Kirk Hammett’s Guitar Lessons with Joe Satriani

In 1981, Kirk Hammett, a burgeoning guitarist fueled by a deep passion for music, made a career-defining choice to take guitar lessons from Joe Satriani.

A photo featuring guitarists Kirk Hammett on the left with curly hair and Joe Satriani on the right holding a guitar neck. Both are against a dark, mottled background, with Satriani wearing a black beret and Hammett in a black shirt, looking directly into the camera.
Kirk Hammett and Joe Satriani
Key Takeaways
  • In 1981, Kirk Hammett began taking guitar lessons from Joe Satriani, inspired by the improvements he noticed in his friends already learning from Satriani​​.
  • Hammett’s final lesson with Satriani in early 1988 was pivotal for his guitar work on Metallica’s album “…And Justice for All,” with the skills and techniques learned influencing the album’s complex compositions​​.
  • The bond between Hammett and Satriani remains strong over three decades later, underlining the lasting impact of Satriani’s mentorship on Hammett’s guitar skills and their mutual respect and admiration​​.

Hammett’s Formative Years with Satriani

In 1981, Kirk Hammett, then a burgeoning guitarist with a burning passion for his craft, made a pivotal decision that would significantly shape his musical journey. He chose to take guitar lessons from Joe Satriani, influenced by the notable improvement he saw in his friends who were already under Satriani’s tutelage. These lessons took place in a modest music store in Berkeley, California, a setting unassuming yet ripe for the birth of a guitar legend.

Satriani’s approach to teaching, focusing on technique without dictating artistic direction, was crucial in allowing Hammett to develop his own distinctive style.

Hammett’s initial encounter with Satriani was an eye-opener, describing his first lesson as both significant and formidable. Satriani, known for his meticulous and demanding teaching style, expected his students to fully grasp and prepare the material within a week. This strict approach was a stark revelation for Hammett, signaling the seriousness and intensity of the path ahead.

Embracing the challenge, Hammett doubled his dedication, increasing his lessons to twice weekly. This intensive regimen under Satriani’s guidance was crucial in quenching Hammett’s growing thirst for guitar mastery. Satriani’s teaching philosophy was unique; he focused on imparting knowledge and technique without imposing his artistic vision, thereby allowing Hammett to develop his own distinctive style.

This period of rigorous learning wasn’t just about skill acquisition. Within Satriani’s student community, a culture of teamwork and mutual encouragement thrived. Satriani took pride in Hammett’s progress, recognizing his tireless dedication and motivation. He remembered Hammett as a remarkably talented student, praising his finger movement and taste in guitar players like Michael Schenker and Uli John Roth. Satriani played a pivotal role in helping Hammett understand the key centers for his solos in Metallica’s songs, which often deviated from traditional blues or rock progressions.

Hammett’s time as Satriani’s student was a period of profound growth and development. Prior to joining Metallica in 1983, he was already a proficient guitarist with Exodus, a band he co-founded in 1979. Satriani’s lessons coincided with Hammett’s early development in Metallica, contributing significantly to his advancement as a guitarist.

Hammett’s Last Lesson Before “…And Justice for All”

As Kirk Hammett approached the recording of Metallica’s fourth album, “…And Justice for All,” a significant milestone in his musical journey was his final guitar lesson with Joe Satriani in early January 1988. This session, just weeks before the album’s recording, marked a critical juncture in Hammett’s continuous pursuit of guitar mastery.

The timing of this lesson coincides with Metallica’s finalization of compositions for “…And Justice for All.” The skills and techniques Hammett honed with Satriani were especially relevant for this album, known for its superior technical nature and complexity. This phase of learning with Satriani was crucial for Hammett, potentially influencing his contributions to the album’s intricate guitar work.

The advanced techniques and musical knowledge gained from Satriani enhanced Hammett’s capacity for the album’s complex compositions.

Metallica’s extensive touring on “Master of Puppets” had brought the band members to their peak playing ability, a perfect prelude to the writing of “…And Justice for All.” This continuous performance experience, combined with the advanced techniques learned from Satriani, likely enriched Hammett’s capacity for engaging with the album’s complex compositions.

The late ’80s marked a shift in music culture, emphasizing instrumental proficiency and virtuosity. Influenced by this trend and the success of instrumental albums by other guitarists, Metallica was motivated to showcase their technical skills, pushing beyond their previous achievements with “Master of Puppets.”

The riffs for “…And Justice for All” were heavily shaped by the band’s experiences and skills developed during their tours. Written often while on tour, these riffs benefited from their enhanced playing ability, leading to more developed and progressive compositions.

The Lasting Bond Between Hammett and Satriani

Even after over three decades since their last lesson, the bond between Kirk Hammett and Joe Satriani remains unwaveringly strong. This enduring connection highlights the deep impact of Satriani’s mentorship on Hammett’s journey as a guitarist and the mutual respect that has flourished over the years.

Hammett has consistently shown deep admiration for Satriani, often lauding his unique playing style and musical individuality. He frequently acknowledges the significant role Satriani played in his development as a guitarist. This admiration and respect are mutual; Satriani has often spoken positively about his time teaching Hammett, highlighting the special bond they have nurtured.

Hammett and Satriani’s collaboration in Quebec City exemplifies their transition from teacher-student to professional peers, showcasing their enduring musical bond.

A significant manifestation of their lasting relationship was their performance together in a concert in Quebec City. This event marked more than just a musical collaboration; it was a testament to their evolution from a teacher-student dynamic to becoming professional peers. Performing in front of a large audience, they demonstrated not only their individual talents but also the synergy of their musical partnership.

This collaboration on stage is a symbol of the strong and enduring relationship that has persisted well beyond their formal lessons. The mutual respect and admiration they share for each other’s skills and career trajectories are apparent in their public statements and the rare yet impactful opportunities they’ve had to perform together. These collaborative moments are a reflection of a journey that began in a modest music store and blossomed into a lifetime of shared musical pursuits and achievements.