Guitar player (and founder) of tech metal hard-hitters Monuments, John Browne is also CEO of tutorial website Riffhard – the only one specifically dedicated to rhythm guitar. Members have access to hours of learning, hand endurance and strengthening exercises, as well as insider tips on his legendary downpicking technique, songwriting, competitions and loads more.
The band has just finished a tour of South America, and Browne is back in his northern England studio, already hard at work creating more content for Riffhard – as well as adding to his already prolific YouTube presence.
He’s given Sono his seal of approval, describing it as ‘a fantastic piece of kit’ and also has 8-channel mic pre, ASP880 in his setup, so Audient decided to find out a bit more about the man behind the YouTube channel.
His studio is multi-functional so naturally we asked him about that, but first we were keen to know more about how the Riffhard ‘academy’ came about.
Riffhard started for the public in October 2018 but we’ve been working on the idea since around 2015. The idea behind Riffhard is that rhythm guitar – for me, and I’m sure other engineers and producers will agree – is generally the weakest part of 90% of guitar players’ vocabulary. Simply because it’s never really been taught. It’s often overshadowed by lead playing, because it’s not as glamorous.
The weird part about this mindset is, that 99% of the time as a guitar player on stage, you will be playing rhythm. So for me this was an experiment to try and change the mindset of guitar players and make the world a better place for engineers and producers.
“…this was an experiment to try and change the mindset of guitar players and make the world a better place for engineers and producers”
But it’s going very well, I’ve seen some huuuuuge improvements in people’s playing in just a matter of weeks from the exercises and the lessons that we devised over a long period of time!
Tell us about some of your excellent competitions.
We run a monthly competition called ‘King of the Riff’ and the aim of this was to make learning more fun. I give members a brief to write a short piece of music. They submit their work for me to review. I will pick a top 5/10 and then put it to public vote in the members’ community to be judged by their peers and from here you can win either first or second prize.
The briefs are all so different focusing on different areas of playing and most importantly, trying to expand the guitar players’ vocabulary when it comes to writing music. I feel like this method is a very good way to conquer writer’s block as well.
“I’ve seen some huuuuuge improvements in people’s playing”
Your YouTube channel has an incredible back catalogue of videos. What goes into deciding what to include? Have you changed its focus since its inception?
I’m kind of a spur-of-the-moment guy, in the sense that I do plan videos but generally just go with the flow. A lot of the videos I do are generally what I’d be doing anyway, but just putting a camera in my face and documenting it for others to see.
As in introvert, at first I found the whole process quite difficult, but hey you can get used to anything once you do it enough!
Watch Browne in action:
Give us the lowdown on your studio setup.
My studio is in the attic of my house which resides in a very small, quaint village in West Yorkshire, England, UK. I literally spend every hour of my day in this room! The work never seems to end!
I have recorded bands here, I practice here, I mix and master here, I film videos here and I sink in an unhealthy amount of hours into Rocket League here!
Got to relax somehow – ed
“Some of the old Monuments material was recorded through an old DDA DCM232 desk […] I remember being amazed by how clean and musical those preamps were”
My setup is pretty straight forward, I run a Windows 10 based setup running Cubase, with an Antelope Audio Orion 32+ | Gen 3 as the centrepiece for capturing audio. I have the Audient ASP880 preamps, Stam Audio 1073 preamps, A Stam Audio SA4000 bus compressor, TONS of guitar gear (Mayones Guitars, Driftwood Purple Nightmare amp, Hughes & Kettner Amps, Ampete One Amp, Laney VH100R, Laboga Mr Hector amp, Mesa Boogie Recording Preamp, The Synergy Module preamp/poweramp, Line 6 Helix/Pod xt and a plethora of cabs).
Monitoring, I use the Yamaha NS10m’s powered by an old Yamaha P2500, a set of Adam A77x near/midfields, A Yamaha SW10 Sub and some Yamaha MSP5’s that I love but they aren’t setup right now.
What do you love about the Audient 8-channel mic pre?
Some of the old Monuments material was recorded through an old DDA DCM232 desk, which was obviously built by the people behind Audient. Even all that time ago I remember being amazed by how clean and musical those preamps were.
ASP880: “perfect for recording metal guitars and anything that requires that sound”
That’s why the Audient is perfect. It’s a clean, fast and musical signal from the mic in front of cabs, which is perfect for recording metal guitars and anything that requires that sound.
You have also managed to squeeze in a Monuments tour of South America, how did that go? (And how on earth do you fit all this in?!) What’s next now you’re back?
That tour was very fun, minus the 17 flights haha. I actually don’t have much time any more, but that’s never really a bad thing! But yes South America was great. It’s amazing that we have been able to go to every continent with the music that we’ve written.
We just finished a few shows in the UK as well and we’ll be back out for a currently unannounced run of 7 weeks between September and October.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
‘Do what makes you happy.’ My mother told me this when I was very young and I feel like this advice is something more people should follow.
Did you always want to do what you’re doing?
When I was 12 years old, I saw the ‘Wanted dead or alive’ music video by Bon Jovi. In this video, I saw them playing in front of thousands of people AND they had their own jet. The jet sold me, I wanted to do that immediately.
Still don’t have my jet…
John there is still time. Thanks so much for chatting with us and good luck with it all!
To follow John Browne on social media, click through on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; to see him in action subscribe to his YouTube channel and definitely check out his excellent Riffhard tutorial website to hone your rhythm guitar technique.