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!
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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.
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When it comes to musical experimentation, The Aristocrats are up there with the likes of Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and Pink Floyd. Yet what sets them apart is that in Marco Minnermann, Bryan Beller and Guthrie Govan, you have people at the very top of their respective games.
In You Know What…? they have created an enthralling, varied album full of fun ideas to learn and listen to.
So we spoke to Guthrie Govan, Marco Minnermann and Bryan Beller to get the inside track on this amazing piece of work.
Q: Do the live versions of the tracks differ much for the album ones and did you write them with performances in mind?
The Aristocrats: Inevitably the live performances and ”version” of the songs do evolve over time the more we play them, and we think that’s more a function of what we do as a collective musical entity rather than any particular song. Sure, a song like “Get It Like That” is more improvisationally minded than “The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde”, but even with those compositional differences accounted for, we’ll always try and find ways to make the live performances fresh and new.
Q: What part do you find the hardest to play?
The Aristocrats: We really try to focus on executing parts as a band. Sure, every song has its challenges for individual members. Guthrie wrote himself a fairly difficult part in “Spanish Eddie”, the bass chordal melody in “Last Orders” is tough, and Marco has to remember a lot of little things in “The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde”. But most of the time the challenge for us is making sure that we can execute things as a unit, and making them sound good. Sometimes that’s more difficult to pull off than just executing a single difficult part, even though we do want to get our own parts right, of course. As a unit, performing live, from this album, the flamenco/metal section of “Spanish Eddie” is probably the biggest challenge in that regard. There’s a whole lot going on there, and we do it in every soundcheck to make sure it will work. Perhaps the jazz section of “When We All Come Together” is a close second.
Q: Do you intentionally try and make the music challenging in terms of composition or is it a natural thing for you all?
The Aristocrats: We truly don’t try and make music “challenging”, even though we understand that some people appreciate it in this way. If we’ve done it right, it’s supposed to be something you can enjoy as well rather than something *only* to be analyzed and dissected, though that of course has its place for educational and musical growth purposes for anyone willing to dive in. Ideally there’s room for both! Also, humor counts as well. We’d rather have folks laugh and be entertained than try and “blow their heads off,'' so to speak. But again, we understand that they’re not mutually exclusive concepts, and Frank Zappa taught us that long ago.
Q: I know dinosaurs were an influence for the record, but what musical influences were there for the record?
Marco: I personally never think about musical influences whilst writing a song. Yet history and influences are probably subconsciously undeniable and become roots. The bands and artists I grew up on surely must have played a role. Queen, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Kate Bush, Kraftwerk, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Rush... and many more. But, you somehow learn the letters and words and start forming your own language and speak with own voice, which then maybe will stay in the universe to influence the next generations. I guess that’s important, the never ending road, haha.
Bryan: Just speaking for me on my songs, “All Said And Done” was definitely a Beatles pastiche, converted into an instrumental guitar trio arrangement. No hiding the ball there. “D Grade Fuck Movie Jam” was probably a lot of Jimi Hendrix as seen through the lens of Michael Landau. Perhaps a touch of early Van Halen snuck its way in there as well? “The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde” was the most curious one for me. I know the foundation of it was influenced by the Pink Floyd song “Sheep”, and I also realized we didn’t have any mid-tempo galloping rock shuffles in our repertoire. But there’s a whole host of 70s instrumental rock guitarists that probably influenced that one.
Guthrie: “Terrible Lizard”, just as you hinted, was intended to be my sonic representation of a huge dinosaur lumbering around: the glissando lick leading into the “chorus” was intended to mimic the way I imagined that one dinosaur might call out to another, whilst the intro riff was meant to be a crude representation of thunderous footsteps. “Last Orders” is an atypically mournful ballad, which could be taken to represent the general idea that good things don't always last forever - as symbolised by the “last orders” bell which you hear in a traditional English pub just before closing time! As for “Spanish Eddie”… I honestly have no idea where that one came from: the notes just kind of “coagulated” in my head for no apparent reason ;-)
Q: Were there any tracks “left on the cutting floor” that you might revisit later?
The Aristocrats: Not on this album. We generally write specifically for the band and agree in advance which songs will be on the album. Marco is the occasional exception as he writes more often, but this only comes up in terms of choosing which songs we eventually record. We’ve never, in the history of the band, recorded a track that we didn’t use. Make of that what you will. :-)
Q: For learning the guitar parts, what would your main piece of advice be?
Guthrie: I strongly suspect that most of the players reading this will already be familiar with the concept of taking things slowly and prioritising accuracy over speed… if you practice something slowly and perfectly enough times then increasing the speed will ultimately prove to be less challenging!
Thinking more specifically about this package of transcriptions, I would very much encourage players to take some liberties with the notes in certain sections, as the intentions behind the “written” and “improvised” sections in these songs were entirely different. I would say that the “verse/chorus” parts of each track in this package were very deliberately composed and would benefit from some detailed study. The “solo” sections, on the other hand, were all improvised and consequently they feature a few stream-of-consciousness passages where I was just “going for it” - hoping to convey a kind of explosive energy rather than any specific melodic content.
I wouldn’t personally want to memorise every last detail in those “crazier” passages and have to replicate them note-for-note so… I’d say that the way to get the most out of these transcriptions is to use your discretion when tackling the solo sections: it’s probably wisest to focus on learning your favourite licks note-for-note and then trying to look for any useful patterns in terms of note choices which seem to work particularly well over each chord, rather than feeling duty-bound to replicate every minute detail of the original!
In other words: some of these notes probably deserve more of your time than others ;-)