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Brett Garsed
by Eric Vandenberg
Prologue and biography

You might ask, "Who's Brett Garsed". Don't worry, that is not an unusual reaction, since Brett still is one of the best-kept
secrets of todays guitar scene. But let me tell you: he is a very unique player with a great playing technique and a
wonderful sense for melody.
Since Brett is about to release his first solo-album "Big Sky" in late January 2003, I figured it would be the perfect time
to tell you guys a bit more about him.
So here it is, a big feature about the man, including a biography, a selected discography, a guitar feature with lots of
exercises to explain part of Brett's style, and the best part: a thorough interview with the man, telling you more about his
influences, his career, his plans and much more!!!
So... here ya go, I hope you'll enjoy it !
Biography

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Brett Garsed was born in rural Victoria, Australia and began playing guitar at age 12. He took formal lessons and also
taught himself a bit. Soon, he started to develop a pretty unique left hand-legato technique, inspired by players like Allan
Holdsworth. In 1985, he was featured in Mike Varney's Spotlight-Column, and shortly after that he auditioned for the job
as the guitarist for John Farnham, one of Australia's biggest starts.
Brett can be heard on Farnham's "Whispering Jack" album, which was a worldwide success (being the best selling album
in Australian history), and several other albums by John. Brett went on tour with Farnham, and stayed with the band
until 1989, when he was invited to join Nelson, with them he recorded their debut, "After The Rain", which was another
huge success (featuring one #1-single plus 2 other Top Ten-hits).
While still touring and recording with Nelson, he recorded the "Centrifugal Funk" album with Frank Gambale and Shawn
Lane, and in 1992 Brett recorded his first album with the "Garsed Helmerich"-project (feat. another unique player, 8
finger-master TJ Helmerich).
While teaching at the Musicians Institute (GIT) in Hollywood, he released 3 more albums with Garsed / Helmerich (the
most recent being "Uncle Moe's Space Ranch", feat. Dennis Chambers, Scott Kinsey and Gary Willis), released an
instructional video for REH ("Rock Fusion") and participated in several other recording-projects, such as Derek Sherinians
"Planet X", Jenna Music, Bobby Rock and others...

In 2002, Brett went on tour as a member of John Farnham's band yet again, this time on Farnham's farewell-tour. Also,
Brett recorded his first solo album, "Big Sky", which will be released in early 2003.
Discography and a review

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With John Farnham:


"Whispering Jack" 1986
"Age Of Reason" 1988
"Chain Reaction" 1990
"Full House" 1991
"Romeos Heart" 1996
With Nelson:
"After The Rain" 1990
"Because They Can" 1995
"Imaginator" 1997
With Garsed / Helmerich:
"Quid Pro Quo" 1992
"Exempt" 1994
"Under The Lash Of Gravity" 1999
"Uncle Moe's Space Ranch" 2001
( Garsed / Helmerich / Chambers / Willis / Kinsey )
With Others:
Garsed / Lane / Gambale "Centrifugal FUnk" 1991
Bobby Rock "Out Of Body" 1996
Jenna Music- dto. 1998
Derek Sherinian "Planet X" 1999
Mojo ( Brett Garsed, Kofi Baker, Ricc Fierabricci )- "Tapestry" 2002
Solo:
"Big Sky" 2003
Soundfiles:
From John Farnham's "Whispering Jack":
"You're the voice" outro solo - CLICK HERE
From "Centrifugal Funk":
Solo of "So What" - CLICK HERE
Guitar-solo, live on tour with Nelson:
Brett displaying his trademark hybrid-picking technique: CLICK HERE
From the Garsed / Helmerich-album "Exempt"
Brett's solo in "Loch Rannoch" - CLICK HERE
From the Garsed / Helmerich-album "Under The Lash Of Gravity"
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"Bad Luck, Go Away" - CLICK HERE


