“Ooooh! What a cool blue guitar! Is that a PRS?” – were my thoughts when I first saw Claire on stage at a uni jam session in London. She seemed both confident and in her own music world on stage and I loved that! Even though we weren’t in the same years at uni, I got to know her better through the years and she has been a very nice person to talk to. I know she has been keeping so busy with so many bands – original, cover bands, doing gigs and tours… and what not?! During our recent chat, she told me that she has been focused on recording her amp and working on her new guitar sounds, but also she has been releasing quite a few videos on YouTube. Such a versatile guitarist definitely has some useful info and insight to share with you 🙂 “– Neli

What made you become a rock musician?

Firstly, music was a given in my life – I have always loved hearing music around me. My parents are also musicians – my dad plays the guitar and my mom is a piano player, so I was always surrounded by a lot of music at home. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I discovered the electric guitar and fell in love also with the music that goes along with it – which is mostly rock and blues. I actually remember the exact moment I decided I want to be a rock musician specifically – I was studying at ICMP London and every week we had to perform a song together with the other students. We were playing a song by the band Extreme, because that week the genre was rock music. That was the first time I performed a heavy rock song loud on the stage with other musicians and the feeling that I got that day… I got addicted to it! That was the moment I decided this is what I want to do.

What’s a tip for achieving a great rock sound?

What I found important is to have gear that is sensitive to what you are playing – which means having a lot of more modern amps, not necessarily all of them but some of them. When you play on them, you as the player cannot really hear – the sound is very compressed and so the amp is not going to respond really well to the different dynamics when you play. So I like using (specifically for guitar amps) amps that are very punchy and responsive, meaning that you can easily control the amount of distortion just by the way you play. Because no matter what volume you play, some modern amps are not responsive enough to the dynamics of the player. I was using a Marshall amp previously, but now I am using Invaders Amplification and the amp I have now is perfect for rock – very responsive and punchy.

How do you create your own unique sound?

What I believe makes people unique weirdly is not trying to develop something that has never been done before completely. The key is actually in that to just to take a look at your influences – guitarists, bands and just any aspect of the guitar you like sound wise, technique wise or whatever – and just take that and apply it to your playing. If you get inspiration only from one guitarist or one style of music – you are going to end up sounding like a copy of someone else. To find your own sound you need different influences. Take the best out of every musician you are influenced by and eventually this mixture is going to sound like you. So even if at first you copied aspects of other musicians, the secret is to copy not only a few people, but a lot of people and not to take everything from them – just what you prefer. It takes time but a cocktail of influences is how you achieve your own unique sound.

What are your tips for recording your playing?

I am glad you are asking because recently I have been upgrading my skills in recording. That is because I got my new amp and it is the best one I have owned ever, so I need to match how good it sounds live to how good of a sound I can get when it is being recorded. So a great tip I have for everyone who is recording or trying to record a tube amp at home is to get a load box instead of trying to use the traditional way to record an amp which is mic-ing the cab you have. I am now using a program that simulates a guitar cab, so I am recording my tube head and it goes straight to the load box and then into the computer and the cab and the mic-ing system are being simulated directly into my computer. This is amazing because you can record yourself silently, which is great because when you want to record a tube amp, you usually have to crank it, because otherwise your amp is not giving a 100%. Which is fine in a studio, but at home it is not always possible. I actually got this tip from a friend who works in a studio. I actually have a demo of the sound I was able to get this way – you can listen to it here.

What is a technique you would recommend to aspiring rock musicians?

Don’t try to copy anyone else. If you see another musician using a specific technique, don’t feel like you have to nail it yourself. Learning how to play the guitar is endless – there are so many techniques. In my opinion, you should work only on the stuff that you want to implement in your own playing or songwriting or need artistically. For example if you want to be a great blues player you probably don’t need to work on your alternate picking and go really fast. Nowadays especially, it is very hard because you see what everyone else is doing on social media and it is very easy to think that if a certain person is succeeding by playing in a certain way, you also have to do the same. Thinking this way is a waste of time – you should spend your time working on what you actually want to play. If you chase after success by doing what works for other people, eventually you are not going to be yourself, which is not going to work for the long run. And this is a long run game.

