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
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!
In 2005 a video was uploaded to YouTube that would go on to inspire people from all around the world to pick up their guitar and play. That video was “Canon Rock” and was performed by South Korean viral legend Funtwo.
Now a JTC artist with a brand new track on offer, we thought we’d get to know him a bit more.
So here he is, Funtwo.
Q: How did you get into playing?
I went to a school camp back when I was 14 and a group of older students with acoustic guitars were playing a cool riff of a song and I fell in love with the sound of the power chord right away. I realized the riff they played was from ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ a few years later. Anyway, coming back from the camp I grabbed a guitar that was stored away at home in the storage and started this journey.
Q: How would you describe your style?
Music with nice melodies! Some of the songs sound like the soundtrack of a video game or anime. I love listening to Bach, Vivaldi and 90s Pop Music. And probably the melodic aspects from those styles may have been influencing me largely.
Q: Canon is of course what launched you as a guitarist. Are you keen to move on from that or is still very much a part of you as a player?
The Canon video kind of forced me to start this career and I feel so grateful about it. Canon Rock is a wonderful rendition, it certainly had a big impact in my life and I still enjoy playing the piece. However I wish my originals could resonate with people as well, since I put more passion and effort to my own stuff nowadays.
Q: What was the inspiration behind the track "Story"?
Thank you for asking this question. There was a period of time last year, when I kept thinking about the fact that every single human being has a different background and unique story. A little random, but I felt diversity and variety is so awesome! And this music I was writing at the time, sounded to me like it was portraying a story of a person. In addition, I added a section in the song that is played with an Indian instrument called Bansuri. It was a fun experiment and I’d love to work with other world instruments in future tracks as well.
Q: What guitars are you playing with right now?
In recent years I’ve been enjoying my Tom Anderson guitars. I still often play the ESP guitar appeared on the Canon video which I’ve been playing for 16 years.
Q: You of course know about viral guitar videos, what’s your opinion on the current crop of viral players such as Manuel Gardner Fernandes, Nathaniel Murphy or Charlie Robbins?
Every time I find these new viral players, I’ve been amazed by their unique style, super chops and musicality. To me the rising players are… are on point with every aspect. Foreseeing the future, I see even more ‘scary’ musicians coming continually. It could be led to some competition but I would rather see it as a fun way to enjoy the different styles. As a guitar fan, I appreciate these artists on the various video platforms as I can easily enjoy their music.
Q: Who are your biggest influences?
People who are passionate about something are the main influences for me to create something. And good music certainly motivates me to make music. Reading a good book is also a big part, as I feel like it gives me some artistic insights.
Q: Favourite JTC artist?
I respect Jack Thammart’s music and himself as a wonderful human being. Marco Sfogli always blows my mind with his music and insane technique. Recently I’ve been enjoying Kit Tang’s beautiful music. I’ve been learning many practical insights from Al Joseph's videos. Last but not least, Jason Kui is such a talented musician and nice dude to hang around.
Any idea for the future with JTC?
20 Melodic Licks would be fun. I’d also love to make Learn to Play packages of my future originals.
Q: Before you go…
A huge thanks to Funtwo for taking the time to answer our questions! Check out his JTC debut and let us know what you think.