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Posts tagged with “Interviews”

@Lars · Guitar, violin · Bonn, Germany

The second entry in our “Featured transcriber” series is an interview with Lars Petzold-Turcanu of Bonn, Germany. Lars has been sharing transcriptions on his Soundslice channel for about a year — just over 160 slices at this point. He’s built up a nice following and has become one of our favorite transcribers.

Lars

Lars’ transcriptions tend to feature extremely complicated guitar playing, often in the jazz and gypsy jazz genres. He dives deep into rare performance videos from artists that we love (e.g., George Benson and Adrien Moignard), and he occasionally posts more than one detailed transcription in a single day! How does he do it? We ask this and more in our newest “Featured transcriber” interview.

Interview

Soundslice: Lars, thank you for being the second guest in our “Featured transcriber” series. We get very excited whenever you post something new, and I bet we’re not the only ones.

Lars: Many thanks for your interest. I’m glad that Soundslice is out there, not only because it makes transcribing so easy, but also because there is now a kind of online community for nerds like me.

Soundslice: Would you tell us a bit about your musical background?

Lars: My name is Lars Petzold-Turcanu and I am 47 years old. I taught myself to play the guitar when I was about 10. My first interests were country, blues and ragtime. Early blues artists like Blind Blake and Big Bill Broonzy caught my ear at first, and then I went on to the more psychedelic Jimi Hendrix and Tom Waits. But my love for jazz was sealed after I heard a radio program that featured Wes Montgomery.

As a player, I’ve been in different formations. The most well-known was with a nu-jazz ensemble called “Greenfish,” which secured a contract with the German jazz label Enja Records. We recorded an album and toured various festivals. I began studying jazz seriously, but once my civil service was complete, I came to my real vocation: special education.

I confess this change was good for me, as I do not like to travel or sleep in hotels. :)

When it comes to my studies on the guitar, I learned to play classical — which has always fascinated me. Some time later, I explored flamenco and dance accompaniment, and then more exotic folk music of Russia and Romania. All of this is to say transcribing has always been a part of me. In colloquial German, we say “raushören” — something like: “I’m digging things up by listening.”

Soundslice: That’s a very interesting path. So these days, do you mostly transcribe, or do you play out a bit?

Lars: I do about twenty concerts a year — just the things I really like to do. It’s quite compatible with family and job life. [Pictured below, Lars with his gypsy jazz group, Café Gitan.]

Café Gitan

Soundslice: That sounds nice. :) So what’s the live music scene like where you live?

Lars: Very diverse. In Bonn and Cologne, we have a lot of regular live music, festivals and international concerts. In Cologne in particular, there is a lively session scene. You’ll find regular musical gatherings for gypsy jazz, jazz, bluegrass, Irish-folk, etc. Some great musicians come here from the surrounding area. You never get bored.

Soundslice: Your Soundslice profile says that you’re an aspiring violinist. Is this a new pursuit?

Lars: My first wish as a child was to play the violin. But it was too expensive for a working-class family. I eventually got a used “guitar.” When my son was born 4 years ago, I fulfilled my wish and got myself a violin.

I wrote a piece for him which is published on the album of my band Café Gitane. A very good friend named Frank Brempel played the violin part. I practice it and hope to play it as beautifully to my son. Maybe I should share the sheet one day here on Soundslice?

Soundslice: That’s a good idea. Do you play the violin at any of these sessions you mention?

Lars with violin

Lars: Yes, I play it at gypsy jazz sessions where I can already keep my head above water — I also play fiddle in a folk/bluegrass band. I am a dilettante and I enjoy it.

Soundslice: That description is overly humble! You have so many great transcriptions on your profile and you are clearly putting in quite a bit of work. Have you always transcribed this much? (Before starting to use Soundslice.)

Lars: Yes. I never had any lessons when I was a child, so it all started for me with listening to records and tapes. At first I’d learn the music by ear and wouldn’t write it down; that progressed and I started putting tabs in arithmetic books. Bit by bit, it became a little obsession. Maybe not a little one.

Soundslice: So it was really your whole education. What motivates you to keep transcribing at this point?

Lars: First of all, it is a very relaxing activity for me. I really get into it — like someone might enjoy watching TV. I want to understand how something works. What did Coltrane or Björk think? How does flamenco work? What typical fingerings do Allan Holdsworth, George Benson, Wes or Django use? Something like that — it’s endless!

