BIMM Birmingham students were treated to a masterclass from rock royalty this month when Nuno Bettencourt paid a visit to talk about his life and work as guitarist for Boston glam-metal legends, Extreme.
Nuno is renowned throughout the industry as one of the most hard-working and respected guitarists of his generation. He featured in Guitar World’s 50 greatest metal guitarists of all time, has sold over 10 million albums worldwide and has performed regularly as Rihanna’s touring guitarist since 2007. Naturally then, we were incredibly proud to welcome him for a masterclass session. And he wasted no time imparting pearls of wisdom for our first year students.
“I think I knew early on, that I didn’t wanna just be a musician.” Nuno mused.
“Whether you play drums or guitar, you have to go in for the love of music all-round. When I was learning to play, I was always asking the question ‘Why?’. Even if it was Eddie Van Halen or Tony Iommi, I was always asking ‘why do they sound great?’. I would always think about what the drummer was doing, what the arrangement of the album was, the whole sound of the record! I think it’s really important to have that kind of vision and to look at things as a whole.”
Extreme have been wowing crowds and selling records since the mid-to-late eighties, so Nuno has decades of experience to reflect on. One question he was asked was on the subject of his playing style.
“The thing about being a guitarist, is that it’s one thing to play someone else’s stuff. But when you’re doing your own thing, you come up with your own quirky ways to play. Nowadays, you can wonder what it’s like to play a particular song and you can go on Youtube and thousands of people are showing you, perhaps even the artist themselves! That’s cool, but I think that was one of the best things that never happened to me. My generation learned by just playing along to a vinyl. The good thing about that was that you’d learn to play your version. You might’ve gone to see that artist live and be bummed-out when you realise you were playing it in an entirely different way. But that’s what makes you play like you.”
Before departing, Nuno kindly stuck around (during some precious mid-tour downtime) to meet with every single student who wanted a photo and/or autograph. He even signed our wall of fame (which is becoming more and more impressive with each passing week) and one of our acoustic guitars.
Lastly, Bettencourt offered one final piece of advice on the subject of staying true to yourself as an artist.
“If you do this just for the money, you probably won’t make a dime. Fame is kind of an embarrassing term these days, but your success will come if you just… let it go. Don’t do it for the fame, don’t do it for the money, or because your friends think it’s cool. Remember, an audience wants to go with you. You take them with you when you perform. You’re not performing for them, you’re not impressing them. You’re actually saying ‘do you wanna come with me?’ – to go on that journey with them. Do that and they’ll keep coming back. In the end, do it for the love of it.”