Sometimes, all you want to do is rock. One man who is clearly a master of that, is JTC’s Michael Wagner. If you need a bit of help learning just how to rock, then we suggest you take a look at his brand new Expressive Hard Rock Masterclass.
And to give you a better insight into what the man behind the pack is about, here’s a behind the pack look, from Michael himself.
Q: What was the inspiration behind this Masterclass?
My biggest hero when I started out playing was AC/DC's Angus Young. He represented everything I think is so cool about the electric guitar; the loudness, the danger, the viciousness. I stole everything I could from him and soon after I started my own hard rock band. My solo stuff for JTC however was always more on the bluesy side of things. So doing a rock oriented package was kind of overdue, because it represents so much of my own history as a guitarist. A cranked up Marshall and an old Les Paul – that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Having played this music for so long, I really felt I could teach other people a few tricks about it.
Q: What’s your favourite part of it?
I’m pretty happy how “Finger in the Socket“ turned out composition-wise! It has that classic 70s rock ‘n’ roll vibe, but I think I managed to put in some of my signature licks and chord changes so it doesn’t sound too much like a rip-off of any of my favorite bands of that era.
But self-praise is no recommendation, so I just want people to experience the full package themselves and hopefully they can learn something for their own playing. That’s the most important thing for me with all of these JTC packs; to inspire people to get creative. Of course, it’s flattering when I see others on YouTube playing my tracks note for note, but what I really hope to achieve is that people do their own thing with it!
Q: How does the future of rock ‘n’ roll look to you?
Today, guitar-oriented rock music is a niche, but amazing things happen regardless. Despite me being more of a classic rock and blues player, I love the modern rock guitarists like Polyphia’s Tim Henson or Plini Roessler-Holgate. Their sense of melody and composition is so different from classic rock, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting. It’s always hard to teach an old horse new tricks, but I’m definitely planning on stealing more of their stuff and let it find its way into my style. Having players like them, I think there’s no reason to worry about the future of rock’n’roll. Maybe it’s even gonna find its way back into the mainstream – you never know!
Q: And apart from rock, what else do you really like to play?
In essence, I’m a blues player with a strong attack and a love of hi gain lead sounds – and the great thing about blues is, you can translate it into pretty much any style. I’m a total groove addict, so I love playing funk. I also love good pop songs, so I’m totally happy with just laying out some chords for a great singer as well. I really enjoy playing any style I’m capable of. The only thing that matters to me is good songs!
Q: What’s next for you at JTC?
In general, JTC for me is an artistic outlet first and foremost. It’s an awesome way to show my own instrumental music to a broader audience. So for me it all comes down to having the next good idea for an instrumental tune. I don’t want to put out new video packages just for the sake of it, but whenever I got some quality material you can be sure there’s gonna be a JTC release!
Here at JTC we have a lot of amazing content and behind all that comes a lot of time and hard work. It can be easy to forget that your go-to Masterclass, 20 Licks pack or Jamtrack, is in fact a committed effort by a talented artist who wants to share their skills and knowledge. So it’s time to shed some more light on what goes on.
With our recent Practice Toolkit Masterclass, perhaps our biggest JTC pack yet, we thought we’d go behind the scenes and chat to its creator, Jake Willson.
Q: What was the inspiration behind this Masterclass?
It’s something I’m really interested in and passionate about (I actually really enjoy the quasi-meditative feeling that I get from a disciplined and structured practice session). People have always asked me about ‘how to set up a practice schedule?’ or ‘how should I work on my x, y and z?’ etc. As I started thinking about doing it, I really dug deep about why some people seem to be able to find the energy to practice and others don’t; I’ve been reading a lot lately about the way our decision making is affected and what motivates us to action, and I felt that a lot of that stuff really resonated with the challenges we face as practicing musicians.
For example, it can be so hard to just sit down with your guitar some days: why? Don’t we all love playing guitar? My feeling is that we need more of a ‘plan’ about what that time is about, and the incorporation of that plan into our daily lives may have other further ramifications to how we approach life and productivity in general.
It’s powerful stuff, I think.