What is your formula for a great solo?

What I try to do when I write a solo is to try to make the solo section like a song into the song. I like when solos have a structure like you would have in a song. If I write a solo on someone else’s song or an already written backing track – I always follow the dynamics of the track I am working with. When you create tension – and there are many ways to create tension for a solo – but one of the ways I use is adding speed. So I play faster whenever I want to create tension. In case I am writing the backing track or it is one of my tracks I like to write the harmony behind the solo already with the solo in mind. Having a solo is also a great way to prepare the listener for a transition. So when creating a solo it depends on where your starting point is and how much creativity you can have, depending on for who you are writing. A great solo in my view is one that serves the song and can convey the emotion you want it to. After all, the heart of the craft of playing a guitar and writing solos is to be able to know what technique or sound to use in order to evoke a particular emotion in the listener.

How do you approach collaborating with other musicians?

Collaboration especially online is something I love doing. I love the fact that now it is so easy to collaborate with people from all over the world and I have been doing it a lot this year, since the live music industry is taking a little break now. Hopefully not for long. This year I recorded things for people in Israel, Switzerland, London, America and so on and it is great. About my approach – it is good to be clear from the start about what you expect from each other. I love it when everyone can add their creative input, but depending on the project it can vary a lot. I believe creating music with other musicians is the most essential thing even if you are a solo artist, because you still are going to work with session musicians, producers and others. It is also a great learning experience so I do it as much as possible.

What is a thing you’d like to experiment with in music?

One thing I always wanted to experiment with and 2020 gave me the chance to – because obviously my schedule cleared up quite a bit – is to try writing also for other instruments. Up to until a few months ago I wrote almost exclusively for guitar, which makes sense since I am a guitarist, but I always wanted to write also for drums, bass and keyboard. I also recently bought a bass so that I can write on the guitar and I am happy that now I have the time to do it. It helps massively if you know your way around the drums or other instruments so that you can communicate with other musicians and know exactly what you want. So I would recommend to learn also instruments that you are in contact a lot for the ease of communication with other people. Currently I want to be able to create a full instrumental song myself.

Claire is now in the process of recording videos for her YouTube with playing and rig rundowns, so you can expect a lot more new stuff on her channel. She is still working with the bands she was working with before the pandemic and also has a special project in the making with a mystery band – in the next few months she will reveal it so stay tuned! She is also currently moving to another city great for music somewhere in Europe. Make a guess and follow her on her social media channels to see if you were right:

YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/clairegenoud
Instagramwww.instagram.com/clairegenoud/
Websitewww.clairegenoud.com

“‘How can I start teaching so that when I graduate I can hit the ground running?’ was the question on my mind during my last year of music uni. Well, Alex Bruce was the 1st person to help me on the path of becoming a successful guitar tutor. I was a part of his company Bruce Music, which at the time provided guitar and piano lessons for students of all ages and abilities in London and I quickly got my 1st students through him. Since I left London, I understand that more have joined his team now covering 12 instruments and 5 UK cities! And with his ethos of being engaging, approachable, nurturing, friendly, and fun I thought he would have some useful tips to share.” – Neli

How would you describe your journey as a musician so far – where it started and how you got where you are now?

I started playing guitar when I was 14, and it quickly became far beyond a hobby, and what I thought I wanted to do with my life. I’ve been in various bands, written songs, studied, etc. And really enjoyed all of it. But really what has brought me the most success has been running the company.

What led you to create your agency, in which you connect guitar teachers and students?

I’m always keen to stress that Bruce Music isn’t one of those faceless, giant agencies, which any aspiring teacher can join. I meet the teachers personally, have certain standards I’m looking for, and want to promote a personal service at all times. I created it in 2013 – I wanted teaching work to supplement my income while studying, and although a few companies took me on and gave me teaching work, it became clear really I’d need to create my own company in order to have more control over attracting greater numbers of students. I worked particularly hard in the beginning, setting the company up, and arguably neglected my degree somewhat. However the positive aspect of that was that by the time my course finished, I had a secure income in place.

