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Friday
Jan162015

My first music video and first video lesson course!

2014 was all sorts of things for me. From performing in Thailand for the first time for the 4th Thailand International Ukulele Festival to being a part of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra for the Pixar in Concert performance. I released two albums: Squirrels in Space's first release and In The Moment, a follow up to my 2013 electric guitar work 'in the deep night/electric poetry'.

Lots of stuff.

For 2015, January features 3 new releases from me, one is a music video directed by award-winning Khairil M. Bahar and two are part of my online education work. Here are the details:

1. MY FIRST MUSIC VIDEO: Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus Fingerstyle Guitar Cover)
 

First video of 2015, in collaboration with award-winning director Khairil M. Bahar - here's my take on Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. Thanks to Khai for all his ideas - this was fun!

PS - Watch till the end of the video, there are some licks not to be missed. (LITERAL SPOILER ALERT: I actually lick the capo and guitar)

If you like the video, please share it. Thank you! =)

2. MY FIRST VIDEO LESSON COURSE: Fingerstyle Guitar 101: Intro to Right Hand Technique 

Fingerstyle Guitar 101: Intro to Right Hand Technique
Release Date: Monday, Jan 19 2015

For anyone who's always wanted to study with me but haven't yet, now you can study with me from your home, via this new video lesson course. 

In this course, you’ll learn 3 fingerstyle guitar pieces. These are intended to be short pieces tightly condensed with a lot of technical and musical information. Although you will be able to play these pieces after studying them in this course, the main goal is to actually understand the concepts behind them - to understand how I’m playing these pieces. The results you’ll get by really digging deep into the videos is that you’ll start to see what to practice and how to practice these techniques. Later on, you’ll be able to use the same techniques on songs you may already play or new ones with more conviction, better tone and stronger delivery.

There are 3 modules in this course. Each covers a particular approach of fingerstyle guitar playing. By understanding the strengths of each approach, you will be able to make a better decision on what technique you want to pursue further.

The course officially launches on Monday, Jan 19 2015 but there's a secret link for anyone who can't wait.

(HINT: It's at the video description of a certain music video you can watch. Okay, like this video here.)

3. Modern Jazz Improvisation Lesson Pack

Modern Jazz Improvisation Lesson Pack
Release Date: Monday, Jan 26 2015  

You'll get 100 hip jazz licks with lines in the style of...
• modern players like Tim Miller, Julian Lage, Carl Verheyen and Bryan Baker
• classic jazz & bebop stylings of Charlie Parker, Pat Martino, Garrison Fewell and Steve Rochinski
• ...AND as a bonus, you'll also get 3-chorus blues etude full of bebop and cool intervalic lines to spice up your jazz vocabulary.

COMING SOON at: http://www.azsamad.com/lessonpacks

 

Friday
Jan092015

New Video Lesson Course Coming Soon: Fingerstyle Guitar 101

Coming soon! =)

For any guitarist who wants to begin playing fingerstyle in 2015...

This is a video lesson course with notation/tab PDFs so you can study at your own pace at home. 

Az Samad Fingerstyle Guitar Academy
Intro to Right Hand Technique


• Imagine playing a melody on guitar and then adding the bassline - and then the chords to it.

• Imagine making it sound as if there were two or more guitarists playing but instead when people look, it's only one person and a guitar!

• Imagine creating a sound that's like an orchestra on a single guitar!
This is the world of fingerstyle guitar.

Names like Tommy Emmanuel, Don Ross, Chet Atkins, Michael Hedges, Alex de Grassi, Thomas Leeb, Sungha Jung, Mike Dawes and more all play their own brand of fingerstyle guitar. What unites them is an understanding of the fundamentals. How to hold the guitar, how to make the kind of sounds that makes people cry and get into a trance when you play guitar.

In this course, you’ll learn 3 fingerstyle guitar pieces. These are intended to be short pieces tightly condensed with a lot of technical and musical information. Although you will be able to play these pieces after studying them in this course, the main goal is to actually understand the concepts behind them - to understand how I’m playing these pieces. The results you’ll get by really digging deep into the videos is that you’ll start to see what to practice and how to practice these techniques. Later on, you’ll be able to use the same techniques on songs you may already play or new ones with more conviction, better tone and stronger delivery.

