2 years ago
Ever wonder what it was like the first time Jimmy Page picked up a guitar? Having just gotten that first axe, did the future guitar god strap it on and rattle off “Kashmir”?
You can’t help but get that feeling when you watch the video that Nepalese teenager Nirvana Bista uploaded to YouTube in 2015. Watch as he starts out playing Rimsky-Korsakov’s lightning-fast “Flight of the Bumblebee,” his fingers gradually gaining momentum on the fretboard. Near the end of the video, he’s playing so damned fast, you can hardly see them or where they’re landing. It’s all just a blizzard of sheer technical virtuosity. (Fast-forward to the 3:07 mark to see this on display.)
If you’re wondering about that top speed, 1,600 beats per minute is a world record, at least according to two companies. (Surprisingly absent from the judging was Guinness World Records, which clearly needs to get it together and contact him.) Having watched in wide-eyed wonder, RealClearLife wanted to track down the young guitar-god-in-the-making and find out how it’s possible to play the guitar that fast.
First of all, if there was any shred of doubt in your mind, his name is actually Nirvana. Bista tells RealClearLife that people ask him all the time whether it’s a stage name. “I really thank my parents for this one,” he says. “Indeed, it’s a perfect name. When I was around 10 years old, I was a die-hard fan of Nirvana.”
But it wasn’t Kurt Cobain who got him hooked. He tells us he got into guitar playing by watching a cousin play Jimmy Page’s classic solo at the end of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Then and there, Bista had an epiphany: “It was one of those moments when I felt like I found my passion.”
But he didn’t really cash in on that passion until he was 13 and enrolled in St. George’s boarding school in Mussoorie, India. There, one of his teachers took notice of his interest in music and helped the young man find his way. Soon Bista founded his first band. A year later, his band was playing shows and doing Metallica covers.
Besides Page, Bista’s primary influences are prog-rockers Dream Theater (especially axe-man John Petrucci), Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, AC/DC’s Angus Young, British technical wizard Rick Graham, and a number of hometown Nepalese acts, such as Underside, The Shadows, Cobweb, and Nepathya.
So what about all that speed? “It was not possible for me to play incredibly fast from the very beginning,” explains Bista. “As I learned the technique and practiced playing guitar, I started challenging myself to become better. Indeed, it took me a lot of effort and dedication to be faster at my playing.”
Alas, Bista is only human, but we still weren’t 100 percent convinced that he wasn’t some guitar cyborg sent from the future to blow our minds. We asked him if he could give us tips for running speed trials on the fretboard. This is what he told us:
1) Practice all your techniques to a metronome. (That’s the click in the background during his speed-record run. You can download a free one here.)
2) Take any music you would like to speed up. Start off by playing it slow and gradually increase the tempo.
3) Don’t give up if you don’t get the tempo. Just start off again and keep practicing.
4) Most importantly, make it sound musical. Because at the end of the day, it’s the musicality that matters the most.
Ultimately, Bista tells us that he didn’t get into guitar playing or break the speed record for the girls or the money. “My motivation has always been music,” he explains. “I even keep saying music is my life and guitar is like breathing to me.”
That, and he wants to pursue a degree in music theory at Berklee College of Music in Boston. (Famous alums include John Mayer, Melissa Etheridge, Aimee Mann, and John Scofield.) We think he’s got a pretty good shot at this point.
For more on Bista and to listen to his rock band, Daybreak, go here.
—Will Levith for RealClearLife