2020 has been a challenge. Fires in Australia, floods in Indonesia, the passing of a guitar icon, and of course, Covid-19. But if you’re looking for a silver lining, the 2020 edition of JTC Jam of the Month is as good as they get.
Thousands of people, coming together under the banner of musical exploration and in the process creating a community that is vibrant, supportive and constantly growing.
But the time has come to crown a “champion” of that community and to find out who will win the fabled Ibanez AZ Prestige. So to explain how it’s all going to work, here’s a breakdown. But first...
A quick recap!
Since April, Ibanez have sponsored the JTC Jam of the Month, and have offered an AZ Prestige as a grand prize. So each month, we have given away a free backing, and each month our guest judge has chosen their favourite solo. Now, each monthly winner from April to November will battle it out to see who gets the guitar!
How will the final winner be chosen?
The winner will be selected through a combination of public vote and via our judging panel. For December, the guest judges are some of our most elite JTC pros and all Ibanez endorsees: Luca Mantovanelli, Nili Brosh, Brian Maillard, Ruben Wan and Igor Paspalj.
This is how the December final will work...
Each of the eight winners between April and November will be given until December the 18th to submit their solo directly to the team at JTC Guitar.
There are five backings to choose from, but they can only submit one solo. Once submitted this cannot be changed.
JTC will then release each solo one by one into the JTC Jam of the Month group, on the 23rd of December. Contestants will be free to post their solo to their own social channels only after this point.
Once all solos have been shared, we will open a poll within the group for people to vote on their favourite, between 24th and 29th December. The position in the poll denotes how many points that person gets. Example - Joe Blogs wins the public vote so gets 7 points. Joanna Blogs comes eight, they get 1 point.
Each judge will be asked to put the solos in order with the same point system in place.
The person with the most points wins an Ibanez AZ Prestige, and is crowned JTC Jam of the Month 2020 Champion!
The winner will be announced in early January 2021.
Is there a monthly prize for non finalists?
The JTC community is a beautiful thing. It’s ever growing and passionate, and we wouldn't be here without it. So as a special thanks, for December we are also offering all non finalists the chance to win a six month Premium Membership to JTC Guitar. If you are already a member, we will simply extend your membership for free! The monthly winner will also get JTC x Ibanez Picks.
How will the monthly winner be chosen?
To keep things simple, we will ask the judges to directly pick the best solo for December, with a simple majority needed to crown the winner.
How do I enter the monthly contest?
Download this month’s FREE pack featuring five highly jammable tracks.
JTC is a bit of an exclusive club. Our artists set very, very high standards and it is a hard roster to get onto. The even more exclusive club is made up of those who have contacted us in order to get onto that roster. Baris Benice is its latest member.
His JTC debut, 20 Uncaged Rock Licks, is a fantastic tool for anyone looking to break out of restrictive shapes, and is also just a small snapshot into his crazy melodic talents.
So to tell you more, here’s the man himself.
How would you describe yourself as a player?
I call my playing “unpredictable”. In the past, I tried to push myself into the opposite direction of what my fingers tend to do. So, my playing evolved in this way.
I love the catchy melodies. So, you can hear that kind of melodic focus in my solos or improvisations. When I write a solo I don’t try to write the hardest thing. Yes, I know that we all practice a lot to be able to play advanced techniques but I always know that I don’t have to use all of them. I prefer to use these techniques to make my expressions stronger.
And I’m not easily satisfied with my melodies when I create them. I always think about what I can do differently.
You are our first Turkish artist! Has your heritage inspired you as a player at all?
Well, Not so much. But yeah! There are many people from different cultures in my country. So, it evolves our musicians' taste. But I grew up listening to western music mostly and Turkish culture didn't affect my playing style so much. I don't know if it is a good thing or not actually! Sometimes I can hear some melodies in my head which do not belong to western culture, but it's just a feeling.
How did the idea for this release come about?
In the early days, I was having a lot of trouble playing in only one shape. It was one of my biggest problems when I was trying to improvise. I had only one way to create each melody that I built. I mean, I got stuck with the box shapes. So, I decided to develop my own approaches to break out of those boxes. At first, I tried to play basic pentatonic shapes diagonally instead of vertically. Then I played those phrases with different rhythmic variations. And it started to turn into more aesthetic expressions. With some music theory, I applied this approach to different musical scenarios and it became more fluent and unpredictable.. So, I thought that it would be great to share these ideas with a lick package.
