Ernie Ball String Theory is a web series that explores the sonic origins of some of music’s most innovative guitar players. In this episode, Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe dives into his early musical influences, creative process, and why he chose Ernie Ball from the very beginning. Find out the top six things we learned:


1) Mick Mars had an early start to playing guitar. (0:21)

“I started playing guitar when I was seven years old. They were wind up Mickey Mouse guitars. I learned how to tune it and started picking out whatever was popular at the time. And at that time it was Franky Avalon?? and Elvis Presley. Probably the most influential to me was Mike Bloomfield. People like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix. Kinks changed my life quite a bit. It kind of introduced me to the raspy, gnarly guitar. Dave Davie. Then I’m like, wow that’s cool. I really like that, a different new tone.”

2) Mick Mars’ tone comes from years and years of fiddling. He will never be satisfied. (1:23)

“My tone comes through many different combinations of amps, the way they’re hooked up. If you would have been there you would have just seen my rack mounts and me, plugging them in and out to see what way it sounded the best. Just playing around with stuff forever and ever. It’s taken me years to get to this point of where my tone could be like a couple guitar players up there. But I’m not stopping there of course. I’m still experimenting with different sounds, different tunings, different tones. Pick up an out of tune guitar and play it through something you’ve never played it through before. I’m still playing with stuff.”

3) Finding inspiration in others. (2:44)

“I always try to think a little bit outside of the box. Little to the left. Everybody does four, four, four, four. If you listen to The Beatles, they go more like a waltz-y thing. Like a three-four or a six-eight. And then it comes back into the four, four again. That stuff is great for me to listen to. The way that I am writing songs now, I usually begin with a drum beat here in my studio. Then I just play a bunch of riffs over the top. Going back listening I say I like this, this, and this. Then I’ll play the higher strings for a certain melody. I’m not going to reinvent music by any means, but I may be able to create something a little different than I’m hearing.”

4) Ernie Ball represents the ability to find the right strings for any occasion. (4:05)

“I started using Ernie Ball strings when I was around 14. I had borrowed the first electric guitar I was really playing, and it was a Gibson Melody Maker. I busted a string, went down to the music store, and asked for a set of guitar strings with two high e strings. The clerk went, “huh?” And I told him I wanted the strings on my guitar to be bendy. He said, “Oh, you want a light gauge.” So, my first pack of Ernie Balls. I used to use 10-48 for quite a while. Then I went up to 11-50. When I drop tune, I use 52 or 54 for just the right amount of that ballsy sound.”

5) A Brief History of Mötley Crüe (5:17)

“Motley started in Los Angeles. Nikki and Tommy were already playing together and I had put an ad in the paper. They were looking for a guitar player and found my ad. I actually auditioned them. They don’t know it. But anyway, no, I went over there and we clicked.”

6) Playing guitar is about pushing your limits. (5:55)

“When I come out with my solo project, my first record will give me a key to that door I need to open. I definitely am going to lose some fans because it doesn’t sound like my old band. If it does well, then I know I can go another further, and another further, and keep reinventing. I want to keep evolving and keep moving to keep that motivation going. If you stop learning, you might as well put the guitar down.”

String Theory

Check out other similar guitarist String Theory films from Ernie Ball including, Steve VaiJohn Petrucci of Dream Theater, Kirk Hammett of MetallicaRobin Finck of Nine Inch Nails, and many other amazing Ernie Ball artists. Watch additional episodes of Ernie Ball: String Theory.


Mick Mars relies on Ernie Ball Regular Slinkys, Coated Beefy Slinkys, and Nickel Light Strings.

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