If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. That’s often the way with life, and Connor Kaminski is proof of that. At the age of 23, he makes his JTC debut with his “Learn to Play: The Haven” release.
Featuring a 15/8 intro, a bunch of chunky riffs and some very tasty shred, it’s a perfect balance of rhythm and lead.
But who is the young gun behind the groove?
How would you describe yourself as a guitarist?
For the past 2 or 3 years, I’ve been trying to approach the instrument in a much more balanced fashion. When I was younger, I’d utterly focus on speed and nothing else. While at the time, I figured that if I could shred, that meant I must be a good guitarist in theory… I have come to learn that was a wrong way of thinking about it. Now, I really try to use the guitar as a conduit to write truly emotive and meaningful music. I learned quickly that only guitarists/musicians care about a shredding guitar solo but many many more people care about a great, catchy melody. I’ve tried to harness that idea in my approach to guitar and songwriting especially for this EP. I only really start shredding if it serves the emotion of the song at any given point.
What was the inspiration behind “The Haven”?
The “Escapism” EP is about a day in my life. With “The Haven” being the last track, it’s about finishing a day's work and finally getting home to your peaceful place. It’s a celebration where we can claim back our own time to do what we want. That’s why it’s the most energetic and uplifting song on the EP. The end of the song closes out with the 15/8 repeating motif which directly links it back to the start of the EP, namely titled “Restart”. This is to signify that once we go to sleep and wake up again, the 9-5 work life repeats itself.
Is there a reason you went with the e flat tuning for the EP?
I was really struggling with writer's block in E standard and I’d been putting off changing tuning on one of my floating trem guitars for the longest time. It got to a breaking point where I realised two things: it’s really easy to change tuning on a floating trem if you follow the correct steps and second, I could write so much easier in Eb tuning. That’s when I wrote Restart and adapted the intro of Stir-Crazy to be played in Eb so I could finish writing the song. Noon Dreamer and The Haven were written a few days later over the course of a few weeks. I’ll probably stay in Eb standard for a while just for ease of playing the tunes live.
What was it like working with Nick Johnston?
Having Nick play a guest solo on the record is an honour and he truly added his own flavour to the section of music I had in mind for a solo. He was super cool about playing a solo on my record! I remember waking up one morning checking my Instagram messages and I realised he sent me his finished guest solo. I remember smiling whilst listening to it in bed on repeat. To feature a wonderful guitarist like Nick on my music was a surreal moment!
Who are your biggest inspirations?
John Petrucci has to be number one, I don’t think I surprised anyone there. I’ve been a big fan of Plini and Intervals’ music for the longest time as well. Aside from guitarists, I think it’s important to allow yourself to be inspired by things outside of guitar and music. When you let that happen, that’s when the magic and originality happens. I tried to use my daily life as a source of inspiration for my new EP and it eventually became the centre concept of the entire record.
Do you have a favourite JTC artist?
I think Mateus Asato is otherworldly and can embed such raw emotion in his playing that I find mesmerising. I also really dig Lari Basilio for her insane phrasing!
You are still very young and have already made a name for yourself. What plans do you have for the future?
I plan to keep growing and to prove myself to people that might not have heard of me yet. My plans for the future are to increase my listening audience and to get out there and play some live shows perhaps in 2021! Perhaps keep the new music dropping along the way as well as some top secret JTC packs, who knows!
So to give you a better insight into the release, is the man himself!
Q: What was the inspiration for this Masterclass?
I decided to create this Masterclass focusing on what for me is the most important thing when improvising, respecting notes of the chords. This would be the key to play cool melodies but also fundamental to create more exciting fast lines!
Q: What is the number one takeaway from this release?
The main purpose of this Masterclass is to give you a different (but not so much) point of view on playing over backing tracks. We have to consider backing tracks and solos as strictly connected. A backing would be more interesting if we respect that and solos can be more interesting if they follow the backing. This would be a great starting point and also a cool way to expand your mental approach for those who already played for years!
