FSHN SPOTLIGHT – STEVE STINE & GUITAR ZOOM

There are good players and there are good teachers, then there are some that have the magical ability and talent to fuse both together and share that knowledge with the World. Meet Steve Stine, a guitar virtuoso, musician as well as guitarist-in-residence at GuitarZoom (www.GuitarZoom.com) an online guitar, learning site that is currently one of the go-to websites for anyone who wants to learn and play guitar. The story goes, GuitarZoom’s owner and founder Dan Denley stumbled across one of Steve’s online guitar videos and immediately gave him a call. They formed a nice connection and later reached an agreement for Steve to become the face of GuitarZoom and launch his lifelong, new career direction. To date, he is the world’s most sought-after guitar instructor and is famous for his ability to help students improve their playing fast while having fun. Steve has helped millions of guitarists in over 100 countries achieve their goals and dreams including Canadian superstar singer/songwriter Shawn Mendez who attributes watching Steve’s online tutorials to him learning how to play the guitar. “You just never know who out there is watching your videos and learning,” Steve said.

As a kid, Steve dreamed of being a football player, but after being introduced to the rock band, “Kiss” at the age of 13, he fell in love with the guitar and aspired to play like his hero, “Kiss” guitarist Ace Frehley. His parents bought him his first electric guitar and signed him up for a few lessons, but that didn’t gel and since there was no internet back then, he learned the old fashioned way of listening to Vinyl and playing by ear. He would practice for hours and hours listening to Ozzy Osbourne and other rock bands, learning entire albums at a time. His love of teaching began early at age 17 and mushroomed into a massive educational business and passion for in various forms from the private, group and online lessons to full-blown seminars, webinars, and guitar clinics. At one point he was teaching over 100 students a week. While many artists teach private lessons to supplement their income, it was the other way around for Steve. “That was my calling,” he said.

His active performance career began at age 23 which took Steve on celebrated world tours throughout the US, Canada, and Europe and flavoured his teaching with a stronger sense of the music business and myriad genres of music. To further his education, he received a bachelor’s degree in music from Minnesota State University and was also the Montessori Music Instructor for more than 15 years. You can witness Steve’s popularity alone by visiting his youtube channel, which has a massive following of over 500,000 subscribers. Additionally, Steve has co-written songs with artists such as Rick Springfield, Brian May, Julian Lennon, Benjamin Orr, and many others to name a few and recorded extensively throughout the years.

2020 has been an unprecedented year with the Coronavirus pandemic shutting down the entire Worldwide concert and entertainment sector. As challenging as this has been for many, Steve along with other online businesses also view this as an opportunity as there’s been a surge in online traffic with more and more people Worldwide staying at home and spending time on the internet. Currently, Steve resides in his small hometown of Kindred, North Dakota, 30 miles south of Fargo, with his wife and two kids. He’s found comfort and reward in spending all of his time currently focused on teaching, creating tutorials, as well as working on his own original music, which he hopes to share life in the near future.

With more than 30 years of guitar experience now, Steve attributes much of his success to staying focused, remaining humble, lots of practice and always putting his students first. His gratitude and passion for teaching and charismatic personality comes across in all his tutorials, which are done extremely well and based on user feedback most state that they are easy to follow, which keeps them motivated and coming back. For having such a tremendous playing and teaching talent, it’s nice to see that Steve is also down to Earth and really cares about his students.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Steve Stine about music, what inspires him, why Guitar Zoom and more…

Sason Bishope Parry: How has life been treating you pre and post pandemic World?

Steve Stine: To be honest, it’s been treating me pretty good. With what I do for a living, I have had a lot of work, and since everybody’s been locked down, there has been a lot of people wanting to learn how to play the guitar, which has been awesome, and just a lot of companies that want videos made and things like that. It sucked being home all the time and being cooped up, but my workload has stayed busy. 

SBP: When did you get into music and how?  

SS: Both my parents used to listen to a lot of music. My mom listened to a lot of countries, and my dad listened to a lot of rock. So, I grew up always listening to music, that’s where it came from. It was from my parents.

SBP: You are an amazing guitar player, did you always want to play guitar?

SS: Uh, no. When I was younger, I actually wanted to be a football player. It wasn’t until I suppose I was probably 10 years old when I first experienced the band, Kiss. My cousin turned me onto Kiss, and from that day on, I wanted to be Ace Frehley, and that’s when I wanted to play the guitar. Started playing the guitar when I was 13. So, it would be 1983. I was born in 1970. 

SBP: With your talents on guitar, you should be in one of the biggest bands on the planet, was that a goal?  

SS: When I was a kid, certainly, I wanted to be in a famous band and had plans of graduating and moving out to California, and that just never panned out. And when I got into my mid-teens, I realized that I had a skill of teaching, and because I live in a small town of Fargo, I became very known as one. And that’s what I did up until I started doing this global video stuff.