My big question with the guitar is: “Where did who get which ideas?”

Soundslice: You mean, when you hear someone playing a musical idea, you want to see if you recognize it from another player?

Lars: Yes! I think of it in the form a family tree of ideas. I love that.

Lars concentrating

Soundslice: You transcribe so many technically difficult passages, so we’re curious: What’s your transcription process like?

Lars: With Soundslice, it’s easy. Insert or upload a piece. Set syncpoints. Listen to the piece and tabulate it with the appropriate fingering. It gets exhausting if the sound of the recording is bad or if the passage is rhythmically demanding. A ballad is usually a bit more difficult to put down on paper than an uptempo number.

Does that answer your question? Maybe you can give me an example of what you mean by technically difficult? Then maybe I can answer it better.

Soundslice Well, it’s admittedly an objective statement that something is technically difficult. :) But for example, the triplet passage in this transcription you made of Bireli playing “Hungaria” (starting at bar 89) just sounds so hard to parse — like a swarm of bees! Is it hard for you to figure that out?

Lars: No. That’s an easy one. This one, for example, was way more difficult:

The beat is slow, and the lines just sort of float. You don’t see the problems when you look at the completed slice, but the rhythms were very hard to figure out. Of course, when the sound quality gets worse, or the rhythm section starts to play their own rhythms that go against the soloist, it’s really hard to concentrate on what’s going on.

There are always a few slices that I’m working on at any given time. When the concentration leaves me on one, I switch to another. I eventually come back and finish where I left off. The most difficult ones take the longest time. For example I’m working on this one right now, and it’s going to be a while.

Soundslice: So when you have one of those challenging ones, is it important that you see the fingerboard of the player, or are you listening more?

Lars: I’m definitely listening more. Seeing does help to get to the bottom of the fingerings, which helps you to understand the player’s idiosyncrasies and how they organize the fretboard. That understanding is the crucial step that helps you better understand how he or she came up with their ideas. From there, you can derive things for your own playing.

Soundslice: We see a lot of George Benson and Adrien Moignard on your channel. Do you have an all-time favorite solo from either of them?

Lars: I transcribe so much Benson because I wanted to understand how he organized his game. I had this experience about a year ago where I was at a gypsy jam and all the tunes were up-tempo. I hadn’t played guitar for a while, so I struggled to keep up. I thought, “I have to practice again,” so I took George Benson on.

He’s kind of the source — he influenced all the other virtuoso guitarists (e.g., Bireli Lagrene and Adrien Moignard.) What I find fascinating, is that in addition to Wes, you can also find influences from Django and Hank Garland in George Benson’s playing.

Soundslice: Yes! In his biography, he also mentions the heavy influence of Charlie Christian. So what about some of your favorite transcriptions?

Lars: An absolute top solo on my channel is Wes’s “Take the A-Train.”

A few Benson favorites:

From the gypsy area, the solo of Kussi Weiss on “Einsam werden du sein” is beautiful and touching.

Soundslice: That’s plenty for anyone new to your transcriptions to dig into. Do you have favorite licks or passages from any of them?

Lars: With “A-Train" by Wes, the whole solo is a masterpiece. You can’t do better than that. On “Seven Comes Eleven”, it’s the part where Benson quotes Hank Garland. It starts on bar 103. Somehow I find it difficult to name a singular favorite passage.

Soundslice: What do you do with a transcription when you’re finished with it?

Lars: That varies. I have created two lists of ideas from my Soundslice transcriptions: one of which is filled with passages that I practice, the other simply a list of musical ideas that I’m inspired by. Both are constantly being expanded.

Lars feels the moment

Soundslice: Speaking of inspiration, are there any guitar players you’ve recently found out about that excite you?

Lars: Yeah, lots and lots. That’s the great thing about this community: you discover something new more often. For example, here I learned about John Wheatcroft, Guillaume Muschalle and Isaac Negrene. But I also find myself re-inspired by old things I’ve heard before. Like this beautiful recording of Teddy Bunn and Hadda Brooks.

Soundslice: Last question: do you have a dream Soundslice feature that we might build? :)

Lars: Well, there are ideas. An EQ function would be good for technically bad recordings. I’ve been killing myself for months over that “Cherokee” solo from Wes that I mentioned earlier. You can barely hear the guitar.

A DM function to communicate with other musicians would be great, and so would the ability to back up YouTube recordings. (Unfortunately I’ve lost some work that’s been removed!)