How do you match a student to the right teacher or vice-versa?

Much of it comes down to location, as the teacher needs to be local enough to easily reach the student’s home. As the team has grown, usually we’ll have a few teachers – rather than just one – who are local to a prospective student. So it becomes an issue of – which teacher can give the student the scheduling they want? Are there any stylistic indicators e.g. If the student loves jazz, or metal, or classical guitar, would one of the teachers therefore be best suited? And also – learning styles. Often parents will let us know the kinds of teachers and teaching approaches their children have historically responded well too. This further enables us to give them the right match.

What could you give as advice to a student who wants to find the most suitable teacher on their own?

Try to speak to them on the phone, as you’ll get a good sense of if you ‘click’ and if your personalities match up. Simply put – do you like them? Do you get on with them? Each student has their own concerns – for some it’s location, or price, or schedule, or the teacher’s qualifications. My advice really would be to look for a balance of all of these things. If anyone of these aspects makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably not right. 

You have an insight on how a lot of music teachers are handling the situation in the world right now. How was switching to only online lessons been for you and the teachers at your agency?

Things have gone very well in that respect. I always work hard to give each student or parent individualized communications, admin, and customer service, and I think this approach helped encourage students to stick with us and try online lessons. Really though most of the credit should go to the team as many of them really took initiative in sourcing new software, diligently adapting lesson planning, and finding huge enthusiasm and encouragement in difficult times. The fact that so many students were keen to stick with them was also a testament to the great rapport they’d already built and how likeable the teachers are.

Have online lessons been effective for your teachers and students?

Overall, yes. Certainly they take some thinking about, and preparation, but with the teachers’ diligence and the students’ hard work, most have hugely enjoyed their lessons’ continuation. For many it provided routine and structure, a creative outlet, and during lockdown, frankly, something to do! Teachers and students alike embracing technology has been crucial, and those who have have found their lessons as enjoyable as their previous in-person ones (and often more convenient too – they don’t have to travel to a teacher…or tidy up before the teacher visits them!)

What other adjustments did you have to implement?

The big one was an adjustment of approach. Because, for example, when a teacher and a student/parent are in agreement on how/when/if to switch to online, or switch back to in-person, then great. But in the instances where they don’t see things the same way, it has taken some careful management. Of course, no one should be pressurized into working in a way that makes them uncomfortable. While on the other hand, customer service, and giving students what they want is the core of the business. It has been a balancing act! September has been good in that sense, as for many it had been an arbitrary milestone – when many planned to return to normal lessons.

Who is your biggest musical inspiration and influence?

I spend so much time in a guitar-based mindset that I love to listen to stuff without any guitars in it whatsoever. My favourite band is Mammal Hands – a sort of modern, jazz-ish trio from Norwich, UK. But my all-time biggest influence would be the solo work of John Frusciante. Between 2001 and 2009 he released 10 albums, basically any one of which I’ll always love more than just about anything else.

What is your favorite thing to do with a guitar in hand?

Like many guitarists, I’m prone to improvise soloing over backing tracks! But I also love playing in a kind of self-accompanying, chord melody, semi-improv style too, as that feels like a test of knowledge and ability and creativity that’s genuinely challenging, but manageable with focus. And that’s what makes it engaging and fun.

The growth of the business has enabled Alex to explore also other creative avenues too, and he has found relative success as a writer of comedy and drama. He enjoys persevering with that and currently has pitches in with various TV and radio broadcasters. He finds that a fun, and a nice non-musical outlet. 