Website:
www.brettgarsed.com- The official Website of Brett. Even more soundfiles can be found here, including the demos he
sent to Varney way back in the 80s
www.johnfarnham.com.au
"Big Sky" Review

Let me say a few things first:


In late 2001, Brett offered some "demos" for free download at MP3.com. I certainly downloaded them and listened to
those songs a whole lot throughout the year 2002... beautiful, relaxed, atmospheric instrumentals, with some mindboggling guitar playing.
When Brett informed me that he has a new album coming up, and sent me an advance copy, I was wondering (shall I
say hoping?) that some of those tracks I heard from the collection of demos would be featured on the album. When the
CD was in the mail and I read the tracklist, I was like "Yes!", cuz the album does feature re-recorded versions of those
songs, i.e. "Drowning", "Breathe", "Friend Or Foe".
So I put in the CD and it hasn't left my player yet. Not because I wanna listen to it several times so I can write a really
fair review... nope, it's just that this album is one of the most beautiful instrumental albums I have EVER heard. And I am
not exaggerating.
The demos were a good preview of this album. "Big Sky" has 10 tracks (most of them clocking in at above 5 minutes, 2
tracks are more than eight minutes long). Most of the tracks are rather atmospheric, slow tracks, full of beautiful
melodies.
The best definition IMHO would be "movie theatre for the head". If a tune can project images and scenes into your mind,
i.e. pictures of vast landscapes or other scenery, I really enjoy it. And pretty much all of the songs on "Big Sky" do
exactly that.
I listened to the album with headphones on, eyes closed, really zoning out. The opener is the rather dramatic "Undoing",
with some wonderful melodies. The second tune, "Trinity", is a groove-based song, which soon turns into a dark piece,
based on some cool low bass-notes. Next, the guitar enters, playing some beautiful little themes, reminding me of the
rather mysterious tunes by Joe Satriani.
"Brothers" again is a rather dark, moody tune, with some nice clean guitar-sounds and it's a perfect tune to dream away
a bit. The song features a very nice fretless bass-solo by bassist Ric Fierabracci.
By the way, all drums were played by Toss Panos, a young, very talented player who used to tour with Steve Vai a while
ago.
"Drowning", the next track, is a song I heard as a demo, and it grew even more... it's a waltz-like dreamy ballad with
some wonderful melodies played with a slide (Brett really is a good slide-player too, and we're not even talking about his
mind-boggling legato-playing, which is evident on many of these songs).
"Fu'd Fight" is a mid-tempo song with a pumping bass, it sounds a bit blues-inspired to me, and is a bit reminiscent of
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the self-titled, blues-inspired Joe Satriani album from `95.


"Breathe" is another song I had heard as a demo. It features some very nice guitar-layers and sustain notes-overdubs,
and the melody was stuck in my head for days. This song goes from a rather relaxed to a rather dramatic sound and
back, very nice songwriting here!
"Got The Horn" starts off as a rock-song with some cool Leslie-sounds and then merges into a really grooving song with
some over-the-top-playing by Brett, where he does not only show his chops, but also his ability to phrase great lines.
As I said before, the general sound of the CD is rather vast, slow, relaxed, atmospheric. And the songs really make me
think of vast landscapes, stuff like that, like i.e. the excellent "The Myth" and the 8 1/2 minute title-track.
I had high expectations regarding this album, and I definitely was not disappointed. It is not your regular kinda "lemme
show you my chops"-guitar album. Instead, you get a collection of beautiful tunes, which you'll enjoy listening to a lot.
And you should give this CD a few spins, because some of the details and atmospheres featured will come to your
attention after a listening sessions (multi-layered is the keyword!).
To sum it up, this is a very beautiful, dreamy album by one of the best-kept secrets of the guitar scene. And again Brett
proves that he's not only an amazing guitar player, but also he shows another facet of his songwriting-talent... not much
complex-fusion stuff here, but some wonderful tunes which will take you to places far away... Guitar-album of the year
for me!
"Big Sky" soundfiles:
1. "Undoing" CLICK HERE
2. "Brother" CLICK HERE
3. "Drowning" CLICK HERE
4. "Breathe" CLICK HERE
The Interview, Part 1

