Dream Theater’s grandmaster guitarist gives us the inside scoop on his signature Ernie Ball Music Man John Petrucci Monarchy Majesty
You can tell a lot about a man by the car he drives. And John Petrucci, famed shredder of Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment and solo work—and lover of BMW—is no exception.
Petrucci is, without question, one of the most technically sound players on the planet. The speed and coordination between his hands is legendary. And his style catalog over the last three decades is as immense as it is nuanced. The term "guitar master" is one that is easy to apply. In other words: He does just about everything a guitar player can do, and does them well.
And that's the underlying theme of his new Ernie Ball Music Man Monarchy Majesty guitar.
With Petrucci's direction, its previous iteration, the Majesty, took design cues from the BMW M6—a car that looks at home in a corporate executive's parking space, but comes loaded with over 500 finely tuned German horsepower. It's not flashy, but it's just as comfortable taking the kids to their (private) school as it is carving up mountain roads or embarrassing muscle-car owners between stoplights. In other words: It does just about everything, and does them well.
Both the Majesty and Monarchy Majesty follow that same mentality by being all things to all players—and, no, not jack-of-all-trades way. It was birthed from decades of engineering, road testing and refinement to allow the instrument to merge with the player—the John Petrucci way.
"When you're playing live, that's when everything is amplified," Petrucci said. "You're completely exposed. All of your years of practicing hopefully come to light. … And you want to get to a point where those things kind of melt away and disappear, and you can just be in that relaxed concentration space where you can be the best musician that you can be."
On its surface, it features the standard goodies for metal-minded players: 6- or 7-string configurations, a pair of DiMarzio humbuckers, three knobs, a couple of switches, 24 frets, a tremolo bridge, locking tuners and a cool paint job. Solid.
But, dig a little deeper, and that's where the details start to come together to create what Petrucci himself calls "the ultimate performance-driven instrument."
The Custom John Petrucci Music Man Piezo floating tremolo bridge features all rounded parts to keep it from cutting picking hands. And the tail section is shaped to flow with the "shield" body inlay for better style, as well as give more surface area for Petrucci to rest his palm.
The Schaller M6-IND locking tuners with the angled headstock hold the strings so well that there's no need for the traditional locking nut with a tremolo bridge. Not needing to find the proper hex key saves time and frustration when trying to make adjustments or change tuning.
A closer look at the headstock.
The neck and "shield" section of the body are one piece of Honduran mahogany to maximize sustain and resonance. That also made it possible to maximize high-fret accessibility by trimming away body mass near the lower horn, as well as create a seamless heel section for ultimate comfort and speed.
"That sort of smooth and seamless transition from the neck into the heel into the body is just one of my favorite things because I'm a big fan of guitar design where it just gets out of your way—where you have nothing preventing you from being the best player that you can be," Petrucci said.
The medium-jumbo frets are stainless steel for smooth vibrato and longer life.
The body is thin and lightened to be wearable for Petrucci's regular marathon live sets. At just 6-3/4 lb., it's unlikely to break any collarbones. And the satin finish on the back was chosen to minimize stickiness on hands and clothes.
The layout of the textured knobs and switches follows the elbow sweep of a player's picking arm to maximize speed of adjustments and avoid awkward, rhythm-breaking motions. Even the selector switches are angled accordingly.
The ergonomically laid out controls provide a comfortable, efficient playing experience.
And here's where the really cool stuff shines through.
The floating tremolo bridge features an active piezo system that's activated with the 3-way switch on the upper horn. That allows Petrucci to blend the piezo with the magnetic pickups or use full, lush acoustic-voiced piezo. And that works in conjunction with the magnetic-pickup 3-way switch, so you can pick which humbucker you want to play along with the piezo. Also, the bottom knob is the piezo's volume control, allowing even more adjustability.
The tone knob (the middle one) is a push-push that doubles as a coil split to chop the DiMarzio Sonic Ecstasy humbuckers in half for cleaner, more-focused playing sections.
Lastly, the volume knob is a push-push that activates a 20dB boost on command. The effect on a clean setting effectively turns it into a handheld crunch channel. And, when playing higher up on the gain settings, it thickens everything up and takes them to 11—ideal for searing leads.
"It's kind of a no-brainer, having the ability to just tap the volume control and then have this clean natural boost of up to 20 dB on the guitar," Petrucci said. "How could you say no to that, really? It's really cool. If you're out there on stage and … you want some extra gain or extra sustain, pop that thing on without having to step on a pedal. It's like magic."
As if the Monarchy Majesty weren't customizable enough, flip it over to find spots to fine-tune the piezo 2-band EQ, boost level and the magnet/piezo mix.
And that's where one can also tinker with the included Ernie Ball Music Man Game Changer system, which allows players to easily modify the control configuration of the instrument. But, as it's already set up to Petrucci's specs, the useful side effect of the Game Changer is zero-delay pickup switching from the 3-way toggle.
Again, John Petrucci and Ernie Ball Music Man are not messing around when it comes to performance. But styling and heritage were definitely still part of the equation.
For example, the name of the models wasn't pulled out of a hat.
"When we first started the band, we were called 'Majesty,' Petrucci said. "And just before we released our first album, we realized … there was another band who had a trademark on that name, so we had to change the name to Dream Theater. But when we were called Majesty, we had this symbol that was an 'M' for Majesty. That's the logo that we'd been using forever as a band, and that's what you see on the first fret—that Majesty logo. … I thought it was a perfect tribute to the band's roots. It's such a connection that I have, and it brings that to the guitar."
"I just thought that the colors had such royalty to them and so—when coming up with names for the colors—I was looking at words like 'imperial' and 'royal' and all things like that. Even based on our last album, The Astonishing, there's an element to that story where there is an empire and an emperor. So I kind of had this idea in my head … to keep them with this theme—this imperial, regal theme."
The maple top shield sits as a centerpiece in the heart of the African mahogany body to be striking visually, as well as rich tonally. Even the shield inlays are mirrored to provide better contrast from the ebony fretboard.
John with his Ernie Ball Music Man John Petrucci Monarchy Majesty.
While this incredible instrument was developed with one player's vision in mind, the near-limitless versatility, masterful ergonomics and smooth performance it offers will take anyone's playing to new levels.
"When you pick it up, and you feel that satin against your body on the back of the guitar, and the playability of the bridge, and the versatility of the active system with the boost and the piezo—it's really the perfect instrument," Petrucci said. "It's just a spectacular instrument, and it's all of those details that make it so."
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