But I think Soundslice is already great as it is. Really, really great work.

Soundslice: Those are good ones! Sorry to hear that you’ve lost a YouTube recording. :(

Well, Lars, thank you yet again! We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us, and we definitely appreciate all the work you put into making these fantastic transcriptions. We look forward to many more!

Lars: Thank you very much for your interest! I am looking forward to a lively, nerdy exchange in this community. All the best to you!

Since Soundslice Channels launched nearly two years ago, people have posted thousands of slices. Everything from bite-sized ii-V-I licks to full-blown workshops and masterclasses. As a team, we’ve been wowed by this activity and community. There are almost too many good transcriptions to appreciate!

With that in mind, we’re very excited to do something new today on the Soundslice Blog. We’re starting a new interview series, where we talk with Soundslice users about transcribing, learning, practicing, performing and music in general.

First up is Matt Sears. Matt’s a professional guitarist from the UK who’s currently living and working in China. He’s a monster transcriber. We’ll do a deep-dive into some of his slices, analyze a few musical snippets and learn more about him as an artist.

Interview

Soundslice: Matt, thanks for being the first transcriber to be profiled on our blog. We’ve been following your channel since you started and are big fans.

MS: It’s my pleasure, I’m honored that you asked me. I’ve been following you guys for a long time, and I love everything you guys do.

Soundslice: Your profile mentions that you’re from the UK but you live in China. What brought you there, and how long has it been?

MS: Yes, I originally came to China with a band in 2016 just for six months and wanted the opportunity to come back. I did that in January 2018, and I’ve since completely relocated here. Early next year I will be opening a music school here, which I’m really looking forward to.

Soundslice: Wow — that’s a massive life change! What kind of music are you teaching students there? Anything similar to what you transcribe on your channel?

MS: Yes, it’s very different from the London scene but I’m enjoying it. Most of my students are rock-based, and some have an interest in transitioning to jazz. Many of them are into guys like Greg Howe and Guthrie Govan.

Soundslice: Players we’ve seen a good amount of on your channel. :) What’s the language barrier like when discussing music? (Assuming that there is one.)

MS: My teaching is more based around preparing the students for studying abroad, so they would already be able to speak English. Some of the terms that would be used in American or English music schools may be different, so they’ll get that from me also.

Soundslice: Got it — so the language chops are already there. Have you been turned on to any Chinese music since being there?

MS: There are always killer guitar solos on the radio. Unfortunately it’s difficult for me to find out who the artist is — even harder to find out who the guitarist is.

Soundslice: That makes sense. It’s interesting to imagine the prevalence of rock guitar solos on Chinese radio.

Going through the slices on your channel, there seems to be a trend: serious bop and serious shred. Is that a fair assessment? :)

MS: Haha yes, I would say that’s pretty accurate. I’ve always loved the harmony used in jazz, and the groove and fire from the more shred styles.

Soundslice: How do these styles overlap in your mind? Are you able to pull from them in a meaningful way in your own playing?

MS: I’ve always tried to draw from both rock and jazz in my playing. In a rock setting, I’ve always used the jazz knowledge to play the changes and target different notes than a typical rock solo. Then in a jazz setting, I listen to guys like Michael Brecker and John Coltrane — you can hear them in full bop (shred) mode. A flurry of notes that really turns your head. That’s always been a goal of mine that I’m always working toward.

The rock players I’m influenced by do this overlap in spades — one of the big ones for me is Steve Lukather. He would talk about being influenced by jazz and the guitarist Larry Carlton. From Larry I heard about Joe Pass, and from there the ball kept rolling.

Players like Steve Lukather and Larry Carlton really show how you can mix both styles. Check out the solo on Toto’s Animal to hear some shred and aggression followed by a really nice bop-style phrase. (That’s Steve.)

Soundslice: Right on. We did a quick search for Larry Carlton transcriptions already on Soundslice and put together a playlist. (Check it out.) Unfortunately there aren’t any Lukather transcriptions yet — though there are a couple noble covers of his Rosanna solo.

Soundslice: Larry and Steve are living legends from the US. What about any influences of yours from the UK?

MS: Yes! One UK guy I have to mention when talking about mixing these two styles is Shaun Baxter. He has a great album called Jazz Metal that really influenced me. It’s the perfect example of mixing bebop and shred technique. I also have to mention Jake Willson, Jack Gardiner and John Wheatcroft. They’ve all been very influential to me as a musician.