Plans & Farnham


Q: Hi Brett, and thanks for answering some questions for ibreathemusic.com. First of all, what are you
currently up to?
Brett: Well, quite a bit actually! I just finished 3 months touring Australia with John Farnham but most of this year was
spent working on my solo album although not constantly as I'm doing it independently and I had to raise the funds by
myself so it took a lot longer.
Q: How does it feel to be part of the recent John Farnham tour? I know he's a big star especially down in
Australia... so how does it feel to be out there playing in front of several thousand people again?
Brett: Pretty great to put it mildly! John is, in my opinion, one of the greatest living male vocalists and it's always an
honor to work with him. He's the person responsible for giving me the chance to become a professional musician in the
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first place so I basically owe everything that's happened since to him. I just can't believe how his voice gets better and
better as the years go by. The band is incredible and we're all great friends so it really is a true band in every sense of
the word. No-one is just going through the motions. We all give everything to the performance and that's inspired by
John himself.
Q: Could you tell us some things about the preparations for a tour like this, like the rehearsals and stuff?
Brett: Rehearsals are usually really easy and quick as we all know each other so well that it's second nature for us but
this time it took a little longer as we're using in-ear monitors and they take a lot of tweaking. John is using regular
monitoring so it allows him to talk and interact with the audience which is essential plus it also allows him to have total
control over his monitor mix without being affected by us.
Q: Do you get to jam with the other guys in the Farnham band, like i.e. during soundchecks?
Brett: Sometimes but usually we like to save our energy for the show. We don't have a support act so we do a 2 1/2
hour show every night with a half hour intermission. We'd be too burnt if we jammed for an hour or so before the gig.
Q: Do you feel a lot of pressure, like, do you notice a lot of guitar players in the crowd? Because I am sure
that there are quite a few people who come out to those shows to see you...
Brett: I feel pressure to play well but not from a guitarists perspective as it's not the primary focus of the gig. I just want
to represent the songs and play a supportive role in the band. It's a 9 piece band plus John so everyone needs to do their
job with respect for the big picture instead of being focused only on their own instrument. That means ALWAYS
supporting the vocals and playing for the song. We have total freedom to improvise which once again, comes from John
as he never sings the show the same way twice and when it's done with taste and maturity it really works and keeps the
band's performance fresh and exciting. We really have a ball on this gig!
Q: What's your gear on this tour?
Brett: I'm using mainly Line 6 gear but I'd just like to let everyone know that I don't have an endorsement. I paid for it
like everyone else usually has to! I use the Distortion, Modulation and Delay modelers which I run into a rack-mount Line
6 POD. I'm not using an amp as we'll be touring some of the hottest places in Australia next year and there's concern
about amps overheating as they'll have to be isolated under the stage so I decided to bypass the grief and just go direct.
I miss the Bogner but sometimes you have to think of the big picture and work around it. Still sounds pretty good though!
I'm using my ESP tele exclusively and a Maton "Messiah" acoustic which is a really beautiful instrument. I don't have an
official endorsement with any guitar company which doesn't really bother me. I consider my name a very valuable
commodity and most companies don't give enough in return so I'd rather just pay for my gear and be free to use what I
want. I suppose I'd be open to an endorsement if it reflected true support of my needs but I still consider most "artist
deals" somewhat of an insult.