SBP: How long have you been teaching and what made you decide to become a teacher?

SS: My first student was when I was 17. I got my very first guitar student, and I had a couple of other friends that were kind of doing some teaching, and I thought I would branch out and try it, and it just became very, very successful. I was very good at it, and I connected with people, and by the time I was, 20, 21 years old, I had many, many students. There was a time right after I got done with college, I must have been about 22 or 23, something like that, that I had over 100 private students a week, not groups, but private. So, I was teaching seven days a week. 

SBP: Tell us about GuitarZoom and when it all started?  

SS: At the time, I was a professor at North Dakota State University. I was a Montessori instructor, and I was teaching private lessons.  I was teaching at Schmitt Music, which is a local music store, and I had all these jobs going on, and I got a phone call from Dan, who owns GuitarZoom, and he had seen a couple of videos that I’d posted on YouTube, and he asked me if I was interested in making some content for him, and I said, “Sure.” At that time, I never said “No” to anything, which meant I slept very little. I was in bands at the time, too, and, so I started making content. Overnight, when I wasn’t on the road with bands, I would create content for Dan in between all the jobs that I had, and I just wouldn’t sleep that evening. So, I’d, you know, do a six-hour video shoot and get Dan content. That’s where I first started working with him. I don’t remember what year it was. I don’t remember if that was, like, 12 years ago – 10 years ago. Time flies. I don’t even remember, something like that, though. 

SBP: What sets GuitarZoom apart from other online teaching platforms?

SS: I think the biggest difference is that, with GuitarZoom, there’s just me. It isn’t a bunch of different teachers. It’s just me. I’m the primary teacher, and I take my teaching very seriously. I’m very concerned about the well-being and the benefit of the student, the person that’s learning, as I always have been. It isn’t really about me. It’s about the benefit and the journey that the student is on. I’m not saying other, other platforms don’t do the same thing. I’m just telling you about me.

SBP: If a beginner wants to become a virtuoso at guitar, do they need to go to school or can they get to your level of playing with GuitarZoom? How long will that take?

SS: Well, that’s the thing, you don’t necessarily need GuitarZoom, or you don’t necessarily need school. You just need to have an established goal of what you won’t do and how you want to do it, and you have to practice a ton. I mean, a ton. You have to practice so many different things to get really, really good, but if you understand more of who you want to be and where you won’t go with your playing, that’s half the battle, and then having the desire to practice hours on end, all the time. That’s what it is, but I think having instruction on some level, whether it’s GuitarZoom, whether it’s a school, whatever it might be, having something to fill in those gaps can save you a lot of time because, oftentimes you don’t know what you don’t know, right? So, that certainly could help. 

SBP: 2020 was plagued by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down the entire live music industry, how has that affected you and GuitarZoom?

SS: It really hasn’t. I stopped playing in bands, probably six, seven years ago, simply because I started focusing on my career of doing this online stuff, and I was done being away from my family. So, I played in bands a little bit here and there, and even when the pandemic hit, I was playing in a couple of bands here and there, but my livelihood isn’t based on the music industry and playing and touring. So, it really didn’t affect us, and as far as GuitarZoom goes, it really didn’t change anything for us. We stayed on the same track and kept doing the same thing.

SBP: Live instruments took a backseat to electronic music and DJ’s in the past years, do you see guitars making a comeback and more people picking up instruments again?

SS: Honestly, I do. I think there are a couple of misconceptions about that though. The biggest thing is that there was a time when rock and roll were in the forefront, and it was the primary style of music that everybody listened to, and then, of course, electronic music, DJs, hip hop, all those things, became very popular, and rock music, in the mainstream, took a backseat. But I tell you, I honestly believe that guitars have always been alive and well in the underground, just not necessarily in the most popular part of what the general public sees as the music industry. So, even if, a couple of years ago, when people were saying, “Guitar was dying,” I think the reason they said that is because, companies like Fender and Gibson, their sales were down, and I think what really has happened was because of the Internet, there were other markets out there where people could buy guitars, and they weren’t just buying Fender and Gibson anymore. There were all these other choices out there, and I honestly believe that the guitar has still stayed alive and well. It just isn’t in the forefront. So, I think, we’re good. I think we’re doing okay.

SBP: When do you think live music will come back?

SS: I’m hoping for the summer of next year, once we get through this winter and all that sort of thing. I’m hoping that by the summertime, people can get out and start performing again. 

SBP: How would you describe your style of teaching and playing?

SS: Student first. When I was doing private lessons and I was doing in-person lessons, I never used books. Everything was based on each individual person and what that student was looking for. So, I catered the lessons to each and every student, which is exhausting, but it’s what I felt was most important. It wasn’t turning them into little Steve Stines, but finding their own way and giving them what they needed to stay motivated and want play guitar. So, that’s my style of teaching, is a student first. Playing has to be fun, to enjoy their journey. You know, for me, it wasn’t about trying to make virtuosos and make the most popular, the fastest students. It wasn’t that. It was trying to focus on finding what each student would enjoy playing and want to do.

