Bernth Brodträger is an Austrian virtuoso guitarist with a fondness for heavy metal shredding and experimenting with guitars. To promote his first solo album he lit blowtorches and set upon an Ibanez electric guitar causing the guitar to flame and the finish to bubble and char. He then played The Kindling, the album’s opening track, on the burnt guitar.
Bernth admits that the stunt may have been a bit dramatic, but he wanted to show symbolically the resilience of instrumental guitar music at a time when the music press was proclaiming that shredding and guitar music were dead. In October 2022 Bernth posted a video of another potentially guitar-damaging stunt. Here is the video for Waterworks:
As the video shows, Bernth poured water into the soundhole of his Ibanez acoustic strummer. For many guitarists, it is a sacrilege to deliberately soak a perfectly good guitar, as the water can damage the guitar irreparably. Indeed, commentators assume that this was the case, but concede that the composition justified the experiment. Sonically, the most discernible effect from the water in the body of the guitar is a swish that responds to the intensity of Bernth’s movements.
It is a beautifully played piece that has a fluidity that matches its title. Even so, one can’t help wondering if the water effects couldn’t have been overdubbed. Of course, they could have, but that’s not the way that Bernth works and, besides, the water changes the resonance of the guitar, so the sound he gets is genuinely once-off. It is Bernth’s 2nd most popular YouTube video. His most popular video is also an experiment with resonance. Here, Bernth drills holes into the body of an acoustic:
In true Bernth style, the track is called Airflow, and once again the playing is sublime. Let’s hope that Bernth doesn’t get the inclination to cover the Talking Heads’ Burning Down the House or Ascendancy’s Drowned and Torn Assunder!
Bernth is sponsored by Ibanez, so presumably the company is delighted by the 3.6M YouTube views for Waterworks and the 3.7M for Airflow. Perhaps they might even supply him with replacement instruments.
The guitar high-jinx (and there are more examples on his YouTube channel), ought not to detract from Bernth’s guitar skills. At 13 years old, Bernth began playing the guitar. Shortly afterward, he received private lessons at a nearby music school. After completing high school, he joined extreme metal bands including “Belphegor” and traveled to perform at concerts and festivals in the USA, Canada, South America and across Europe.
After some time, Bernth chose to pursue Jazz guitar and Instrumental Pedagogics at the Vienna Music Institute. After four years of intensive study, he completed both programs with honors. During his final year, he collaborated with the Austrian group Seiler und Speer and played at numerous sold-out concerts, including the prestigious “Donauinselfest”. Interestingly, Vienna’s Donauinselfest 2015 has the Guinness World Record for the largest music audience at a single venue. Seiler und Speer ft Bernth headlined the 2019 concert. For most of the set, Berth used a modestly priced Ibanez single-cutaway beginner acoustic. I wanted to show you don’t have to use the “world’s most expensive guitar to play the world’s biggest music festival,” Bernth told Guitar World in an article published in March 2023.
Bernth was recognised with two gold awards for composing and performing the music for the hit series “Horvathslos” as well as writing and performing on David Hasselhoff’s first-ever metal song, “Through the Night”.
Presently, Bernth is best known for his music videos and lessons on YouTube and Instagram. These videos attract a passionate audience of guitar enthusiasts from around the world. Bernth has released a number of programs that offer guitar instruction including ’10 Steps to Modern Shredding’ and ‘Sweep Picking Masterclass’.
Going back to Waterworks, I can’t help wondering if the guitar survived the drenching. Part of me hopes that it did, and that, even if the acoustics have changed, the guitar sounds good. Then again, with Bernth even if the guitar did come out okay, he’s probably conceived of another experiment to test the instrument’s endurance.
While writing the article, I emailed Bernth on the off-chance that he would reply before I posted this article. I asked him: “I can’t help wondering if your Ibanez acoustic survived the water. Everybody assumes it was damaged beyond repair, but there is a chance the guitar may be playable, even if the tone has altered. I would love to know if the guitar is still playable”.
Two hours after I finished the article, Bernth kindly responded: “Yes, the guitar did survive and I even used it for another song/experiment after that”:
Bernth continued: “The neck is quite bent from the water damage and the electronics had to be removed (that’s why I only used 1 mic in that other video), but in theory, it could be repaired and put together again :). One last fun fact concerning this guitar – I also played it at the world’s biggest music festival a couple of years before. It’s really just a cheap entry-level beginner guitar and it had quite the journey so far :). Thanks again, and have an awesome week!” If you would like to see more from Bernth, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow them on Facebook.