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Part of Brett's live-gear: the ESP Tele and the pedalboard


Q: Could you tell us what CD's you're currently listening to?
Brett: Scott Henderson's new "Well To The Bone" album. I'm a huge fan of Scott and always consider listening to him an
education in both playing and tone. I always come back to Mike Landau's "Tales From The Bulge". Just unbelievable
songs and beautiful playing. My wife is a country singer and she's really turned me on to some great stuff so I've been
listening to Junior Brown's "Git With It" album. He's an amazing player and his lyrics just crack me up!
Q: What guitarists do you enjoy listening to right now? Any new players you checked out and enjoy listening
to?
Brett: Definitely Joel Hoekstra's "Undefined" album. He's just amazing. I wish TJ would do a solo album as I'd like to
listen to him without myself being there as well! I'll keep hassling him till he does it. Ric Fierabracci has really turned me
on to Pat Metheny and I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't heard much of him till lately. A very humbling experience
listening to him! Also Wayne Krantz's "Two Drink Minimum" album just kills me.
Part 2: Big Sky
Big Sky
Q: I have listened to "Big Sky" several times by now. To be honest, the CD hasn't left my player for quite a
while. It's a beautiful album and already one of my favorite guitar-albums. Great job!
Can you tell us something about the inspiration for the tunes? Because, they really have a certain
soundtrack-quality to them, and I think they were inspired by actual things, more than just being based on
some lick or cool riff
Brett: I love music that conjures imagery when I listen to it so I suppose that's what I tend to write. I usually write the
melody within the chords themselves so a lot of my songs would almost work as solo guitar pieces but I just do this so I
can hear the direction of the song. I'm not really good at writing riffs. That's why I really like working with TJ as he can
come up with 20 classic riffs in as many second whereas I'm more prone to writing melodies over chords.

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Q: How long have you been working on those songs?


Brett: One of them dates back to '89 whereas all the others were written between 2000 and early 2002. I do like the
songs to grow naturally rather than just forcing them to be completed so if I get stuck on a certain section I'll just leave
it and let it float around my mind till my imagination tells me where it should go next. I do a lot of writing in my head
while I'm stuck in LA traffic!

Q: Was the creation of the album a constant development, or was it rather "on and off"... after all, you're
involved in several projects and teach at the MI etc.
Brett: I suppose it was on and off but once I'd decided to do it, it was the main thing on my mind even though I was also
involved in other projects. The most recent release is under the band name of MOJO and the album is called "Tapestry".
This is myself, Kofi Baker on drums and Ric Fierabracci on bass.
Q: My upcoming solo-album will be a collection of songs I wrote throughout the years, and so it's like "OK,
they have been around for years, let's finally record them for this album". Was it the same for "Big Sky", or
did you write most of these tunes after you decided to record a solo-album?
Brett: I started writing with nothing in mind other than creating some songs I'd enjoy listening to myself. I didn't want to
put any pressure on myself and commit to it being an album. My good friend Grit Frederick heard my demos and wanted
to help me get the album done so he's my executive producer in a way. It's good to work with friends and family so
there's no fear of being ripped off in any way.
Q: Where was the album recorded?
Brett: It was recorded at Ric Fierabracci's studio here in LA. Ric tracked all the drums as well as playing the amazing
bass and also mixed a vast majority of the album. I'm absolutely honored that he believes in my music so much and
without him it simply wouldn't have happened.
Q: What made you pick Ric (bass) and Toss (Pianos, drums)? How did you contact them?
Brett: I've known Ric for about 6 years now. He, TJ, Virgil and I were doing gigs at the Baked Potato and we'd always be
connecting on various projects. Ric, Kofi and I were doing the Mojo album and also doing trio gigs around town when Ric
suggested jamming with Toss as well. We wanted to separate our various projects so we could do different tunes. I'd first
seen Toss Playing with Mike Landau and was absolutely floored by not only his chops but his incredible dynamic range.
He'd go from thunderous parts to barely touching the things almost playing like a percussionist so I knew straight away
that he was perfect for my music. I've thought Ric was the #1 bassist on the planet the minute I played with him so he
was the absolute first choice. Toss and Ric always play for the song.
Q: Where all their parts pretty much written out before the recordings, did you tell them exactly what to
play, or did they have a lot of freedom to create their parts and thereby add to the songs?
Brett: I did demo the songs extensively as a lot of people heard from them being placed on the web but it's always a
guideline when you're dealing with musicians as good as Ric and Toss. No matter how well I program a drum machine or

