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, Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains discusses his obsession with playing guitar, his musical influences, and his long-standing relationship with Ernie Ball strings. Find out the top six things we learned…

1. Being creative runs in the family. (:30)

JC: “My mother’s side of the family is pretty artistic in a lot of different ways, but mostly everybody played some sort of an instrument. So there was always music in the house and I was really taken by music at an early age. It made me curious about the aspect of like, ‘Could I do that?’”

2. He dreamed of owning a Les Paul thanks to KISS. (1:09)

JC: “You know how kids put their Christmas wishlist on their door so they can kind of tell their parents what they want for Christmas? I only had one thing on it. I had a Les Paul on their because I was a big KISS fan and I always loved Ace Frehley. I wrote on top of it, ‘This is all I want!’”

3. He learned how to play guitar with just two strings. (2:58)

JC: “My cousin Kyle went to a swap meet and he bought this Victoria… it basically was a Mustang copy. It was in really bad shape. It had like two tuning pegs and only two strings left, the A and the E, and the rest of them were gone. But it was cool. It had all of these buttons and dials and stuff on it. But with those two strings I was able to make a bar cord.”

4. His first set of strings were Ernie Balls. (4:10)

JC: “The first set of strings I ever got were Ernie Balls. Back then money was pretty tight, so you know, you would play those things until they were pretty much rotted off your guitar. But the cool thing about the Ernie Balls is they always had the bins of individual strings. So whichever one busted you could go and get a replacement without buying a whole set.”

5. Sometimes you have to be willing to risk everything in order to achieve anything. (6:08)

JC: “One of the main things in life for anybody to do, no matter what the goal or the dream or the path you’re trying to forage is, if it’s something that you feel like you’re driven to do you have to take that chance. On the worse end of the scale you fail and you don’t get there but at least you tried and you know yourself that you gave it your best shot.”

6. Value the relationship between the musician and the listener. (8:17)

JC: “I still enjoy the feel of the guitar on my hands. It’s really exhilarating to stand on stage in front of people who give a shit about what you’re doing. To elicit and emotion from them and to feel that emotion yourself, it’s a transfer of energy and that’s really the whole thing.”    


Jerry Cantrell relies on Ernie Ball RPS Regular Slinky electric guitar strings.

String Theory

Check out similar String Theory films from Ernie Ball featuring artists such as Mac DemarcoRobin Finck of Nine Inch Nails, Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World, Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, Daron Malakian of System of a Down, and Kurt Vile.

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