Guitarist of the Month: Alex Dan

“How do you introduce someone who is a talented musician and artist, who has many skills and is probably knowledgeable on most topics of interest (well to me at least!)? I guess I’ll just say the thing that wouldn’t really be obvious from interview questions – Alex is a lovely person and a great friend. Reliable, with great eye for detail and full of ideas. It is a joy to do projects with him and soon you will probably see another one! Check out the last time we collaborated HERE.” – Neli

How did your musical journey start?

It started in 1995, when I took up the piano at the age of 4. Then I picked up the classical guitar and the flute at age 12 and started playing at local community orchestras. A few years later I started playing also the electric guitar and got seriously interested in different contemporary genres, which motivated me to explore the same stuff on the piano.

So you play the piano, guitar, and flute. How does knowing multiple instruments change your perspective on music?

Being a multi-instrumentalist allows me to appreciate music more and in a different way and be open-minded to various possibilities of taking up new challenges. It also gives me opportunities to play in different musical contexts, e.g. the versatility of piano and guitar allows me to be in pop and rock bands, duo gigs, etc. whilst the flute has given me chances to play in classical orchestras and jazz big bands which I would never get to do had I only played piano or guitar. Due to the piano I learnt much more about theory and can be in control of harmonies. When it comes to the guitar, due to its popularity, it is fun to play and gives me lots of teaching opportunities outside of my gigging life. 

What is the reason you picked up those instruments in particular?

I started with classical piano at a young age as advised by my parents. I only got seriously interested in it after taking up the guitar and discovering more contemporary genres. It was just very natural to me to play lots of things on the piano by ear at first, it just sounded good whenever I played a popular melody on top of some chords I could naturally harmonise on the spot. I picked up the flute as it’s my favourite sound in the orchestra/woodwind family. Then I got even more interested in the flute when I discovered how well it works in modern jazz (especially post-bob, latin and modal). 

What is a thing about being a multi-instrumentalist you wish you knew when you were first starting?

I wish I had seen other instruments as more “equal”. When I took up the guitar, I used to see it as a “superior” instrument to others and would associate a strong sense of identity with it. Having learnt, played, and gigged on three different instruments now, studied them all at degree levels, and by knowing the efforts required and mindsets needed for different instruments, I’m now a lot more open-minded and appreciate all instruments across all genres.

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

In regards to my guitar skills, I set goals by simply thinking about what new sound from new releases I could copy and learn. I no longer want to stay “loyal” to just a few favourite bands/artists and associate my playing style with them like I used to do. I constantly look for new sounds I hear from new music and think about how I could imitate them on the guitar. This applies to the other two instruments I play as well. 

How does your process of writing and arranging music for different projects go?

I don’t normally have a flow-chart type of process when it comes to writing and arranging. I usually have a wide picture of what I’d like my new arrangements or compositions to sound like, choose a starting point, and then strategically and creatively execute my plan to make things work. 

Which is your favorite part of being a musician?

My favourite part of being a musician is the cliché of getting to do what you love all year round. I love the fact that I also get to learn new things from what I do and others I work with constantly. 

What is your dream musical project?

A dream musical project would be a large-scale musical collaboration with as many of my best musician friends recording/filming something that could showcase all our unique musical strengths (regardless of personal favourite styles, abilities, etc.) 

Currently Alex is working on a cinematic orchestral soundtrack that involves orchestrating wind and string instruments, with some cooperation of modern jazz harmony. 

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