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 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!
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