“I WANT TO GET BETTER AS A GUITARIST ON EVERY
record,” says All That Remains guitarist Oli Herbert.
“I recently heard a tune from one of our old albums,
and it wasn’t bad, but wow—my phrasing was so safe.
On our new album, I was very focused on making my
phrasing more hip.” Herbert’s unyielding dedication
to all things guitar, as well as his slavish work ethic,
have made him one of metal’s most admired, and,
more importantly, musical guitarists. His solos always
manage to be melodic with just the right mix of insane
chops and exotic tonalities. All That Remains’ newest
album, For We Are Many [Razor & Tie], is the fourth by
the “melodic metalcore” quintet (which also includes guitarist Mike Miller), and shows that Herbert
has indeed upped his guitar game to
Describe your process for creating concise,
melodic solos while also incorporating some
When I write solos, my approach is
almost always the same—work off of either
the tune’s main melody or another melodic
component of the song. That way, even if I
come up with something really technical,
it’s still based on the song’s musical foundation.
For example, on the tune “Aggressive
Opposition,” from For We Are Many, I took a
motif from another part of the tune, in this
case the verse riff, and came up with a tapping
sequence using those notes, but I displaced
Do you write riffs to solo over or do you write
solos over existing riffs?
I typically write my solos over an existing
chord progression. We have a tendency
to keep riffs harmonically simple, which I
like because I’m allowed to utilize weirder
chord extensions and chromatic movement.
For example, if it’s an Em to C progression,
I won’t just outline the chords
with Em and C arpeggios, I’ll use the upper
extensions of those arpeggios like, say, the
raised 11, which I’m a huge fan of. Simple
progressions are also cool for playing exotic
How can players make their phrasing more
One thing I like to do is play something
simple and then follow it up with something
technical. Doing that not only allows
the listener to take a breath, it makes them
perk up and pay attention. A lot of players
don’t allow listeners to absorb what they just
played because they’re always at full speed.
Take Yngwie, for example. I’m a huge fan of
his. He can play the most beautiful melodies,
and his vibrato and tone are killer—but sometimes
he plays too much for too long for my
taste. I like it when guys give me something
to melodically digest before they hit the crazy
stuff. Guitar playing is all about phrasing and
putting pauses in your musical sentences. It
dawned on me a couple of years ago that the
guitarists I admired played over the bar line
with very spontaneous-sounding phrasing. You
don’t have to start every phrase on beat one.
Even though all of my solos are planned out, I
don’t always want them to sound like they are.
The solo on “Last Time” reminded me a bit of
He is one of my favorites! George Lynch
was one of the best at cool phrasing, melodic
solos, and shred. A solo is a building process,
and growing up listening to guys like
Lynch, Randy Rhoads, and Jake E. Lee, I had
a model that, not only can you play your ass
off, but you can also impart a thematic quality
as well as a compositional element. You
don’t have to be a guy who just shreds. I’ve
used those influences to try and make my
own statement on the guitar.
To what extent is improvisation a part of your
I’ll improvise over a chord progression for
hours trying to find ideas. However, I never
improvise on the clock. By the time I’m in
the studio, everything is ready to go. Improvising
is part of my compositional process.
When I find something I like, I zone in on
it and hone it. If you can’t improvise, you’re
missing out as a player. I’m really working on
improv, playing at slower tempos and trying
to hear ideas before I play them.
What does your stage setup look like?
I use Peavey 5150 II heads through Mesa/
Boogie 4x12s loaded with Celestions. The
essential part of my sound however is a
Maxon OD808 overdrive.
Do you kick it on for solos?
Nope, it’s on all the time. It’s not really
adding a lot of distortion, but rather, it tightens
up the sound and gives me a bit more
compression, adding that next layer of refinement.
Other than that pedal, I’m not really
an effects guy. All of my heroes play with a
real honest, straight tone and that’s what I
like to do.
You’ve been playing the Ibanez XPT for a while.
I have. Lately I’ve been playing a custom
27-fret model. On the standard 24-fret model,
I have to move my hand in weird ways to get
past the 17th position. The 27-fret model
allows me to get into the 19th position
with access to the 24th fret without changing
hand position. The guitars are loaded
with EMGs—an 81 in the bridge and an 85
in the neck. I use my neck pickup for most
of the solos, although I’ll sometimes go to
the rear pickup for a fast low-string passage
or a harmonic squeal.
What are some tips for getting the most out
of your practice time?
If you practice like you’re cramming for
an exam, that’s not good. If you’re working
toward a deadline, two hours every day is
better than cramming in eight hours in one
sitting the night before. There are times that
I know I’ve practiced in a non-productive
fashion—I was practicing out of fear because
of a looming session or tour. If you practice
like “oh sh*t” you’re apt to make more mistakes
when the gig or recording session actually
comes. But if you say, “I’ll prepare the
best I can and whatever happens, happens,”
you’ll be a lot more relaxed, and that’s key.
You have to stay relaxed. Being tense screws
everything up. I used to get really nervous,
but I worked at eliminating it. It’s been a
huge obstacle throughout my career. You
have to be relaxed when you play.
Do you use a metronome?
Yes, all of the time. I’ll work on something
at a very manageable tempo for a
while, but not just until I can play it—until
I own it. Gradually, I’ll increase the tempo.
I used to go up by settings of four to eight
BPM, but now I go up in increments of one.
I’ve found that inching up gradually really
improves your technique. You think it takes
forever, but it’s easier in the end.
Was there a solo on the new record that was
The “Last Time” solo was tough. We play
the tune at 206 BPM, but when I first composed
it, I could only play it at 190. Slowly
I finally got to where I could play it at 206
and track it, but in reality, I want to be able
to play it at 220.
Again, I want to own it. Then there is
absolutely no question, no matter how I’m
standing onstage or what is going on with
my gear or any other distraction, I know I
can play it easily. I want to get it where it’s
as easy as playing a G chord, and I don’t have
to think about it. You want to surpass your
top speed and really instill that confidence
in your hands. If I get it to 208, the 200 will
feel more comfortable and give me a better
chance of pulling it off consistently.
Did you work on rhythm playing as much as
Oh yeah, especially when I first joined the
band back in 1999, because back then my
rhythm chops were terrible. I spent serious
time working on downpicking fast tempos
and getting consistency, tightness, and endurance.
As a guitarist in a band, rhythm is 85
percent of what you do. If you don’t work on
it, it’s going to show. Mike [Miller] is really a
rhythm specialist. A lot of the fast, gallop-y,
tight stuff you hear is his playing. His right
hand is more concise than mine, and he has
a better natural sense of rhythm than I do.
As much as I practice to a metronome, I’ll
never attain his natural feel.
You’ve mentioned that you spent some time
studying Pat Martino solos. He’s not a player that
metal guys name check very often.
He’s one of my favorites. His phrasing is
phenomenal. I discovered him ten years ago
when I was at school studying jazz guitar. I
had to pick a solo and play it, so I went to
the library and found a Pat Martino solo. I
worked that thing and played it in my final
exam and I did well on it, too. Discovering
him was such an inspiration. His picking
hand has complete freedom, especially
rhythmically. It seems like he can play anything
he can think of, which is the goal of
every guitar player, right?