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5 Pillars of Better Backings

Monday 20th September 2021 Recording


Use code PILLAR for 20% off all Damir's content.
Ends Oct 1st


JTC Guitar as it is today is built on a foundation of super strong, highly jammable backings. So when someone reaches out to us with backings that fit the bill, we’re always happy.

Damir Puh is one of those people, and a killer player too! He’s brought modern, in your face, riff heavy backings to our catalogue, and a flawless air of professionalism that we really value.

So it only seems right for him to share a bit about his approach to all these banging backings.

A Clear Objective

Let’s start with the most abstract, but probably the most important point. A good backing track needs to solve a particular problem. All decisions regarding track creation depend on whether the track focuses on a specific genre or a specific tonality/chord progression.

Many players use different backings for different purposes, so tracks created with a particular profile of player and a particular problem in mind are more likely to offer the right musical solution.

Having a clear objective right from the start makes the process of creating the backing more streamlined, which results in a better track that many players would find useful.

Balanced Track Structure

Structure is crucial in any piece of music and with backing tracks, there’s always the balancing act of musicality vs the utilitarian function of the track in play.

Naturally, backing tracks tend to have extended sections and less variation compared to “normal” songs, but the parts themselves still need to develop and change as they progress. Providing the player a solid musical foundation, while still making things interesting is key, and a balanced track structure, regarding both the macro and micro levels, is the foundation of that concept.

Backings focusing on a particular scale, chord progression or rhythm can allow having long and open sections for the player to practice over. While tracks tackling the “real-band-jam” scenario means more movement and variation from part to part.

Detailed Arrangement and Sound Design

Choosing the right sounds and arranging the ideas into a cohesive piece of music go hand in hand with track structure and the pre-set objective of the backing track.

Even the most generic riff or chord progression could be transformed into a captivating piece of music with tasty arrangement, sound design, and layering.

Choosing the right sounds and arranging the ideas cleverly, immerses the player into the music and offers musical substance that could be mirrored with the lead part.

Providing hooks and ear candy elements is a nice bonus as well, and a welcome addition if creating a genre-specific track that sounds like a song is the objective.

Tight Performances / Programming

Tight performances and detailed programming are some of the key aspects that separate high-quality backings from the average ones.

For example, tight double-tracked guitars or bass and drums sitting right “in the pocket” not only sound better but also give better support for the player jamming, especially when groove and timing are concerned.

Editing plays an important role as well, and the balance of how much/how little is needed is very dependent on the genre. Letting the tail of palm-muted notes ring out in modern metal is just as inappropriate as chopping everything off and aligning everything to the grid on a funk track. In both cases, a correct judgment of what’s needed for the specific track is crucial for it to sound and feel authentic.

On the programming side, there’s always the risk of making everything a bit too perfect, thus turning out sterile and unnatural in the end. Variation in velocity and timing, especially when drums are concerned, is one of those fine details that help avoid that “jamming to a 90s drum machine” feel.

A Great Mix

In today’s day and age, there’s no excuse for poor-sounding mixes. Most VST’s sound pretty good straight out of the box. there are plenty of really good options for DI guitar tones, and plugins and affordable studio monitors/headphones are getting better and better.

Great mixes and masters immerse the listener in the music and that’s always inspiring for someone to jam over. Just like jamming with a band, great-sounding backings make the soloist sound even better, and if the power, punch, and clarity are there, it’s easier to feed off the track and spend hours with it.

A great sounding track also forces the player to pay more attention to his own sound, which is one of the main things novice players neglect.

Managing the low end, taking care of the hi-mid build-up inherent with guitar-driven music, and letting space in the midrange for the lead instrument are some of the main things that make the difference.

Before you go...

Check out a backing from Damir's latest release.

Micky Crystal's Rock Fusion Influences

Tuesday 7th September 2021 Blogroll

micky crystal

Micky Crystal’s InFusioned Rock Soloing was a chance for him to spread his wings and dig into a genre he loves.

Influences come in all shapes and sizes, and for every guitarist they’re different. So to discover the players who helped shape Micky, we spoke to Micky.

So in no particular order...

Robben Ford

When did you first discover them and how?

I first heard Robben through buying the “Tiger Walk” album on a total whim. I must have been about 17 or 18 and from there I sought out more of his albums and became a huge fan of the “Talk To Your Daughter” album in particular.

Why have you picked them?