What for you is the biggest takeaway from the pack?
I want people to start thinking about how important moving around the guitar neck is to create some unpredictable melodies. We all focus on music theory to develop our phrases. Of course, it’s necessary to know what you can do to express your musicality. But besides this, we have to know there are how many ways to play that same melody on the fretboard. In this way, we can build different futures for our improvisations.
Many players still don’t notice that our brain knows what our fingers cannot do. So, if we can install some new ways to our muscle memory our brain will notice that update. With this approach, we will be able to play what we exactly feel or think.
What was your set up for this release?
It’s my Schecter Silver Mountain guitar. Actually, it’s a new one but I loved how it sounds. And I used my Schecter Apocalypse Red Reign seven-string guitar for slow demonstrations.
They’re directly going into Neural DSP Archetype: Nolly plugin. Aside from that I’m using a wah-wah pedal. That’s pretty much it.
Who is your favorite JTC artist?
It’s really hard to choose only one, there are so many great players at JTC. Guthrie Govan, Andy James, Kiko Loureiro, Alex Hutchings, Martin Miller, Roy Ziv, Claudio Pietronik, and so on. Each one has a unique playing style and I really enjoy listening to their works.
Any ideas for the next JTC release?
I love to use the whammy bar to create melodies. So maybe it would be a great concept. Besides that, I’m recording my debut album these days. So, it would be great to share any of my songs with the “Learn to Play” concept.
And it would be great to do something with other players at JTC!
Check out the release
Huge thanks to Baris for taking the time to talk to us. Make sure you check out his JTC debut. More info below!
The JTC roster is a special place, full of some of the finest guitarists and educators on the planet. So whenever we add to that roster, it’s something to celebrate.
Our latest addition however, takes us to a whole new place. We’re never scared to break new ground, and in Ruben Wan’s JTC debut, he’s helping us do just that.
So here he is, to give you a behind the scenes look of his mesmerising Learn to Play release.
How did you get into guitar?
To pick up girls in highschool…just kidding! I was bored one summer vacation and saw an ad for guitar lessons at my high school. Like most complete beginners, I had my parents buy me a cheap nylon acoustic guitar and decided to enroll. The guitar teacher only knew a few basic campfire chords and that’s the only thing he taught me for the whole two months duration of my vacation but even those few basic chords were enough to get me hooked and addicted to this amazing instrument.
And right now, what are you focussing on musically away from this release?
Before being a full on guitarist, I spent most of my high school days singing and writing cheesy Spanish love songs, everything took a big turn when I moved to LA to study guitar and for the past couple of years I have completely neglected my artist/singer-songwriter aspect of my career. This year I decided to find balance between my guitarist and artist sides so lately I have been writing and producing more songs that involve lyrics and vocals. The goal is to release a song a month, if possible two but realistically it's going to be closer to one song every other month.
Where did the inspiration for this track come from?
To be honest, I was creatively stuck for quite a bit when coming up with this song. I grew up listening to JTC artists/legends such as Alex Hutchings, Guthrie Govan, Marco Sfogli, etc.
Therefore when I was presented the opportunity to release a package with JTC, I was honestly excited and intimidated at the same time. I’m in no way a virtuoso guitarist and regularly feel the impostor syndrome creeping up on me so it was really hard to find the right inspiration for this track. Eventually though, I told myself that all these thoughts are pointless self imposed “Expectations”, so I called up a couple of friends to help me produce the backing track to my composition (Elijah Zhang and Renny Goh), reminded myself that the only important thing that matters is doing your best, and ultimately bringing a new flavour into JTC’s catalogue by combining my old and new guitar inspirations as best as possible.
It’s not often that people tune up a half step. Where did the idea come for that?
First of all I’d like to give a quick apology for doing this, I understand that this might have come off a bit annoying, my apologies. I tuned my guitar a half step for two reasons:
For this particular song, I liked the tension of my strings when tuned a half step up. I use my whammy bar a lot on this song and having the guitar tuned up, enhances the sound of my whammy flutters.
I was annoyed by a single note in my composition that was outside of my fretboard reach due to the standard tuning and key of the track. So to accommodate that single note, I tuned up.
What is the biggest takeaway from your JTC debut?
Don’t doubt yourself, because everyone has something unique to offer the world. A good solution to being stuck creatively is asking friends to help out, this allows you to use their creative input as fuel for inspiration and come up with something even more rewarding.