Bruce can be contcted at: alex@brucemusic.co.uk
Check out also Bruce Music’s website: https://brucemusic.co.uk/

“Ever wonder what it takes to be a full-time guitarist? Well, for me it was an online business course and community of like-minded musicians all with the goal of making their dreams be their full-time jobs. And that’s where Philip comes in – he is a part of such a community and seeing his progress and what he shares has helped me on my way as a musician too. He loves jazz, but similarly to me can find something he likes in any type of music – from classical, through punk and folk, to hip hop! And with his impressive experience of playing the guitar, singing and writing songs since the 70’s I thought he’d have some great tips to share with you. Enjoy! 🙂 ” – Neli

What is the most important lesson you learned on your journey as a musician?

Ironically, connecting with people is the most valuable byproduct of being a musician.  It’s a lesson I obviously have to learn over and over again because I’m essentially almost completely isolated from other musicians and my audience.

Having years of experience as a musician, how do you personally set goals for the continuous development of your guitar skills?

With a piece of paper and a pen.  After thinking about what I want to be able to do, based on what I hear and/or pick up from my mentors.  I use a journal in which I write down every minute I practice, what I practice (exercise, tempo, composition, etc…) to keep I track of my progress and stay on task.

What are some realistic goals a beginner should set for themselves when first starting?

Choose a song (or three) that they want to be able to play.  Listen to recordings of those songs from as many different performances as they can find and decide which one they want to imitate.  The number one goal should be to have the ability to play what they hear.


How would you say a productive guitar practice without supervision/on your own goes?

If I made any improvement at all, it was a productive practice session.  Sometimes the difference is very subtle.  Here’s my typical routine: First I warm up, then run through single note technical exercises (like scales or arpeggios), then comping (playing chords as accompaniment) and finally (using at least half of the time I have allotted to practice) I devote myself to building repertoire (practicing the songs I am working on mastering and learning new stuff by ear [a.k.a. transcribing]) and almost always with a metronome or backing track going to ensure I’m playing with solid time.  Mostly I simply trust in the process, I decide what I’m going to practice and I believe that if I put in the time and practice what I set out to, I’ll get a little better every week.

How can one make the best schedule for practicing?

 Decide how much time you have to practice for each day you are going to practice.  Divide that in half.  Use the first half to warm up and practice technical exercises.  The second half should be used for building repertoire, learning new songs and improving the ones you already know (or just refreshing your memory if you don’t play them often enough).  Consistency is key, make every effort possible to practice the same amount of time each time you practice and the same number of times every week.  I believe that an hour a day 5 days a week is a much better schedule than 5 hours one day a week because it takes time to have things soak in to your ear, fingers and heart.  I have had great success at personal accountability by journaling my practice time.

Besides the guitar, you also play the drums. Is learning a second instrument easier than the first or is it confusing?

 It is way easier to learn a second instrument because you already know certain songs and have musicality developed from playing your first instrument.  What is tough is to master more than one instrument because the technique you’ll need to develop any sort of mastery requires a significant time commitment, time you’ll have to steal from practicing on one instrument to improve on the other.

What is a piece of advice you received that helped you with your development as a musician?

 Plan for success, but don’t plan on it.  In other words, develop your skills so that when you have the opportunity to perform you’ll be as prepared as possible, but realize that you may never build a big enough audience to support even a modest lifestyle playing music.

Who is your biggest musical inspiration and influence?

My dad is my biggest musical inspiration and influence.  He had a short career before I was born and quit to follow another path.  I think I’ve stuck with music because he turned me on it and I’ll never quit because a part of me wishes he hadn’t stopped playing.  He enjoyed his life as a university professor, traveled the world developing relationships with his colleagues, writing with them and presenting papers on mathematics.   He always says that he found math to be just as challenging and satisfying a creative outlet as improvising Jazz.

What is your dream musical project?

Singing and playing with a group that jams (impromptu collective performing) in a number of styles (Blues, Rock, Jazz, etc…), writing together (arranging and/or composing) original as well as previously established songs, performing and recording them live. 

Currently, Philip is in the process of recording live solo acoustic demos of his unrecorded original songs. He is posting these performances as videos on his social platforms:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/PhilipQsongwriter1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhilipQuintasMusic/
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/philipquintasvideosongs

 …and is listening to the responses he gets (while being very big on liking, sharing, commenting and reciprocating!) to determine what order to produce full band versions of them.