Robben was really the gateway for me to get into fusion. I was hearing chords that I’d not heard in the blues prior to hearing him and was amazed how he would throw jazz lines into blues progressions. It set me on the path to working on how to use the altered scale, diminished etc and how to incorporate them into my blues and rock playing.

What’s their best track?

Anything from “Talk To Your Daughter” but if I had to pick one track “Ain’t Got Nothin” But The Blues” is a jazz blues masterclass.

Frank Gambale

When did you first discover them and how?

I first heard Frank on the Chick Corea live at Montreux 2004 DVD.

Why have you picked them?

Studying Frank’s playing has had a huge impact on me, not only his economy picking but his note choice and his phrasing. I’ve learnt so much from listening to him.

What’s their best track?

I’ve always liked the “Passages” album in particular. “6.8 Shaker” really shows off Frank’s blues rock side. The trade off with the keys in the outro solo section is stunning, insane chops paired up with super cool bluesy phrasing.

Scott Henderson

When did you first discover them and how?

I think it was probably a YouTube search that sent me down the rabbit hole looking for more and more of Scott’s playing. Vital Tech Tones, the first few Tribal Tech albums and the HBC album were on heavy rotation.

Why have you picked them?

Scott is such a unique player in his melodic and rhythmic approach. His note choice and how he can take a simple idea, develop it and continue running with it had a big impact on me. The way he can incorporate outside playing and resolve on a blues lick was so impressive to me as I’d come from a blues background but had not heard anyone incorporate outside ideas like this before.

What’s their best track?

I’m a big fan of the first few Tribal Tech albums so it’s tough to pick one but let’s go for “The Necessary Blonde” from Tribal Tech’s self titled album. Super melodic with stunning changes.

Richie Kotzen

When did you first discover them and how?

I think I was 16 or 17 when I first heard Richie through listening to Mr. Big. I started to do some homework on him and his playing and was amazed he could go from playing with bands like Poison and Mr. Big through to Stanley Clarke with Vertu. Not only is he an incredible player but what an amazing voice too.

Why have you picked them?

Once I heard the “Return of the Mother Head’s Family Reunion” album I began to really study his playing. I was heavily into country guitar playing around the same time so pairing up hybrid picking with legato seemed like a natural progression. The way he would approach arpeggios and tapping along with how he would use pentatonics have had a big impact on me as a player.

What’s their best track?

It has to be “Fooled Again.” The outro solo is incredible and still amazes me every time I hear it.

Larry Carlton

When did you first discover them and how?

My Dad has a bunch of vinyl records of various guitar players from Hendrix through to Al Di Meola that he’d show me when I first took an interest in the guitar. There were some Larry Carlton and Steely Dan records in there too.

Why have you picked them?

His melodic and rhythmic sensibility and he has this ability to play the simplest lick or idea that makes you go “why didn’t I think of that? That’s so cool.”

What’s their best track?

Anything from the “Last Nite” album and of course “Room 335.”

Before you go...

Find out more about Micky's release here.

Marco Sfogli's Melodic Guitar Idols

Thursday 24th June 2021 Blogroll

marc sfogli

Marco Sfogli knows a thing or two about melody. His first ever Masterclass proves that in spades!

But even the greats have heroes, and we wanted to see who made Marco the melodic monster he is today.

So in no particular order...

Kee Marcello

When did you first discover them and how?

Around 1988 when Europe’s Out of This Worldcame out, it was one of those records on heavy rotation on my cassette walkman!

Why have you picked them?

Love his melodic approach, his rhythmic sensibility and everything in between. He’s really one of those few players that can turn a solo into a song within a song. I picked up so much by just listening to him on records.

What’s their best track?

Anything from Out of This World, if I had to pick one it would be the solo from “More Than Meets The Eye”. Brilliant choice of notes!

Steve Lukather

When did you first discover them and how?

I actually discovered Toto quite late. A friend of mine lent me a cassette, it was their Greatest Hits record. I instantly became a fan, then I got my head around pretty much all the work Steve has done as a session player and the quantity and quality of stuff is just unreachable for anyone.

Why have you picked them?

It’s one of those bands that you gotta love. Dedication, musicianship, great arrangements, great guitar solos. Plus they probably are found on most records as session players than anyone else on the earth.

What’s their best track?