Soundslice: Since we’re on the topic of this bebop/shred alchemy, is there a super-small example of a bop phrase that you’ve transcribed that you might try using in a non-bop context?

MS: Sure — I think a good first step to incorporate jazz lines in your rock playing is to practice playing chromatic enclosures on target chord tones. It’s a nice way to spice up solos when the chords are static. It’s also a nice way to get comfortable with chromatic tones in general. Don’t do it too much though. You may get fired. :)

Here’s just such an enclosure from my transcription of Brian Sheu’s “Isn’t She Lovely” improv. This would be starting at bar 5 (the first 8 notes).

So to isolate the line, the first 4 notes are an enclosure that targets the Ab on beat 2. (The 3rd of an Fm7 chord.)

Soundslice: Would you use it in a sentence? :)

MS: Sure, here’s an improv take with the example peppered in. The backing track is from Jam Track Central.

Soundslice: That was awesome. Killer closing riff at the end.

Soundslice: What’s your approach to transcribing in general? Do you prefer to figure out how to play it and then notate it, vice versa, or does it change?

MS: I listen to a lot of music, and I have a notepad on my phone where I’ll jot down timestamps of particular licks I’d like to learn. I also follow so many great players on Instagram — so I find a lot of inspiration there.

Usually I’ll write out the transcription first, then I’ll analyze it and take my favorite lines from it. Occasionally I will learn a solo just on guitar and not write it out, but it’s not very often. It’s nice to have it written out and maybe a year down the line you hear that solo again and you can dig through your transcriptions and re-learn it.

Soundslice: Do you learn to play everything you notate, or is some of it just for fun?

MS: When I first started transcribing I would learn the full solo — it was important for me to see how someone like George Benson will build the arc of an entire improvisation. I wanted to see how he’d get in and out of the lines that really interested me.

Now I just take the parts that resonate with me and apply those. I think it’s important to learn the concepts from a transcription — not just the notes, but why they’re being played. Once you know why the notes work, you can write your own lines.

There’s also something very satisfying about transcribing. It’s always nice to see your work after you’ve finished...especially now with Soundslice where you can sync everything up and follow along. It really inspired me to transcribe more.

Soundslice: Can we put that on a billboard? :)

Soundslice: Do you have any advice for guitarists who are interested in getting better at transcribing but have never really done it?

MS: I would start with something fairly easy. Don’t get discouraged. On the first day maybe you only get two or three notes of a lick down. The next day you’ll get five, and so on. It does get easier the more you practice it, and for my mind, it is the best thing you can do for your playing.

There are some guitar-specific things you can try that will help when notating rhythms. If the line uses 8th notes, you can strum along, down up down up, along with each eighth note in the line. If the note you’re looking for lands on a downstroke, it’s on the beat. (1, 2, 3 or 4.) If the note you’re looking for is an upstroke, it’s either the “and” of 1, the “and” of 2, and so on.

Another thing on the rhythm side is to check out Konnakkol, which is a South Indian music system for vocalizing rhythms. Which brings me onto another point: Practicing reading rhythms and notating just the rhythms without worrying about the notes can be helpful.

Soundslice: Very cool. As it happens, there are some fantastic Konnakkol transcriptions already on Soundslice. Our friends at percuss.io regularly transcribe this style of music.

Soundslice: Last question. Are there any other Soundslice channels you’ve checked out that you’d like to give a shoutout to?

MS: There are so many great ones but, a few of personal favorites are:

Soundslice: All favorites of ours as well! One more “last question.” :) What’s your dream Soundslice feature? It could be something big or small.

MS: It would be cool to have a desktop version of Soundslice so I could transcribe offline. Also, while I’ve got you, if there is a way for me to be able to program it so after (x) amount of bars transcribed it poured me a coffee that would be great. :)

Soundslice: The offline mode might take us a while. But auto-pouring coffee, no problem! :)

Soundslice: Matt, thank you again. We appreciate you taking the time and look forward to more transcriptions of yours in the future! The website’s a better place with you on it.

MS: It really has been my pleasure. Thank you for everything you guys do and the great platform you have created.

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Dear reader, we hope you enjoyed our first featured transcriber post! We highly recommend that you follow Matt’s Soundslice channel to get updates of his latest transcriptions. Oh, and if you’re interested in being a future featured transcriber, get in touch with me.

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