Beyond that, my dream was to have a ‘one stop shop’ for (almost) everything a lead guitarist would want to use for practice, and by having that resource available it would cut down on some of the time spent wasted thinking about ‘what should I practice?’
Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player. it’s all there and ready to go. Honestly, I’ll be using this all the time!
Q: It’s a big one…so how long did it take?
Absolutely ages. ‘201' is a big number! It’s the biggest one of these I’ve ever done and it was quite a strain on my computer (time to upgrade, I think)!! Coming up with the first few exercises was relatively straightforward (I didn’t want people to spend too much time learning thenew material, so they shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to get to grips with) but after a while I needed to find ways to increase variety and make sure there was something for all levels in there. I started working on it when I got back from NAMM (early February, 2019) and then continued to work on filming each exercise over the next two months (it was annoying because my camera was ‘in place’ so I couldn’t use it for other things!). I could have done it quicker, but I was doing what I could between shows and other commitments etc.
Q: What’s your favourite part of it?
I have a bit of a soft spot for the booklet. I enjoy writing and I think that there’s some stuff in there that some people might really need to read. It’s a fairly bold piece of writing because it’s about what I think rather than it being a generic textbook for everyone, and that was quite freeing. I think a certain something (a ‘directness’, perhaps?) is lost when people attempt to write ‘definitively’ about subjects, and I’d prefer to be able to collate the experiences of others (almost as though I were reading the various parts of a giant conversation).
Q: What’s the main thing you want people to take away from it?
That structure is important, and that you can still be creative in your practice sessions. I also think just having the exercises in TAB form, on the page is valuable resource. Just open at any page if you don’t know what you should be doing on any given practice session (and that’s the next 20 minutes taken care of)!
Q: Any plans for a future JTC release?
Well, I think this is my [counts on fingers] 14th product with JTC Guitar! And the last two have been enormous (they’re such huge subjects and I’d been putting them off!). At the moment, I’m thinking of doing something based on harmonic devices, or maybe something about ‘outside’ playing, but I’ll happily listen to what the community is up for!
Who is the best guitarist in the world? It’s the kind of question that bedroom guitarists, music fans and even professional players ask on a regular basis. You can argue there is no right answer, but many would argue that it’s Guthrie Govan.
It would seem that no time signature, style or technique is a challenge to Guthrie, and that’s in part why he is held in such high regard. Spend any time looking for guitar videos online and you’ll find a whole heap of Guthrie solos, interviews and live performances; you’ll also find a huge selection of covers.
Some are messy, some are great and some have made our list of the best Guthrie Govan covers. Enjoy!
Nili Brosh - Larry Carlton Style Track
Dial back over ten years, and you’ll find a video of Nili Brosh playing some Guthrie at the tender age of 18. The title of the video - plus as usual with the internet, something - caused much debate.
A lot has happened since that first video went up: Obama, Trump, Brexit. More importantly, Nili has gone on to become one of the most accomplished guitarists around, landing a long term gig with Cirque du Soleil, and of course, becoming a JTC artist. We love this cover not only because of the story, but just because it’s very, very good.
Li-sa-X - Fives
“No matter how good you get, there’s always a kid somewhere that’s better.” Said by JTC’s very own Steve Martin, and of course he’s right. When filmed, Li-sa-X was a mere 8 years old. You may find better, more accurate versions of the track out there, but for sheer jaw dropping, “oh my god”, you can’t find much more astounding than this. JTC’s Josh Smith is one of many players that started young, and there are no doubt countless more, but to tackle such a difficult track at such an age shows not only a natural talent, but also that a hell of a lot of practice must have taken place; and for that, we clap our hands.
Matteo Mancuso - Fives
JTC Guitar co-founder, Jan Cyrka, sent this video in a round robin email to the team, and every single one of us was blown away. Matteo’s unique finger-style playing creates something that is equally astounding both sonically and visually. It would even be fair to say that Matteo probably trumps Guthrie in terms of “uniqueness”.
And that takes some doing.
Jess Lewis - Wonderful Slippery Thing
If you’ve followed JTC Guitar since the early days, you’ll know Jess Lewis. If you haven’t, then watch this video. What you get with this cover is a finesse and feel all of its own.
The meandering track is played to perfection, so much so that the video has racked up well over a million views and counting. A classic cover for the digital age.