Q: Do you think the ideas in the Masterclass work in many different types of music?
Absolutely YES! Genre doesn’t matter. Of course a different genre can require a different stylistic approach but the main concept is the same. Notes of the chords and notes outside the chords. Everything is cool, we just have to know their momentary role!
Q: What was your set up for recording? Our audience always wants to know how to get the same sound as our artists!
For this Masterclass I just used my signature guitar Brea PK6 from Negrini Guitars directly into my Neural Nolly plugin! Then mixed everything from the DAW.
Q: What’s next for you at JTC?
I started working on a big Masterclass expanding this concept of playing through the chords, but through another kind of backing. The first part has already been prepared. Lots of fun here hehe!
Q: Bonus question, why are you so good at hybrid picking?
Ah, ehm, oh….I don’t know! I started playing with that technique because I love this kind of approach to the instrument. I started feeling more control on the strings also from the beginning, so I then just continued doing it but everywhere and in every case! One of the most important things, for me, is to try to apply a technique in every situation, and through improvisation, so you’ll start thinking really soon directly with that and will be easier sooner!
Before you go…
A huge thanks to Claudio for his incredible Masterclass. Check out the video below to find out more!
Some JTC releases come together quickly. They find us or we find them, we agree on a release and in a few months time, out comes some killer content.
Other releases take a lot longer. Jack's addition to the JTC roster has taken around 3 years! But now his Bridging Masterclass is here, we don’t really mind. Here to tell us why it took so damn long, and what it’s all about, is the man himself.
Take it away, Jack!
This release has been a long time coming...what took so long?
Too long - hah! In all seriousness, I think it was a mixture of a few things. Firstly, I took a bit of a step back from the online world for a couple of years for a number of reasons but mainly due to gigging/touring commitments. Secondly - I wasn’t quite sure what to debut with. I get asked a lot of questions about improvisation/phrasing/technique based things, but since the whole R&B and neo-soul styles really became popular, a lot of people want to know how to compose in a modern kind of way. I think this was a logical place to start seeing as it’s such a huge topic. Playing chords has become cool again!
It’s not often a JTC artist debuts with a Masterclass, so what’s it all about?
I guess it’s really about understanding harmony, building chords/triads etc. and being able to interconnect these with single line solo phrases. I’ve tried to start right from the beginning with this kind of stuff, covering all of what I believe to be the fundamental aspects of this style of playing. There are of course some technique-based exercises in there, but it’s really about developing a good understanding of what exactly it is you are playing and what you can to do to expand on this - not just playing by numbers so to speak.
You mention in the promo for it, that players from all backgrounds will find it useful, so metal with neo-soul? What do you mean!?
Haha - has this style already been done? Basically, I think that as rock/metal players, traditionally we don’t tend to see chords that are bigger or more colourful than straight major/minor chords and we tend to stick to a couple of shapes that we learn for each of these. What I’ve tried to do with this package, is to help you understand how to create these more complex chords, and how to create way more voicings without just relying on muscle-memory shapes. Watching neo-soul/R&B type playing can seem really intimidating if you’re a rock/metal player that’s not used to seeing or hearing all of the different chord shapes and sounds. The idea with this is to break the mysticism and give you the tools to develop your own musical ideas in this style. Who knows - maybe you could incorporate it into a metal/neo-soul fusion track!
How can you use the ideas learnt from this in a real life context?
Most of the things that I’ve covered in this Masterclass are ideas/vocab/concepts that I have picked up gigging. I didn’t really know what neo-soul or R&B was until I started gigging professionally around when I was 17/18. Lots of the singers I would work with wanted to play D’Angelo/Erykah Badu/Destiny’s Child covers. Luckily, the other guys in the band were all from a Gospel Background so they would absolutely nail this style. The first few gigs were brutal, but just listening and absorbing language helped me to get through it and develop my own understanding of what’s going on. From my experience, Gospel guys are insanely talented players but sometimes they find it hard to break down exactly what they’re doing - it’s just in their blood so to speak. The goal with this package was to do exactly that - break it down.