My favourite record is “Kingdom of Desire”, the last one with the great Jeff Porcaro on drums. I just happen to love the vibe of this one, there are solid rock songs as well as great instrumental sections and beautiful ballads. And Steve is a hell of a singer too!

Eddie Van Halen

When did you first discover them and how?

I got into Van Halen when Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” came out on the radio. But it was 5150, the record, that turned me on how great this band was. Eddie could make sounds out of his guitars like aliens screaming, plus they had great mellow moments. You can’t be a modern player if you didn’t like Van Halen!

Why have you picked them?

Because Eddie was the man back then, he was the pioneer, the ultimate axeman, the guy with a smile on his face. He could make everything he played look effortless and sound super smooth. Definitely the best rock guy of our era!

What’s their best track?

Personally, “5150” the track is one of my favourites. It’s probably the very first riff I ever learned on a guitar so there’s a bit of nostalgia involved here

John Petrucci

When did you first discover them and how?

Dream Theater was the turning point band for me (and I’m sure for a lot of players of my age). The shred era was going downhill and all of a sudden you hear this band doing impossible things, playing long odd rhythm sections and flashy and tasty solos. It was during the grunge explosion so it was as weird as highly welcomed.

Why have you picked them?

It was the band and specifically the player that shaped who I am today, playing wise and tone wise, no questions. They just happen to have all the ingredients I was looking for in a band. I’m glad they existed because I probably won’t be playing guitar today if it wasn’t for them.

What’s their best track?

“Learning to Live” is one of my favourite ever. Quite a long track, over 11 minutes, it has a lot of different moments. Definitely the pinnacle of their production and has one of the most lyrical solos ever.

Andy Timmons

When did you first discover them and how?

I actually discovered Andy by accident. A friend of mine lent me a cassette of his band Danger Danger and I got into this beautiful playing, and later on got his first Ear X-Tacy CD and became a huge fan. What’s fun is that back then nobody knew him in my area, so it was my personal hidden nugget!

Why have you picked them?

Andy is so different from the rest, he had something going that was just unique. A rock player with a jazz attitude, his note choice and use of outside playing on simple rock tunes was what impressed me by the first spin. On a personal level he’s also a super cool guy, love him to death!

What’s their best track?

One of my favourites ever is a track called “Happening ‘68” from his The Spoken and the Unspoken record. It just puts me in the right mood, it shows his huge Beatles influence and has an outro solo that just puts me on the floor every time.

Before you go...

Find out more about Marco's first ever Masterclass here!

Behind the Pack: Beloved Child

Monday 7th June 2021 News

aryz bulo beloved child

The best ballads have a big hook, tell a story and in JTC terms at least, allow a guitarist to show off a bit. .

Enter Aryz Bulo. The Indonesian guitarists’s 5/4 ballad epic really does tick the ballad boxes and then some. .

So we caught up with him to find out more about “Beloved Child”, his latest Learn to Play release..

What was the main inspiration for this track?

This song is inspired by my son, his name is Gabrielle, this song tells about the birth of a child and describes the feelings of a father who really loves his child and struggles through all the difficulties and challenges his parents face before the child's birth and the feelings when the child is born.

The bulk of this track is in 5/4. How did that happen?

At first I was just chilling while making the guitar riff for the intro of the song. I didn't think to set the time signature first but after I’d written the intro riff, I realised it was in 5/4. It was a sweet accident!

So after that, I tried to make a melody theme with slide and legato playing on 5/4 and changed it again with chord modulation from E (root, start from A) to G.

But the chorus and interlude is in 6/4. I wanted to keep the 5/4 feel but make it catchier and easier for the listener to follow along.

What is your tip for playing in other time signatures than 4/4?

I think this is just a matter of habit! At first it might be quite difficult to get used to time signatures other than 4/4. I really understand the difficulty because when we play guitar, we have to think about phrases, scales, grooves, techniques together in a time signature that we are not used to playing.

Of course I have some tips for us to make this easier…

  • Learn and understand the count of each time signature, how many beats in a measure, where the accent is located.
  • Simplify a time signature for example 7/8 you can change it to a count of 1/4 so you don't have to count as many as 7 beats in one measure.
  • Get used to listening to songs with time signatures other than 4/4 as we know, such as the Guthrie songs “Fives”, “Sevens”, and prog bands like Rush, Dream Theater, Animal as Leaders etc. We listen to all of these to add to our sensitivity to all time signatures.

Are there any licks in the track that you had to work on to get right?