Shout outs to: Elijah Zhang (Drums) and Renny Goh (Keys/Aux).
Who is your favourite JTC artist?
Without hesitation, “Guthrie Govan”. My favourite JTC artist is actually also my all time favourite guitarist. If you ask any of my close friends, this has been my answer ever since I discovered “Erotic Cakes” back in high school. Though I have completely given up trying to play like him (impossible), everytime I re-listen to any of his songs or solos, I’m just filled with inspiration and emotions. His mastery of the instrument, feel and creativity is simply incomparable in my opinion.
What would you like to explore in the future at JTC?
I’m definitely down to keep writing more guitar oriented songs for JTC but I’m not opposed to doing a Masterclass or a lick package in the future if my time and schedule allows it. It would also be awesome to collaborate with another JTC artist and come up with a dueling guitars “Learn to Play” track!
Find out more
A huge thanks to Ruben for taking the time to answer our questions, and if you want to find out more about his debut, check out the video below!
JTC Guitar has grown a lot since the “Guthrie originals”, and it’s all thanks to the wonderful community of fans, members and artists. So as we look to the future, we want your help.
Let us know who and what you want to see, what you love and what you think we could do better, and your ideas for the future of online guitar.
By filling out this survey you will be entered into a prize draw to win a year’s membership, and we’ll also give you an exclusive 25% off code for use on downloads- just as a way of saying thanks!
THIS SURVEY HAS NOW ENDED
Terms and conditions The competition ends at 9am BST, 13/10/20. Any entries received after this date will not be valid. One lucky winner will be chosen at random via a prize draw. The winner will be notified via email and announced on social media. If the prize is not claimed after ten working days, or we feel that the entrant has not entered honestly, we will pick another winner. The prize is non-returnable or refundable and has no alternative cash value.
JTC has many incredible artists on its roster, but few match the attention to detail and clarity of thought that Jake Willson manages.
His Fretboard Navigation Masterclass is yet another example of a guitarist willing to tackle a difficult subject, with an end result that is as helpful as it is blimmin’ massive!
So to lift the lid on this behemoth of a release is the man himself!
Where did the idea for this Masterclass come from?
Fretboard Navigation was put together because I observed a gap between ‘fretboard knowledge’ and ‘fretboard practice’; it’s one thing to know where the notes are but it’s another thing to have practical access to them with the left hand when improvising and creating lines. This course consolidates fretboard visualisation while offering a systematic approach to left-hand fingering strategies, especially in relation to transition.
Who do you think it is going to be most beneficial to?
People who would like to ‘break out of the box’, as it were, and get more creative with their line creation. The use of transition offers many opportunities (rhythmic, melodic and textural) that positional playing doesn’t, so I think it’d be a really powerful resource for people who struggle to break out of positional playing.
As someone who has released an album of their own, do you feel this kind of knowledge is essential when creating new music?
I think the ‘etudes and challenges’ at the end of the Masterclass offer an interesting creative strategy; I call it the ‘available finger theory’. Something like that, though simple, can force you to approach things in a new way, well outside of your comfort zone. It definitely encourages creativity, and that point at which you’re at the edge of your knowledge and abilities is often where some of the best art comes from. Spend time there!
People love gear! So may as well ask what your set up was for this Masterclass…
My Fibenare signature model (Roadmaster ‘JW’) into the Kemper - keeping it simple!
You’re known for an in-depth approach with your content, do you feel that’s down to taking on big topics, or does it just reflect you as a person...or both?
I try to find gaps in what’s out there in “guitar space” and then aim to fill those gaps. In the process, I usually discover why those gaps exist: because they are daunting amounts of work to do properly! I don’t mind though - I’d rather put the hours in and create something that I feel is important in the long term.
Also, I’ve spent a lot of time in education and I know how important clear and accurate thinking is (and how misconceptions can create long-term misconceptions). While I’m by no means perfect, I do strive to have a positive contribution to the way these things are done.
What’s the biggest takeaway from this release?
Feed your hands with this stuff and you’ll radically expand the number of ways you can generate lines, all over the neck.
Any ideas on your next Masterclass?
Nothing set in stone yet, but a ‘Fretboard Navigation Vol. 2’ might be in the cards (but applying the system and method to Melodic Minor tonality). I’m also thinking about putting something together about managing changes. We’ll see…
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!