If there’s one major takeaway from the Masterclass what is it?
Learning just a few triads/inversions can be a game-changer in the way that you compose if you learn to visualise them quickly. It’s something that keyboard players do naturally, but as guitarists we seem to neglect a little. It can sound super flash, even if technically it’s not so complex.
A bit about you, what are you up to right now?
Currently, I’m quarantined over here in Zermatt. Our whole town shut down the day this Masterclass released - hah! Unfortunately, all of my gigs/tours all the way as far as August are being cancelled. On the plus side, it’s allowing me to focus on some cool projects! I’m currently working on my debut original release. I’m unsure whether this will be an E.P./album or a collection of singles, but the demo’s are shaping up nicely. Other than that, I’m teaching a lot over Skype and I’m working with some super talented players on a few different projects - both covers and originals. I wonder how much new cool music we’re going to hear over the next few months with everything being on lockdown?!
And in the future, what can we expect?
I guess a mix of more lesson content! I’ve always wanted to cover more of my improvisation based playing in more of a rock/fusion sense. I think a “Bridging the Gap” volume 2 is definitely in order too. The content covered in this Masterclass is huge but I feel that I have enough ideas/concepts/language to further expand on it. Other than that, I’m always open to suggestions. If there’s something you want to learn, shoot me a message!
Before you go...
Check out the promo for Jack's JTC debut to find out just what to expect from his incredible Masterclass
Igor Paspalj’s JTC debut, “Full Throttle” is proof that sometimes you’ve just got to shred.
It's got high speed runs, every type of picking you could ask for and is as tight as tight can be. But who is Igor Paspalj?
Before he answers that question, we want to know something...
We've only just taken you on as a JTC artist, how come it's taken us so long?
First of all, thanks for having me as a JTC Artist, I am truly honored!
I guess I never advertised myself that much, and was never very active on social media until recently. I’ve been playing guitar for over 20 years professionally, but I never invested real time or effort to advertise my stuff online to some extent to maybe get eventually noticed by a company like JTC. Luckily, I discovered a JTC “Jam Of The Month'' in December 2019. I entered for fun, and everything kind of picked up from there in a good way!
You became a JTC artist after winning the Jam of the Month, do you think online guitar comps are a good way to get noticed?
Absolutely! In my case, that’s exactly what happened. Even without any ambition of winning it, they are also a great way of just comparing approaches. For example in the JTC “JOTM" where everybody plays over the same track and progression. Everybody can actually improve a lot of things in their own playing; improvisation, musical thinking, and get more creative by just comparing to what other great players do.
Your JTC debut is shred, is that your main thing as a player?
Since early days of me being present in the guitar community, lots of people were connecting me to pretty much shred only, and earlier it was, but it's not my main thing anymore. At least, lately, the last couple of years, I am always trying to expand as a player, leaning toward some fusion stuff, blues, even country. I have my YouTube channel full of all kinds of takes on everything, but it’s a never-ending, and slow journey, and my playing style changes all the time.
What is your top tip for playing fast?
Huh, not an easy question I can give a really short answer, but general principles of starting slow, and gradually building up speed always seems to work. Of course, it’s not simple as that. There’s a ton of little details and variables included. Having proper technique, relaxed left hand, efficient practice routine, smart practice routine, consistency, and most importantly, patience.
There’s also one thing that I discovered and helped me a lot over the years, which consist of practicing slowly combined with shorter bursts of much faster tempo for the same licks, and rocking back and forth between those two extremes, gradually increasing tempo. You can almost compare it to the P90x gym fitness program!
But that’s maybe a topic for some extensive lesson, or even a Masterclass.
Who are your inspirations?
If we are talking about guitar players, too many too count. But besides obvious guitar legends, and we all know who they are, I am very inspired lately by players such as Guthrie Govan, Mateus Assato, Greg Koch, Tom Quayle…again, there’s more, also too many to count!
Who is your favourite JTC artist?