Yes... throughout the track, I had to convey emotive playing and techniques, especially in the chorus section. In the interlude, I tried to include more outside sounding licks that are less familiar to the ears, creating a darker vibe. There’s a complete breakdown about that section in the full pack!

For someone who is learning this track, what is the biggest lesson?

The biggest lesson from this song is how you can express your emotions and your feelings in a melody, how to apply techniques such as bending, vibrato, tapping, legato, hybrid picking, alternate picking, etc. To create a harmony that describes the atmosphere and feelings. Besides that, the release will also provide an overview and additional references for you in making your original composition, and also you can learn the application of scales such as lydian, melodic minor modes in chord progressions.

What is the current scene like for guitarists in Indonesia?

Indonesia is a very large country and consists of more than 13 thousand islands and a very large population, so of course there are many talented guitarists who are also extraordinary.

JTC has very many fans in Indonesia. Being the only Indonesian in the JTC roster gives me pride and I hope to be an inspiration to thousands of guitarists in Indonesia.

JTC has become a benchmark and standard for national and even international recognition among guitarists and musicians.

Are there any plans for more tracks like this in the future?

Of course! I plan to publish more varied and fresh songs as well as my album and lesson packages at JTC. This year there will be many releases which I will discuss with the JTC team.

Before you go...

Check out Aryz’s intense and uplifting ballad below!

Kenny Serane's 5 Nineties Guitar Icons

Thursday 13th May 2021 Blogroll

kenny serane 90s guitarist

Every era of guitar can rightly put its hand up to being the best era, but for the here and now, this is all about the 90s.

Kenny Serane’s Classic Rock Soloing is a three track look at that monumental era of guitar, so it’s only right we gave him the chance to shed more light on the players that influenced him.

So in no particular order . . .

Joe Satriani

Satch is maybe the first one who led instrumental guitar to the top in the 90s. Catchy tunes, rock feeling. He succeeded in blending classic playing with a modern approach. Two handed tapping, legato, distinctive tone, there are too many things to talk about with his style!

He also helped me a lot to understand modes. The first time I heard lydian was certainly in Flying in a Blue Dream.

What’s their best track??

Too many, but I guess all Surfing with the Alien album songs are absolutely genius.

How have they influenced your playing?

Technically first, his legato lines helped me to shred when I started playing guitar. Second is tone. I always loved his way of playing with distortion, feedback and more. I learned a lot tweaking my guitar presets along with a Satch album in my CD player!

Tom Morello

I’m pretty sure he found all the best possible drop-D riffs! When I first listened to Rage Against the Machine's debut album, I was blown away; power, creativity, anger. every guitar part was a pure joy to play and still sound so cool today. I also can’t tell how many hours I spent with my whammy pedal and toggle switch to try to sound like him on the “Know Your Enemy intro.

What’s their best track??

The opening song “Bombtrack”, “Know Your Enemy” and “Take The Power Back”. Also, “Killing in the Name” is so fun to play live!

How have they influenced your playing?

Tom has proven that a powerful riff can be made with a light crunch and neck pickup! He made me spend a lot on pedals too :)

Jason Becker

One of the most gifted players of this era. His work alongside Marty Friedman on Cacophony and his solo album Perpetual Burn are absolutely phenomenal and still playing on my Mac today. If I’m asked for shred over the top and melodic playing, I definitively say his name. I was obviously in love with his sweeping parts blended with classical progressions. So young and gifted, and sadly cut short by A.L.S.

What’s their best track??

“Concerto” from the first Cacophony album is a real masterpiece. I also love the track “Go Off! Track” and “Mabel’s Fatal Fable” from his solo album.

How have they influenced your playing?

Certainly on sweeping. Thanks to him I can play the sweep part of Fast Forward!

I also discovered japanese scales with him (or Marty Friedman, his mentor). It was a complete new path to explore for me.

Jan Cyrka

I discovered Jan’s album Spirit after my teacher told me about him. I was impressed by his feedback control, killer tone and lyrical playing. His tremolo technique is very unique too.

What’s their best track??

“Road to Glory” gives me goosebumps each time I listen to it.

“Back in the Saddle” with its reggae feel.

“Angel” as my alarm clock during my teenage years!

How have they influenced your playing?

