In this episode of Ernie Ball: String Theory, guitarist Tim McIlrath of Rise Against dives into his creative process and why he’s always played with Ernie Ball strings. These are the top six things we learned:

1) Playing guitar is like writing a story. (0:55)

“The guitar was like a language, each chord was like a sentence, each part was a paragraph or a chapter, and then you could create a whole story, and I became obsessed.”

2) Once Tim heard punk rock he knew he wanted to play guitar. (1:42) 

“Once I heard punk rock, it made me want to really learn how to play guitar… when I heard The Ramones, Minor Threat, and I heard all of that, then I was like, ‘Wait, this sounds like something I can be a part of.’”

3) He never saw himself being a musician as a long term career. (2:59)

“I never saw myself playing in a band or being a musician as a long term thing. I saw it as something I was doing because I couldn’t not do it. When I got home from school or work, it was the first thing I wanted to do.”

4) Tim uses Ernie Ball strings over any other brand for their dependability. (5:16)

“When we started playing them [Ernie Ball strings], it was something that you trusted. You trusted that they would sound good, you trusted that they wouldn’t break, you knew what to expect…they’ve never let us down. There’s never been a problem.”

5) The way Tim McIlrath looks at Rise Against is the same way he sees professors teaching a 101 class. (10:24)

“We are a nuts and bolts, four-guy punk and hardcore band. But that’s ok. Because if you’re a college professor and you’re teaching that 101 class every year, you’re teaching the same class. But the people that are coming in every year are different. The world still needs you to do that. The world needs you to introduce these ideas to an audience that has not yet heard them. That’s the way I look at Rise Against.”

6) Rise Against uses their music platform to share how they view the world. (11:28)

“Our songs serve as either reminders or ground rules or just the basic information about the way we view the world and I feel like there’s a lot of room for that to exist in this musical landscape.”


String Theory is a web series from Ernie Ball that explores the sonic origins of some of music’s most innovative players, including Robin Finck of Nine Inch Nails, Jade Puget of AFI, Mike Dirnt of Green Day and many other amazing Ernie Ball artists. Watch additional episodes of Ernie Ball: String Theory.


Tim McIlrath plays Ernie Ball Regular Slinky electric guitar strings.

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