Well, there are so many great players at JTC, it would be hard to choose only one, but that guy Feodor Dosumov is absolutely from another world! What a player! I am enjoying his playing so much lately, and I am not sure how I failed to get to know about him until just recently. Absolutely shame on me for that.
What next for you at JTC?
Some projects are already aligned for the near future. Beside that, I would like to eventually develop some form of extensive Masterclass about improving technique, efficiency, different practice routines, and a lot of little tips and tricks all related to developing clean and efficient guitar technique that helped me over the years. According to messages I am getting over social media, apparently, that's the main thing that people want to know from my side. Let’s see what the future brings.
Before you go...
Watch the full playthrough of "Full Throttle" below!
Whether you’re new to the world of guitar or you’re that person who has owned a guitar for 10 years but never changed the strings, then you’re in the right place!
This is your chance to better understand the world of strings. The lingo, the variations and the maintenance of strings can be confusing no matter what level you’re playing at, so we’re here to give you a full rundown.
Let’s start with why they are so important.
What’s the deal with strings?
First, the basics. Strings are fixed at the machine heads on the headstock and the bridge towards the bottom of the body of the guitar. Fret wires at key intervals along the length of the neck then allow you to play different notes. These fret wires are normally straight, but modern variations include fanned fret and True Temperament™.
It is said by many that strings don’t have an impact on tone, and while the sound of the likes of Guthrie Govan and Brian May is unmistakable, even these greats of guitar will have a string preference. Brands, types and gauges of strings all help to create a different tone.
Note attack, sustain and decay are all aspects of how we summarise a string’s tone. The initial note volume and dynamic response of a string can be looked at too. Finally, the EQ profile of a string is tightly linked to the harmonics and overtones it produces.
But what causes these tonal differences in the first place?
Material is likely the most influential as it vastly affects the tone of the notes. Electric and acoustic strings generally have steel cores with varying materials for the windings. Steel and nickel are common electric guitar string materials, brass and bronze are common windings for acoustics, and nylon (sometimes animal gut) is almost exclusively used for classical guitars.
String gauge is the thickness of a guitar string and is measured in thousandths of an inch. Common string gauges for a standard 6 string guitar are; light (10-46), medium (11-49) and heavy (10-52). You can also get fancier with skinny top, heavy bottoms and custom gauges.
The first factor in determining your string gauge is the application. If you’re keeping things in standard tuning you have the most options but there are certain situations where you may require thicker strings. The odd drop-D tuning would likely work fine but if you’re down tuning everything to Drop-f# then light strings are going to first get very flappy, very fast and the pitch will be all over the place when you pick hard. A more appropriately thicker gauge string will solve this.
Other needs requiring different string gauges would be extended range guitars (think 7 or 8 string guitars) or funky scale lengths. Lastly, your hand/forearm strength and fingertip calluses can also dictate string gauge preferences because thicker strings hold more tension at the same pitch, so thicker strings can make string bends and vibrato more difficult. If you’re new to string bending, we advise picking light strings until you get the technique down, and then you can get all sadistic and bend 13s all day long like Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The strings are your direct connection to the instrument, so if you strongly dislike the feel of them you just won’t want to pick up that guitar again. Material, winding type and coating are the biggest contributors to how a string feels. Nylon strings feel slicker and smoother than heavy acoustic strings, while steel strings on an electric guitar might be considered a middle ground between the two.
Windings usually come in three main forms, round-wound, flat-wound and half-round, with round-wound being the most common. A typical downside to round-wounds is that they harbour dirt and grime. Companies such as Elixir Strings offer coated strings which improve the life of strings and ‘smooth’ out the feel a little. Flats generally feel smoother and have their own unique tone.
