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.

5 THINGS YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT COLLECTING VINTAGE GUITARS

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1 Look Ahead.

Think of long-term trends. Vintage guitars are expensive these days, but there are still plenty of buying, selling, and collecting opportunities. Also, determine if you are collecting as a passion or as an investment (or both). The answer may dictate how you build your collection.

2 Find a Theme.

Many of the finest collections are distinguished not by what’s in them, but rather what’s not. A small collection of exquisite examples often trumps a large-ranging collection without a focus.

3 Get Second Opinions.

Developing a working relationship with a reputable dealer is invaluable for evaluating instruments, as well as what and when to buy or sell. Tip: Most dealers spend their lives acquiring the information they dispense to collectors for free. If you buy an occasional instrument from these professionals, it’s usually repaid in spades in the form of critical advice.

4 Purchase the Best You Can Afford.

It is axiomatic that people who can afford to purchase the best examples of a given instrument will do so. The current vintage guitar market bears this out. The finest examples often go up in price, while lower-quality examples decline in value.

5 Inspect Often.

Guitars—especially acoustics—can be quite delicate. Fail to inspect your instruments regularly, and some expensive pieces may develop mold or other problems. Noted instrument collector Michael Indelicato recently published Guitar Man: Six Strings of Separation [Hal Leonard].

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