Jack Thammarat Band - Fives (Yes again!)
We thought it best to end where we began, with another JTC artist having fun. While there may be tighter more faithful covers out there, what we like about this take is that it sums up the “spirit of Guthrie”.
Tangential, shifting and heavily improvised, this cover from the Jack Thammarat Band clocks in at over 8 minutes, and is a joy to watch. You do have to put up with the 2009, mobile phone recording, but when the playing is this good we can live with that.
And as a bonus, here's the original
Way back in 2007, Guthrie Govan sat down at JTC HQ, and got jamming. So, here’s one of the original videos, that not only helped to inspire these covers, but no doubt doubt inspired thousands of people to pick up the guitar.
When it comes to practice sessions, not much else trumps guitar jam tracks. They’re fun, allow you to learn new skills and come in all “shapes and sizes”.
You no doubt want to get the most out of anything in life, and we’re here to help you do that with jam tracks.
What are guitar jam tracks?
In short, a jam track is a form of backing music, for you to play over to your heart’s content. Jamming with other musicians can be super fun, but also quite hard to come by for many.
So instead of trying to find a few like-minded individuals and a large space for you all to stand in, you can have yourself some backing musicians in the form of an MP3. Best of all, you not only get to take the lead, but you also get to improve your playing.
Pressing play and having some fun is the easiest way to enjoy a jam track on guitar, but it’s always a good idea to have a little think before you use one.
Before you use a jam track…
After years of playing, you might be able to hear a song, find the key, and have a twiddle on your guitar straight away. If that isn’t the case, then no problem, but either way, it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the details of the track, even if you don’t plan your “session” down to the last note.
The main aspects you’ll want to know, is the key, the tempo and the style. Playing to the key (and chords) will help to avoid any unwanted dissonance in your phrases, but this shouldn’t limit you. Many of the best 'colour tones' can often be found lurking outside the diatonic notes. The tempo and style are then there as a guide to the kind of feel you might want to go for. By getting as much of the technical information in your pocket as possible, you can free yourself up to jam. You also avoid any pant-down moments if there is a tempo or time signature change mid track!
The best ways to use a guitar jam track
Once you know what’s what with your jam track of choice, it’s time to play. Here are a few different approaches that you might find useful.
Practice a technique
Guitar masterclasses might be the number one tool for developing and pinning down your skills, but jam tracks allow you to use them in context. It is a lot easier to play a set tapping exercise in isolation then it is while playing other stuff too. So pick a technique, such as alternate picking, and use the track as a setting to nail that skill.
Try something new
Everyone has favourites, and it can be easy to keep playing the same things. But if you step out of your comfort zone, even a little bit, you can really add a new level to your playing. Pick a mode to play in that you normally ignore, or perhaps go for a genre that is way out there in terms of your tastes. You don’t then have to become a fully fledged fan of that music, but each style brings with it it’s own challenges, and the more you can conquer the better. For something really out there, you could even see how one of your favourite licks works in a different setting. By adapting that lick to “fit” you’ll invariably uncover something new, and that’s what jamming is all about.
Of course, sometimes it is just as fun and useful to plug in and jam away. Doing this every session is fine, but we’d always say to try and structure your time playing at least a little bit. This way you can see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Maybe leave the full-on jamming time to the end of your session as a little treat!
One last thing…
Jam tracks are in many ways the antithesis of the metronome. Instead of that click, click, click to rigidly stick to, you get to have some fun and develop an internal sense of timing. That doesn’t mean that metronomes don’t have a place in practice, and are often quite good when used in conjunction with a jam track, but to really develop fluidity in your playing, it has to be a jam track.
Tips to Learn Chord Progressions - Marc-Andre Seguin
There are so many platforms these days with so much media and information that it is almost too much to handle. If you go on YouTube and you are looking at guitar videos, you will probably see any number of ads for apps or instructionals that claim to have the quintessential guitar method. These programs always target beginners, and while some of these might be really good, it can definitely get exhausting. I will not be making any claims like this, but I will share with you the way that I learned to play chord progressions and what worked - or did not work - for me. I will not be discussing much of the theory aspect of chords here, but I would suggest getting into that early in your playing career or you will be left trying to catch up and many things will seem confusing.