Elixir String coating to stop corrosion
Notes from the JTC team
Steve JTC artists rave about the Elixir Optiweb coated series so I gave them a go and they’ve quickly become my favourite strings to date. First and foremost it was the feel that attracted me. I’m most at home on roundwounds but the coating the Optiwebs have gives them an elegance and slickness I prefer, that makes playing feel more natural than other brands I’ve tried. Second, but equally as important for me is that the strings have a great balanced feel and really nice attack/clarity to the tone, without sacrificing the full body sound of the notes. Comfort and great tone make for a deadly combination.
Matt When playing I like to use 10-52s. I play a lot of classic rock/ blues and instrumental stuff so sound is everything to me. I don’t use too many effects and like to keep things pretty raw so my string choice plays a big part to getting the most tone sustain as possible. I like to go heavy without stringing them with fencing wire! The light tops heavy bottoms never let me down. Whether I’m ripping a solo or laying down some sweet riffs they’ve got that perfect balance, but each to their own!
Dan I go with a skinny top/heavy bottom pack whenever I restring. I down tune a lot and play a lot of chuggy, riffy stuff, so I like a good grip on the low end, but on those rare occasions where I do venture to the higher strings, the lighter gauge gives me a bit of a hand. I’m quite often guilty of playing strings to death so when I do change them, I’m always surprised at the freshness of the tone. Maybe there is a lesson there!
Fusing Latin vibes with his own brand of djent inspired prog riffs and lead lines, Lucas Moscardini truly is a player to watch.
His JTC debut sees him tackle and teach the solo from the Vitalism track, “Favela”. And we couldn’t be happier to help him spread his musical message.
Let’s find out more about the man of the moment.
Q: When did you first start playing?
I started messing around with my father's acoustic when I was 9. But when I was 11, my uncle lent me his guitar so I got addicted to music and things started to get a little more serious after that!
Q: You mix up lead and rhythm in your playing, but which do you prefer?
Hard one! Hahaha. That's why we do what some people call "shriffs" which are shred/riff sections. But if I had to choose one I would choose rhythm. Just because it feels SO good to play groovy riffs on stage!
Q: How do you guys approach writing music for Vitalism?
We love to add elements from other genres. On our last EP called "SY" we've used many South American elements and influences to shape the sound! We tend to start with a rough vision of the vibe of the song. Then we usually choose one or two keys for the song we're working so each one of us writes at home some riffs, grooves and chord progressions that fit on the same key. After that, we meet and start combining all our ideas in a way that makes sense for us
Q: What guitars and gear are you using at the moment?
I've been using my Legator Ninja X series and my Legator OD series that I've recently added a pair of EMGs 57-7 and 66-7. I was recording for my new project last week and we've used the OD series with EMGs and I was blown away with the tones we got from it! Live I'm using the Joyo GEM BOX III and in the studio I use Neural DSP plugins.
Q: Who are your biggest influences?
On the guitar front, I have to mention Synyster Gates, Marty Friedman, Steve Vai, Slash, Jimmy Page and Guthrie Govan.
Q: If someone is going to try and discover latin guitarists, where should they start?
If you're coming from a metal background I would definitely have to recommend Kiko Loureiro. He's a true master of the guitar! If you want something more jazzy with a brazillian spice you should check out Pedro Martins and Pipoquinha. (Pipoquinha is a bass player but you will thank me later if you don't know him yet). I also have to mention my dudes Charlie Parra, Luís Kalil and Felix Martin! They're all absolutely killer musicians!
Q: For playing djent, prog metal etc, what would be your number one tip?
Of course the number one tip is to subscribe to my YouTube channel because I've been posting some cool lessons there! Hahaha.
Now seriously: focus on playing as clean as possible, on tempo and make sure to have fun with these riffs!
Q: Who is your favourite JTC artist?
Oh that's a really hard one! It's not possible for me to choose only one because you have the best players out there on your roaster! Hahaha.
Q: Your debut release is here! Why should people get it?
Because I think you'll learn many new approaches on writing solos, applying techniques and on implementing influences from other genres to your playing. I believe that it will inspire people to expand their creativity and to get even more passionate about guitar and music!
Before you go
A huge thanks to Lucas for talking to us. Check out his JTC debut below!