SBP: What artists inspire you musically and who is your favorite guitar player?

SS: I honestly do not have a favourite guitar player. There are a number of them, but I would say people like Steve Vai, John Petrucci, John McLaughlin and Tommy Emmanuel. Those are some of my favourite guitar players. I’m inspired all the time when I go out on social media and I see really great players that nobody knows of or really great bands that nobody’s really heard of. You know, people send me a lot of videos and music and things like that, and I tend to be inspired by that. Going out and seeing live bands is very inspiring sometimes. Unfortunately, we’re not doing that right now.

SBP: What’s one of your fondest musical memories?

SS: I was in a band called Dozer, D-O-Z-E-R. I was in that band for quite a number of years, and the players in that band became my best friends on the Planet. My best times were spent on stage with that band. Well, travelling with that band too. Even just the time we spent together was some of my fondest musical memories.

SBP: What guitar is your go to guitar and why?

SS: Definitely my Ibanez JEMs. Ibanez is a company. JEM is the model.  I’ve been playing since I was 17, and I own quite a number of them, and they are still my favourite guitars. When I grab them, they feel like home to me.

SBP: Do you think beginners should start with acoustic, electric or both?

SS: I think they should start with whatever inspires them the most, to be honest with you. I know back in the day, everybody said, “You’d start on acoustic,” but, look, if you’re an up and coming rocker and you want to play some power chords and play some AC/DC or whatever it might be, I think an electric is just fine to start on. When you can play one, you can essentially play the other, anyway. There are some differences between them, but I think the most important thing is motivation, especially when you’re a beginning guitar student. Staying motivated and trying to keep it exciting and not wind up collecting dust in the closet, that’s the most important thing.

SBP: How long do you recommend your students practice daily? 

SS: It depends on the student. Usually, I try and tell people to try and get a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Some people don’t have that, but if you’ve got 30 minutes, at least you can try and keep up the elements that you’ve been practising. If you can get more in, an hour or two a day is really great. You had talked about virtuosic playing. You know, if you want to just stay in the game and make something that’s real, I think an hour or two a day really is something that you need to shoot for. If you’re looking for a virtuoso, you might practice eight, 10 hours a day.

SBP: Is music and teaching your full time gig or do you also do other things?

SS: No, music and teaching are exactly what I do. I make a lot of videos for various people. Obviously, I work primarily with GuitarZoom, but I make content for magazines, guitar companies or guitar manufacturing companies, things like that. This is what I do for a living, and, as I said, I play in bands as well, but that isn’t my primary source of income. 

SBP: What’s the best way for people to find out more about you, your teaching, and your projects?

SS: Definitely going to GuitarZoom.com is the easiest way you can see everything I’m doing. Otherwise, you can look up my name on various social platforms and check out what I’ve got going on.

SBP: If someone is new to GuitarZoom, what do you recommend?

SS: Well, if you’re a new guitar player, one of the best courses that I would recommend is Play Guitar for Life. It’s a great guitar course that starts you at the very beginning and goes through the whole thing. If you’re looking for just snippets of information to keep you motivated, we have a membership that I would strongly recommend you check out.

SBP: Are you working on any of your own music currently and any plans to tour once Covid is over?

SS: I’m always working on original music. I just haven’t found time to finish everything up. Right now, I’m busier than I normally am, so hopefully, there’ll be more time in the near future to try and do that. Any plans to tour? Yeah, as a matter of fact., once things get back to normal, I’ve got a band that I’ll be touring with, hopefully, that will happen.

SBP: What’s one secret nobody knows about you?

SS: Gosh, I don’t know, pretty much who I am is what everybody knows. One thing that people might not realize is that I’m a very short human being. I’m only 5 foot 2, so if you see me on video, you might not realize that. People meet me in person, and they’re always saying, “Oh, my gosh, you’re shorter than I thought you were.”

SBP: Do you also offer one-on-one lessons for students, or is it all prerecorded videos and courses on GuitarZoom? 

SS: It’s essentially all prerecorded, videos and courses. I do occasional one-on-one lessons, but they’re very limited, and the waiting list is very, very, very long.

SBP: So, what’s next for Steve Stine and GuitarZoom?  

SS: Once this COVID stuff is done, what I would really love to do is get out and be with people more, play in person with them and motivate them in person, do clinics and classes and things like that. That’s kind of where we were headed, but then COVID hit and that sort of went away, but that’s what I’d love to be doing. 

For more about Steve Stines and Guitarzoom go to: www.guitarzoom.com

Social links:

GuitarZoom Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/user/guitarz00m
Steve Stine Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/user/stinemusiclessons
Songs Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/GuitarSongsChannel
Facebook: https://facebook.com/guitarzoom
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/guitarzoom/