Interview with Shred Academy

Hi Zack, welcome to Shred Academy, how long have you been playing and what musical education did you receive?

It is great to be here and be involved in such a great instructional website. I have been playing guitar since I was 14 years old. Originally, I was a saxophone player, but I was drawn to the guitar due to the endless possibilities for song writing. The knowledge that I gained from playing the saxophone, however, definitely improved the speed in which I progressed on the guitar. I began studying classical guitar for about a year, but soon discovered the music of Dream Theater and switched to electric immediately. Searching for a professional teacher that could help me reach my goals and teach my how to perform and compose in that style, I found guitar virtuoso Tom Hess []. I was very fortunate to live only one mile from his teaching studio. I studied with him privately on a weekly basis for years.

I have also studied extensively with jazz guitar virtuoso Zvonimir Tot []. I wanted to expand my knowledge of multiple genres. I owe a great deal of my knowledge and success to these two instructors.

In addition to them, I have studied with Mike Walsh, Jody Fisher for guitar, and Tara Singer for piano and compositional studies. I recently went back to school to earn a bachelor's degree in music composition and in performance at Roosevelt University. I did this because while I already have learned what these classes and degrees teach, they are taught in slightly different ways and I wanted to get the absolute best education I could. I believe that education should be highly valued, no matter what the cost.

Who are your influences and what music are you listening to at the moment?

I have many influences, each for different things. I have influences for things like song writing, orchestration, virtuosic technique, and lyrical aspects. However, in general, my influences are: Dream Theater, Symphony X, Rusty Cooley, Joe Pass, John Scofield, Tony Macapline, Steve Vai, HESS, Allan Holdsworth, Planet X, Franz Liszt, Chopin, Beethoven, George Bellas, Vitalij Kuprij, and many more.

Today I have been listening to Un Sospiro by Liszt, the Not Too Soon album by Allan Holdsworth, and Scenes From a Memory by Dream Theater. I listen to multiple styles daily depending on what I am doing or working on.

I recently got your instructional DVD, the stage is yours to tell the readers what it involves and what it is designed for, how long did it take?

Basically, I wanted to design the ultimate instructional product for 7-string guitarist. There are very limited resources for information for 7-string guitar players so I wanted to share some of the main concepts that I discovered on my own. I wanted to help save people's time in figuring out everything for themselves as I invested a lot of time into mapping out 7-string concepts such as arpeggios, scales, and chords.

My goal as an instructor is to allow and help others meet their goals. I remembered that when I began playing 7-string guitars, I wanted something like this desperately, but found nothing. So, when creating this product, my focus was to give everyone new and creative ideas for their own music. Rather than just giving out "licks" I wanted to show anyone who watches the DVD how they can create things for themselves. It took about 8 or 10 months for me to complete. Partially because I am a very busy person, but mainly because I will not submit anything but the highest of quality in anything that I am involved in, so I believe it was worth the long wait.

Topics include rhythm and lead 7-string guitar playing. There is a complete product description here:

The thing I liked most about your DVD was rather than a bunch of licks, you gave the arpeggios and modes that make them up too. Was this suggested to you or your own idea?

This was my idea. I got this idea for two main reasons:
1-As a professional instructor, I get new students all the time that just know licks and exercises, but have no idea how to create anything for themselves. While learning licks are cool and can serve technical purposes, what is the point if you cannot apply them to your own personal contexts?
2-When I was in the beginning stages of developing my guitar playing and musical skills, I would always apply whatever I learned and make something out it that I could call my own. I was told by numerous mentors to do this because it will allow you to gain the full benefit out of whatever you are learning, not matter what it is.

Besides guitar, do you play any other instruments?

I do play other instruments, but I focus heavily on guitar. I play piano as well, but necessarily not for performing. I learned how to play piano so I would have stronger knowledge of chord and music theory, and to support my compositional skills. There are mainly great chord voicings and solo ideas that can be gained even from knowing just the basics of piano playing. I have played other instruments in the past such as clarinet and saxophone, but I do not pursue these anymore. And of course, like nearly every guitar player, I play bass as well.

