12-Year Old Brandon "Taz" Niederauer Rocks Broadway

A school music director dubbed him “Taz” for playing like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil at age eight, and he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show at ten.
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A school music director dubbed him “Taz” for playing like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil at age eight, and he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show at ten. He has jammed with the Scorpions, Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Dr. John, Jimmy Herring, Oz Noy, Eric McFadden, and Gary Clark Jr. He and his bassist brother, Dylan, play together in Lions on the Moon, whose self-titled debut album was produced by Terry Manning (Led Zeppelin, Johnny Winter, Joe Walsh). And, more recently, at just 12 years old, Brandon Niederauer is starring on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock: The Musical.

What made you want to play guitar?

School of Rock. I had a guitar teacher showing me things such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and I didn’t want that, so I stopped. But my dad showed me the School of Rock movie, and it made me want to play again. That movie was my savior.

What’s your role in the Broadway musical?

I play Zack, the guitar player. He really isn’t himself until Dewey—the imposter teacher—comes along and teaches him about being himself. My dad taught me that, as well: “Express who you are, because you won’t enjoy life if you don’t.” All of the music in the show is live, and it’s not the typical High School Musical crap. It’s AC/DC-style rock.

What are your thoughts on playing lead?

I’m influenced by everyone from Eddie Van Halen to Miles Davis to B.B. King, and I fuse all those styles together, because dividing music into genres is actually ruining music. There should be no limits. That’s my goal when I solo. But rhythm is even more important than playing lead. If you don’t get that groove going, then the music is going to be lost.

What’s your current rig?

I’ve whittled my pedalboard down to an Ibanez Tube Screamer modded by Analog Man, a Mad Professor Simble Predriver, a Pigtronix Class A Boost, an MXR Phase 90, a CryBaby wah, and a Peterson Stomp Classic tuner. I use the Tube Screamer for light distortion, the Predriver for heavy distortion, the Phase 90 for funky lines, and the Class A Boost for an extra push in large venues. My amp is a ’72 Fender Vibrolux, and I play a Gibson Les Paul Studio. You can get so many different sounds. It sounds jazzy when you turn the Tone knobs down, and it rocks when they are turned up. I’ve always been a Les Paul player, because my favorite guitarists played Les Pauls.

Who were they?

Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, and Duane Allman. I know that Derek Trucks primarily uses a Gibson SG, but when he does play a Les Paul—it’s incredible. My favorite guitar player of all time is Derek Trucks. I met him after a show at the Beacon, and we talked about guitar playing for a couple of hours, and how it takes 25 years of practice to sound so good.


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