If you want to hear full band versions of his music, have a can listen to an EP and CD here: https://philipquintas.bandcamp.com or on iTunes or Spotify.

“He looks like Dr. Who!’ That was the first thought that went through my head when I first met Aaron 😀 The cause probably being that I was just obsessed with the series at the time, but also his style and cool British accent. Upon getting to know him better, I found out that he is a truly genuine and uplifting person who also cares about those around him. That is a quality that helped me out a lot when I lived in London. We were in a student-run record label together at university. Every time I have talked to him after that, even if many months had passed, I felt like he was there to lend an ear and offer clever insights and solutions. As a fellow guitar tutor, I know that Aaron has some useful tips to share here (and in his in-person and YouTube lessons), so now I’ll let him tell you his story. ” – Neli

How did your path as a musician start?

When I picked up a guitar at age 14. I got it for my 12th Christmas and didn’t play for two years. Then one day a friend came over and showed me some stuff, and I haven’t looked back since!

What is the most challenging thing you had to overcome to be where you are now as a musician?

Getting my foot in the door. Becoming good enough is one step but meeting the right people and progressing through who you meet is another. There’s a lot of luck but also a lot of just getting involved wherever you can.

How did you overcome it?

By getting out and playing gigs. Going to music college and university.

How do you approach music writing?

It changes but it generally starts with a feeling about something happening in my life. I might then draft some lyrics and start putting some guitar chords over the top. Before recording there’s a rough map of the song in my head and the more I think about it, the more it kind of comes to together. Once I feel like there’s enough there, I’ll record it.

Besides playing you also teach – what is your approach when it comes to teaching a student?

That’s heavily dependent on the student and why they are learning – whether it’s for school, for themselves or in the worst-case scenario, because their parents are forcing them. You never know who’s going to walk in the door so you have to adapt. Their personality, their ability, their willingness to practice, it all comes into play. If for example, I have a beginner, then there’s a tried and tested method that works 99% of the time. However, as things progress, the student may have their own ideas about where they want the learning to go, so you take that into consideration as much as you can.

And what is a lesson you learned from your students?

How to diversify my musical tastes! I teach a lot of teenagers and I’m approaching my mid 30’s so our tastes normally vary quite dramatically!

What are some advantages and disadvantages to teaching guitar in person compared to teaching guitar on YouTube?

YouTube can be amazing but again, it depends. Like anything in life, being in the room with another human being is going to be more beneficial both physically and mentally. However, there are some very good YouTube tutors out there that can explain things very well, have good clear camera angles so the fingers can be seen and are genuinely interested in helping people learn guitar. YouTube is great for students who are already at a certain level and a huge advantage if you are unable to afford lessons. I wish it existed when I was learning, it’s so easy now to find information. Though you have to be careful because there’s a lot of bad, vague information too. In the very least, get a few lessons early on so that you can avoid bad habits. But if you can afford it long term, pay a teacher.

What can we find/expect on your YouTube Channel?

Guitar lessons! And also some songs. I’ve got lesson content that varies from beginner to intermediate, that seems to work for me. For example, there’s a three-part mini-series of songs that only have one chord in them so if you’re looking for some really easy songs and you don’t care what they are, that might be for you (I’ll put a link below). I’m still developing my style but I think my videos are coming off quite well at present. There’s some good feedback in the comments section on some of them which is amazing, because that’s why you do YouTube lessons, to help students learn, it’s their feedback that keeps you going!

What is your favorite part of being a musician?

Playing live and making an audience feel a part of something. Gigs where you can just be yourself and have fun. I’m particularly fond of afternoon gigs (and I’d do morning ones if they existed!), being outdoors in the summer, that kind of thing.

Who is your biggest musical inspiration and influence?

Wow. This is such a difficult question but names that spring to mind are Queen, Muse and Nickel Creek. Anyone that knows how to write great music really.

What is your favorite guitar trick?

Pinch Harmonics.