Before moving on, this article requires that you are able to read chord charts. It’s fairly simple. Basically, the diagram is read as if you are holding a guitar up with the fretboard facing you. Any markings are frets that you would play. A “0” above the string, means that string is played open. An “X” above the string means you do not play that string. Lastly, an arc or a thick black line over a set of strings means that you bar that set of strings by placing your finger across multiple strings.
Here’s an example with everything we just mentioned for reference:
Now that we understand how to read chord charts, let’s go ahead and discuss how we can approach chord progressions. In this article, I will mostly address chords belonging to the keys of G and C major. The shapes I will share with you today are open position chords, meaning they use open strings as well as the first few frets. To move these around to different keys, you will need what’s called a capo, which basically serves to move the nut around, so to speak. The good thing is that the shapes themselves don’t change!
First, let’s give you some chords to work with.
Before moving on to playing actual progressions, the most important thing is that you are able to get a good sound out of each chord. Make sure every note is audible as this is often the most difficult thing for beginners. At first, you will certainly be muting certain notes. This is just something you will have to work through in the beginning.
These are a few considerations with regard to getting a clear sound out of each note:
-POSTURE. Yes, like in school. Sit up straight. This will ensure that your hands don’t land in undesirable positions.
-Your grip should look like you are gripping a tennis ball. Try to avoid bending your DIP or fingertip joints and try to avoid pressing your palm up against the neck.
-You should be using the actual tips of your fingers to fret.
Once you feel like you’ve got a good sound out of each chord, it’s time to start trying to play them in succession. The best approach, in my opinion, is to take these in pairs then try to link them all together. Take the metronome, take the first two chords, and play them each four times to a metronome alternating between the two. Remember, take it SLOWLY. It’s important that you get a nice clean sound out of each note than it is to play it fast. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Lots of students come to me with bad habits and it is much more difficult to retrain than it is to learn correctly in the first place. Use the metronome and take it slowly. Additionally, a little bit each day goes a much longer way than trying to cram things into one session and not touching it for another week.
Assuming we play the chords in the order displayed above, your practice should look something like this:
G > C > G > C > G > C and so on…
C > Em > C > Em > C > Em
Em > Am > Em > Am > Em > Am
Then, you would link the first one back to the last one to begin the progression.
Am > G > Am > G and so on…
Once you feel comfortable making each of these transitions, you can go ahead and try the whole progression.
Play each chord four times with a metronome before moving on and then loop the progression.
G > C > Em > Am > G > C > Em > Am etc.
Now let’s add a few more chords in open position.
The F major, while it does not use any open strings, it is close enough to that part of the fretboard that we will group it with the rest of them.
Before moving on, I strongly recommend going over the theory that comes with chord construction and functional harmony. This will give you a better understanding of why chords move the way they do and how to create desired effects with specific progressions.
Now that we have got some more chords available to us, let’s come up with a few more progressions to give you some practice material.
G - Em - Am - D
C - Am - Dm - G
Em - C - G - D
Am - F - C - G
These progressions might sound very familiar. They have all been used to write thousands of songs - literally. As you practice them, take the same approach we discussed earlier. Take two chords at a time, slowly, and link them all together in the end. Doing things slowly and correctly is the key here. Not long after getting this stuff under your belt, you should go ahead and learn a bunch of songs. This is the best way, in my opinion, to see how songs and chord progressions are used to create different effects. The best way to advance in any trade or craft is to build upon what others have already done before you. This way, you will learn new shapes and new approaches as well as gain a better understanding of how certain concepts work.
Lastly, I encourage you to begin writing your own songs. The exploration involved with composing is far and away the most intrinsically rewarding part of playing music. The whole point of becoming proficient with progressions and really getting to know your instrument is so that you are able express yourself as fully and as honestly as possible.
About the Author
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.
JTC is very pleased to be able to welcome Jarle H. Olsen to the JTC artist roster! Jarle is an absolutely fantastic prog-metal guitarist and we're very much looking forward to all the great content he is going to be bringing to JTC!
You can check out his album and his first 1 track pack by clicking here!