In writing, he helped me to try new things, new instruments on my songs which were initially guitar oriented. For example, the “Migrant” (from Spirit) has a very video game mood with this intricate and beautiful key change along the song. I understood the importance of arrangement and to not focus on guitar only. That’s what we call music I guess.

Frank Gambale

I learned a diminished scale, thanks to him! Gambale was the first to bring me into jazz and fusion music. Stellar playing and ability to play over changes is out of this world. Even if orchestration is maybe out of date, it is a real gold mine for every guitar player, whatever the genre.

What’s their best track?

“Leave Ozone Alone” from Thunder From Down Under: complex tune with a rock touch.

“Lazy Passion” from A Present for the Future: there is a very melodic guitar solo across the modal progression.

All of the Coming to Your Senses album is a perfect starting point for rock players who don't know him yet.

How have they influenced your playing?

A lot for improvisation and especially phrasing. He helped me to focus on my phrasing coherence, how to rest, how to play and more! I’d often spend 8 hours non stop on just one of his solos to “try” to understand his strategy.

Before you go...

Find out more about Kenny's monstrous three track pack here!

Get to Know: Damir Puh

Wednesday 28th April 2021 News

damir puh

When Damir Puh first got in contact with JTC it was about backing tracks, and we were instantly wowed. So much so that we put out Just Jam Riffy Rock on our platform.

But when we saw him jamming on his backings on Instagram, we wanted to get him in front of the camera. A killer player, a fantastic backing writer and a dab hand at a mixing desk.

This is Damir Puh in his own words.

How much of your experience as a producer comes through in your playing?

It certainly adds another dimension for sure! Music production teaches you to focus on the things that matter the most, helps you understand the bigger picture and how to maximize the value of what you play in the context of a song. After working with artists in many different genres, I started recognizing patterns of what works and what excites people, especially outside of the guitar circles, so naturally, those conclusions started to creep in my playing in one form or another.

In practical terms, it means a lot more emphasis on sound, groove, timing and the general approach and vibe, while still harnessing the typical guitar fireworks and using them as a powerful tool.

What was the main inspiration behind this release?

I wanted to do a lesson pack aimed at intermediate rock/metal players that already have a good grasp of the most common techniques, phrasing, and theory and want to take all that to the next level. I also wanted to make sure the material is still rooted in the usual rock form so it makes sense to anyone trying to tackle it, without having to alter the way they play and approach the instrument too much. And finally, one of the main ideas was creating specific licks that would not only be cool enough to play “as-is”, but that also feature multiple concepts that could be further developed and pushed in any direction.

What is the biggest takeaway from it?

For me, the general idea, intent, the way something’s played is just as important as the notes that are being played. Hopefully, I represented that element in this pack enough, so even players outside of the rock genre will find some of the concepts in Rock to Prog useful and inspiring.

The term “Prog” in the pack title goes well beyond the genre description – it’s more of an idea about viewing things differently rather than merely describing djent happy licks you can copy-paste into your next solo (although you can do that as well – just make sure to film yourself and tag me :D ).

The backings on this are crazy good, will we see more like this?

Thanks! I’m currently working on a whole new set of backing tracks in a similar style to those included in the Rock to Prog pack, and beyond. Lots of down-tuned, odd time & polyrhythm-based grooves along with other prog amenities will be included! Good backings are always inspiring to play over and I enjoy making them, so you can definitely expect more of those in the future.

And could you go back to your Riffy Rock debut and play some stuff over that too?

Riffy Rock backings cover a lot of ground as they were written with the idea of leaving a lot of space for a different interpretation. So yeah, I could see myself using them to create some cool new content.

Who is your favourite JTC player?

With all the talent on the JTC roster, it would be impossible to narrow it down to a single artist. Guthrie Govan is the obvious choice, but I’ll have to include Josh Smith and Daniele Gottardo in my personal top 3 - all very different players that I enjoy listening to, and that make me want to pick up my guitar and practice!

What topics would you like to cover next?

Slower, melody-focused playing is one of the topics that I’ll try to cover in the future. There’s a lot of lesson material on the topic, but usually in a traditional context, so I think it would be interesting to approach it from a different viewpoint.

Riff, writing, guitar lines/parts arrangement, general rhythm guitar concepts – all interesting topics that would make a great lesson pack in one form or another.

I’m way overdue to release new material as a solo artist, so track demonstrations could also be an option.

Before you go...

Watch Damir in action as he shows off a number of lines from his 20 Licks pack.

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