Do you have any projects or solo music in the works?

I am currently finishing an album with a progressive-rock band. This album, along with information about it, should be released very soon. I am also composing music for my solo album. I do also have many plans for other albums and projects, but these will be completely only after the other two have already been released.

I will be a musician on the Compilation Album Chronicles: City of Sound. This will be released shortly as well and will feature some great musicians in many styles of music.

What is a typical practice schedule for you and what advice can you give for making the most of your practice time?

I practice for one to three hours a day depending on how much work I have to do on that particular day. In general, I make the most of my time by multi-tasking. For example, on days when I am very busy and will be working from early morning to late night, I begin my practicing with melodic improvisation. This way, I am warming up and practicing my improvisational skills. I alternate days between concepts like arpeggios and sweep picking and scales and modes just like weight lifters alternate days of training muscle groups. This way, I am completely focused on what I am playing for a longer period of time, rather than changing concepts frequently during a practice session.

In short, making the most of your practice time comes down to focus, dedication, organization, and perseverance. A recent article I wrote explains how to “Master Technique in Minimal Time.” You can read this articles HERE. (Insert link to article on

Now for some gear talk, what amplification, guitars and effects do you use?

Being a studio musician, I use a large assortment of gear, especially amplifiers. However, there are some items of gear that I use more than others. I tend to keep things simple as far as effects go. For live performances, I tend to have between three and four rhythm distortions, two or three clean channels with an assortment of reverb or chorus, and I use three lead distortions/overdrive. I do not use many other effects. But, it always depends on the performance that I am doing. I perform with jazz and rock groups throughout Chicago on a weekly basis so obviously there will be some differences. When playing jazz, my effects tend to be two clean channels, and one slightly overdriven for the fusion tunes.


  • Mesa-Boogie Stiletto Deuce
  • Mesa-Boogie Mark IV
  • Carvin V3


  • Carvin Custom Shop 7-string guitars
  • Ibanez Prestige 7-string guitars

I recently became endorsed by Q-tuner pickups so I am installing them into my guitars now. Currently, these pickups can be seen in my Ibanez 7-string. Check them out at because they are incredible.

Are you a full-time musician or do you have other jobs to make ends meet?

I am a full time professional musician only. I do not have any other jobs. However, I do much more in the music industry than instruct. I perform both live and as a studio/session musician, I am a composer for numerous situations like film and TV, I am an instructor for individual and group lessons, instruct clinics and master classes, etc. I could make this list about ten pages long, but you get the idea.

The best part about what I do, besides loving every minute of it, is that my schedule is never really the same. It never gets old. Between all the projects, instructing, and studio work, no two weeks are the same. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I will actually be an instructor for Camp Jam this summer at the Chicago location. It would be great to meet some of you at this event. For information on this event, go to

Do you have plans for more instructional material in the future?

The simple answer is yes. I am currently working on several instructional products that cover nearly every aspect of music and guitar playing. A few of these products will be released in 2007, but due to time constraints, many will be released in later years. There will be instructional material for nearly every technique and musical concept for all levels of difficulty. Currently, I am finishing up a project on sweep picking with Mike Philippov called The Ultimate Sweep Picker’s Guide. This project is nearly finished and will be the next project that I release.
My goal as an instructor is to help all my students reach their needs; if there are topics that you want to see products on, just send me an email.

It has been a pleasure to talk with you, and we at Shred Academy wish you all the best, any closing statement?

Well, first of all, thank you. This website is great and it is an absolute honor to be involved with such a place. And, thank you to all of the readers and their support. I am very responsive with emails so if anyone ever has any questions, comments, or wants to request lesson material, etc., feel free to email me at zack (at) zackuidl (dot) com. I love to receive feedback so do not hesitate.

If you would like to learn more about me, what I do, and what I have planned for the future visit my website at
Zack Uidl
zack at