There are 3 modules in this course. Each covers a particular approach of fingerstyle guitar playing. By understanding the strengths of each approach, you will be able to make a better decision on what technique you want to pursue further.

More info coming soon! =)

In the meantime, check out lesson packs available here: 
http://www.azsamad.com/lessonpacks 

 

Monday
Nov102014

Siskiyou - Benny Lackner Trio (2014): A review by Az Samad

Benny Lackner Trio:

Benny Lackner piano and keys
Matthieu Chazarenc - drums
Jerome Regard - bass

Siskiyou is a county in California. It’s also the title for the new album from Benny Lackner Trio. I recently saw the trio live during their Kuala Lumpur leg of their Asian tour (for the tour, Paul Kleber was on bass). Listening to the album, I felt transported into a world of sound with dreamy atmospheres in Palau (track 3) and intense drive coupled with a spacious approach to soloing in Heartracer (track 6). Discovering the Mehldau connection (Lackner was a student of Mehldau), it made sense why I felt a similar sensibility throughout the album. The two covers in the album, Cygnet Committee (David Bowie) and Sugar Man (Rodriguez) are tastefully played with a sparse groove in the Bowie tune and a counterpoint with attitude approach in the Rodriguez cover.

In Song For Lucia, a calm spoken word quality to the solo gives a beautiful flow to the solo that Lackner takes. A more electronic energy come in on the title track Siskiyou, with the drums and synth bass sound in the foreground against the piano that stays more in the background of the mix until halfway in the tune. It’s almost as if there is a battle between the acoustic and the electric, the expected and the eclectic. Towards the end, the bass and the drums remain and goes to fade. Closing the album, Name Dropper echoes a groove reminisce of The Bad Plus meets Charlie Hunter in a elegant ballroom in New York. The dissonance really kicks in around 2:27 when a distorted solo crashes into this piano trio setting opening the floodgates for textural cacophony.

My favorite piece in the entire album is Heartracer. On repeat, the song has been stuck in my mind since I saw them live. I might cover this piece or write something inspired by it. There’s such a haunting beauty to it. For fans of Brad Mehldau, The Bad Plus and Esbjörn Svensson Trio, if you haven’t checked out Benny Lackner Trio, this is a good place to start.

Related Links:
Benny Lackner Trio on Facebook  
Benny Lacker's Official Website

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Thursday
Sep182014

10 Steps For Guitarists To Learn New Songs 

Occasionally, I get asked about how I practice for performances and recording sessions. A big factor is how much time I have to prepare for it. In most cases, I try to prepare as much as I can and as early as possible. Here are the 10 steps that I take to learn songs. 

1. If there are no lead sheets or charts of specific parts to learn, I find several versions of the same song to listen to. If there is a guitar part written out, I study the equipment requirements, guitar sound needed, technical requirements, range of the guitar part and note any difficult sections. After this, I try to find recordings of the song/orchestra piece if it is available. My main sources are usually YouTube and Spotify. 

2. I start off by listening to the most definite version of the song. I listen casually first, at this stage I just try to get the vibe, groove and feel of the song first.

3. After repeated listenings, I take out a piece of paper or open a blank Google document to write down the general song form. I look out for sections like the intro, verses, choruses, bridges, interludes, guitar solos and outro. I'll write or type this out so I can see the overall roadmap for the song.

[REAL LIFE EXAMPLE]
For a session recording for YouTube artist NanaSheme in her cover of John Legend's All of Me, I typed the entire songform in a spreadsheet file because it was easier to notate the bars using the program. The songform is heavily driven by the lyrics so I also wrote down key words to mark the different sections. You can watch the final result here: All of Me - John Legend (Cover By NanaSheme)

4. The next step is for me to count how many bars each of these sections are. I pay attention whether there are any odd meters, time signature changes and sometimes will notate if there are any rubato or sections that slow down or speed up.