Besides all mentioned in the interview, Aaron also sings and plays in an acoustic duo called The Records. Check out their soul/motown/pop performance HERE

Catch Aaron also on:
Instagram: @aaronsguitars
Facebook:
facebook.com/aaronsguitars1
YouTube: youtube.com/aammcc1234

 

“You know what Instagram is great for? Meeting like minded people! Carlos is one of the connections I made on there that I am truly grateful for. He is a very friendly and caring person, full of stories and always there to talk with. I can imagine that that’s one of the many reasons why he loves making music. Originally from Venezuela, he moved to Chile with his brother in a pursuit of a better lifestyle. Apart from being a songwriter, together with his brother they have an awesome rock band called Arkazul. Now I may not understand all the lyrics, but I can tell you that I just love the sound of their music! Carlos is someone who is persistent about learning and also loves sharing his knowledge, so here are some great tips he has to give you.” – Neli

What is an advice you would give yourself when you were first starting on the guitar?

I think I would say something like: “It’s going to be hard, but you’re going to like it. Don’t stop practicing, every day is important. Sometimes you will feel like you aren’t progressing, but you will see the results sooner than later. Don’t give up”.

What was the hardest thing you had to overcome on your path as a musician?

Maybe the fact that being a musician is like a tabu, and everybody is always telling you that you need a real job and “making music won’t get you anywhere” but here I am, I’m still working, getting better every day and working in new music with my band.

How did you overcome it?

That’s something you learn to live with. You stop listening to what people say and focus on what you really want. When you do that, you can be sure everything will be better.

How does your creative process flow when you are writing music?

I think every musician, songwriter, artist is different. For me, sometimes the melody comes to my head and I take my guitar and start playing it, but is not always like that. Sometimes I just take a piece of paper and start writing something (lyrics), then I put a melody, or maybe I just take my guitar, play some chords and if I like it, I work with that idea. When I have something I really like, I go to my bandmates to show them what I have.

What would you recommend to a guitarist who wants to tap into writing music for the first time?

First of all, you need to know what’s the kind of music you want to make, maybe you like Heavy Metal, but you want to play Pop and that means you also need to listen to Pop Music to know how it sounds. Knowing what you want, you can start writing. I’m not going to say the first song is going to be amazing, but if you don’t start, you will never get better.

What are some perks of playing in a band?

Hard question. It’s not the same playing alone at home with a backing track, as it is playing with others. One of the perks of playing in a band is that you will grow a lot as an individual musician and also as an artist. You are always learning from your bandmates. Another thing that is interesting is that nowadays you can’t just be a musician, you have to learn how to sell your music, your band, taking care of your image, so that means you will be studying marketing, production, etc. all the time. So being in a band opens you to a lot of things that you didn’t care about.

How did you overcome stage fright?

It’s weird. I didn’t like to talk in front of my classmates at the school, but playing on a stage is different. The first song is always the hardest, because if you are playing in front of people that don’t have any idea of who you are, you have to make them stay and listen to you. When I put my feet up on the stage I know I have to give everything I have to make people have a great time listening to our music. I forget about everything and I focus on giving my best. We are human, we can’t always have a great night, you can make mistakes, but the most important thing is having fun and make the crowd have fun with you.

Who is your biggest musical inspiration and influence?

Maybe my brother. Gosh, he’s amazing. (laughs)

What is your favorite guitar trick?

I think it’s palm muting and slides.

What is your favorite song for air guitar?

All rock songs I can hear. If it sounds good, then you can play your air guitar.

Currently, Carlos and his Rock band Arkazul are working on their new single so look out for that! 

You can find Carlos on his personal Instagram @Carlosakz.
Reach out to Arkazul on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as @Arkazul, and also on Spotify, Apple, Amazon and YouTube, the links are below:
Spotifyhttps://open.spotify.com/artist/5OKtO4yfZCiwBTnO7STXTT
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/arkazul/768689807?l=es
Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/user/arkazultv
Amazon: https://www.amazon.es/Sin-Retorno-Arkazul/dp/B07JYJ5Y85