1) in 1992. His super fast 4-note-per-string string skipping sequences made shredders everywhere pull out there guitars and start practicing again. Todd finally got picked up by Shrapnel and released his self-titled CD in 1995 which is known as a shred classic to this day. Todd Duane was voted third fastest guitarist in the world by Guitar World Magazine so there is no doubt the man is fast. Along with speed, however, Todd is also a great composer and a seasoned guitar instructor who still makes a good living playing music. We caught up with Todd and talked with him about the past and present. I hope you enjoy!

1. Todd, your song "Afunkadiddle" was a part of the Guitar on the Edge, Volume 1, compilation put out by Mark Varney and featured some great guitar shredding on your part. Many thought you, Derek Taylor and Scott Mishoe represented the next wave of shredders. How did this make you feel?

Todd: It was a cool time to be on the scene. This was pre-Internet so it was all word of mouth, telephone calls and snail mail letters! I was in Hollywood, California working at Musicians Institute. During my time off, I was recording demo’s and practicing. I had the goal in mind to get a recording deal on Shrapnel Records which eventually did happen. However it was a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be! “Afunkadiddle” was my first release on an international level and it felt good to be on that Guitar on the Edge CD. I remember talking with Mike Varney’s brother Mark who was putting the CD out. He wanted to use my original demo. But I actually re-recorded the song because there were parts on the original demo that I didn’t like. My recording studio at the time was a closet in my apartment in Hollywood. My gear at the time consisted of: a Tascam 8 track cassette recorder, a Roland R-5 drum/bass machine, and a Marshall 2204 amplifier that I ran with a tubescreamer, The amp went directly into a Rocktron Juice Extractor, a dbx compressor, an Alesis Quadraverb and direct to tape. I couldn’t mic an amp up in an apartment and this was the best sounding option I could find at the time.

2. Could you describe your experience with Shrapnel Records and Mike Varney? Do you feel your Shrapnel Release, "Todd Duane" accurately represents you as a guitar player and composer?

Todd: I had been demoing songs for years. I had recorded at least 100 songs. I was still a practicing musician as well, so I was continually being inspired. It was easy to record new material because most often it was based around a certain technique or musical idea I had been working on. The demo’s I created for my Shrapnel “Todd Duane” release were recorded with the thought that “this is going to be my debut record”. I upgraded my studio to a Tascam DA-88 digital 8 track recorder and just started to “do it”. By this time my playing had matured to a certain level and my song writing took on a new light. One that highlighted “melody and simplicity” over “technique and innovativeness”. Of course I still had all my technique, but I wasn’t writing songs solely based on that anymore. I was just trying to write good songs… ironically this is what made the difference in getting signed to Shrapnel Records. Of course many fans of my previous more technically inspired demo’s felt let down on my debut CD. I personally felt very happy with the songs and playing, because I knew I was still doing all the same crazy stuff I had always done, but in a more musical, mature style- its where I was musically. With the release of the Electrocution 250 CD we decided to go back to the early goofy, over the top, crazy and humorous song style demo’s I had once recorded.

3. In 1998 you released a CD entitled, "Omnipresent" which is currently available on CD Baby. This CD really highlights some of your composition skills as well as your guitar shredding. Could you tell us about the different ways you approach writing a song?

Todd: That CD was mainly recorded while I was living in Vienna, Austria and teaching guitar at the American Institute of Music. It was actually just a phase of demo’s I had been writing while still trying to get a Shrapnel Record deal. The music was darker, more progressive and more minor based than my previous “California demos”. And I had a keyboard now as well.

4. You are, now, playing in a band called "Common Ground". What type of material do you play in that band and are you writing music with them?

Todd: My career at this point is pretty much “making a living playing guitar”. I now have a family and house and that responsibility takes most of my time. The Common Ground band is a cover band here in the Twin Cities area. We play local bars on the weekends for fun and $$$. It helps fill the gas tank and refrigerator. Thankfully the band is filled with the area’s top local talent including Jake Jacobs on lead vocals and Eric Althaus on drums. I also teach private guitar lessons during the week.

5. What musical accomplishments are you most proud of?

Todd: That I can make a living playing guitar. I am most thankful to God for that amazing gift.

6. Can we expect some new instrumental music from Todd Duane in the future. If so, what should we expect?

Todd: Nothing at the time I’m sorry to say. It’s just too crazy busy here now with my kids being so young. Most likely in the future though!

7. You are know for also being a great guitar teacher. What do you think makes a great guitar teacher and what should a beginner look for in a guitar teacher. You also offer Skype lessons on the computer. Could you tell us more about the lessons your are offering through Skype?

Todd: I am lucky to be gifted with the God given natural ability to teach. I find myself to be a better teacher when I am positive and inspired. It helps a lot if the student knows where they want to go and what their goals are. Every student is different and that’s why I typically don’t use many books. Everything is inspired by the presence of the student and their desire to learn. The more into it they are the more inspired I become and consequently offer a better lesson. I haven’t been doing any SKYPE lessons lately. Honestly I just can’t come up with a fair price for those lessons.

For more information on Todd visit his website