5. I usually take a short break at this point or listen to the song casually again.

6. The next time involves figuring out the chord progression of the song. I work out section by section and listen closely to the bassline and chordal instruments. I also notate any essential rhythmic attacks that are important for the song.

7. After I have an overall idea of the chord progression, I then look out for any signature parts or background melodic lines that I might need to play. I often get gigs where I play in duo or small group settings. For these gigs, I often will try to cover the main background lines to create a fuller arrangement.

[REAL LIFE EXAMPLES]
When I played acoustic guitar in a trio to accompany Malaysian hip hop artist Altimet on his song, 'Bangkit' - I played an assortment of the keyboard lines and some of the horn parts. 

In The Great Malay Songbook, a project with vocalist Cheryl Tan, I played the background vocal parts to Bila Larut Malam in my guitar accompaniment. For our version of Zainal Abidin's Hijau, I follow the original bass line and keyboard part closely to get the feel closer to the original recorded version.

8. After I have a notated version of the piece, I then start practicing the song. I work on the piece as a whole first and then slowly zoom in to practice each section at a time. As I understand the piece more, I may correct my written chart and guitar parts. Common corrections for me include adding specific left and right hand fingerings, fixing the chord quality, writing down exact voicings and taking note of dynamics. 

9. I also will look at the lyrics of the song if available and consider that so that I can play the parts better in relation to the meaning of the piece.

[REAL LIFE EXAMPLE]
When I performed with Andy Flop Poppy for our Akustika I set at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, I pay attention to the lyrics so I can see how the song fits with our other material in the set from a thematic standpoint. 

10. Lastly, I record my performance of the piece so that I can find any weak spots, mistakes and things to work on. At this point, I repeat the practice and recordings as many times as possible before the actual rehearsals with other musicians, the recording session or actual performance. At the rehearsals, I will also take note if I need to change any aspect of my guitar part. 

Basically, the whole process is cyclic. It requires a feedback loop to learn and then refine. It's a long process for me but it's what it takes for me to get ready for a well-prepared performance. 

Hope this helps you in your own learning & performance preparation. 

All the best!
Az

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Sunday
Aug102014

What Bryan Baker taught me about transcribing jazz guitar

[The Background]

I attended Berklee College of Music from 2005-2007. During that time, my friends told me about a guitar player who was playing with a very unique approach. About 3 of my friends were taking private lessons with him. This person was Bryan Baker. The story was he attended Los Angeles Music Academy prior to Berklee and studied with Frank Gambale. At Berklee, he was a star guitar player and along with Nir Felder, Ricardo Vogt, Julian Lage and Jake Hertzog were the most influential guitar students I remember from my time there. 

Around this time, he released his first album Aphotic and later on another version of Aphotic (live versions of the same tracks). For an extended period of time, Bryan was constantly on my iPod in rotation and on a playlist on my iTunes. I learned a lot from the lessons with him. Here's one of them.

[The Lesson]

One of the best lessons I learned from Bryan Baker was the difference between normal transcribing and transcribing the essence.

Normal transcribing is transcribing the exact notes, rhythms, phrases, licks, tone, inflections etc and to play it back exactly as close as possible to what the original artist played.

Transcribing the essence is to actually play your own lines but in the style of the artist you're transcribing. This includes playing with the same tone, gear, touch, groove, feel, inflections but not the exact notes. What you're looking for is the general note choice patterns and the rational behind the melodies NOT the exact melodies. 

Being able to transcribe the essence will open up possibilities for you to create your own lines that are inspired by the artist you're transcribing.

This can go hand in hand with normal transcribing, i.e. transcribe the exact phrases but then derive the concepts behind it and play your own lines afterwards. The lines afterwards represent your work of transcribing the essence.

In my lesson with Bryan, he played a John Scofield inspired phrase with the bridge pickup of his Strat and wide intervals like what Sco would. This was his example for transcribing the essence. 

This concept is a huge part of how I learn and how I digest large chunks of musical information. Hope this helps you too.

Az Samad - July 29 2014 (Edited August 11 2014)

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If you like this blog post, please sign-up for my mailing list to be informed of future videos & more! You'll also receive a free EP! Thank you! =)