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try to play a bass it's still nothing compared to these guys so I basically let them get familiar with the arrangements and
the dynamic of the songs and the rest was their choice. They just sensed everything perfectly so I didn't have to say
anything.
Q: Can you tell us about the gear you used? Because I really like both the clean and the distorted sounds on
this album, sounds great.
Brett: Most of the electric parts were done with my ESP tele and Bogner Extasy but I did use Scott Henderson's Fender
Bandmaster for quite a few tracks. It's been modified by Alexander Dumble and is the most beautiful recording amp I've
ever used. I also used a THD Univalve for the slide solo on "Got The Horn" and those amps are really amazing. I hope to
experiment with that amp a lot more in the future. I also used my '75 Strat which I've had since I was 13 years old. It
did all the Farnham tours and was my main guitar till I got the Steinberger.

The Brian Moore MC-1 was also used a lot on this album. That's a really beautiful guitar which I'm very lucky to have.
Q: What kind of acoustic guitar did you use for the acoustic parts?
Brett: I used a Maton which is an Australian made guitar. I've been using the same model that Tommy Emmanuele uses
in the hopes it'd make me play like him but it hasn't happened yet! :)
Q: Where all your guitar parts written out once you entered the studio, or was there a lot of improvisation
involved, i.e. regarding the solos?
Brett: The solos are always improvised mainly because that's what excites me about playing in the first place. I don't
think memorizing things is a strong point for me so I'm much better just going for it and making sure the record button is
on from the first take as that's usually my most honest interpretation of the music. After about 4 takes it goes downhill
from there so I've gotta get it quick!
Q: How did you come up with some of those beautiful melodies, like i.e. in "Brothers"- do those come to you
when you fiddling on the guitar in font of the TV, or do you sit down with the guitar and go "OK, I am gonna
write a tune now"?
Brett: Most of the time it's the first thing that comes out when I pick up the guitar at the beginning of the day so I try to
have a tape recorder handy for all those ideas. "Brothers" started off like that and I just let it grow over a few days as I
kept returning to it. I have no idea where they come from which I've heard is quite common for most songwriters. I don't
use musical formulas but that's probably due to my lack of formal training. I really do want to study in the future if I can
find the time and money as I want to grow more harmonically.
Q: One thing I especially like is your slide-playing, like i.e. in the main melody of "Drowning" ( CLICK HERE
to hear a soundfile of the main-theme, played by Brett with a slide ). To me, it definitely has a vocal-type
sound of it (the phrasing etc, reminds me of a singer's voice). Was that what you were thinking of, trying to
emulate that sound, or did it turn out that way unintentionally?
Brett: I think that's the beauty of slide guitar as it turns the guitar into a fretless instrument so it's very similar to a
human voice. I love playing slide and have been tempted to play it exclusively but the truth is I usually only play it when
I'm recording or gigging. I don't practice it like I should. I did that melody using a Fernandez Sustainer guitar and it's
featured heavily on this album. I first got it back when TJ and I were doing "Exempt" and have been addicted to it ever
since.
Q: To me, when I listen to "Bad Luck Go Away" (from the Garsed / Helmerich album "Under The Lash Of
Gravity, click HERE to hear an MP3-excerpt of that song) these days, it sounds to me like some kind of early
vision of the music featured on "Big Sky". Do you feel the same? I mean, the song would fit perfectly onto
"Big Sky", in my opinion.
Brett: Yeah, I agree. TJ and I were working on the "Under The Lash Of Gravity" album and we each did a solo
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instrumental tune. TJ's was called "Vicodin" and is some of the most beautiful playing I've ever heard and probably will
ever hear. "Bad Luck Go Away" came from that time and once again it's the Fernandez.
Q: You put demos of some of the songs on "Big Sky" online a while ago, for people to download for free.
What was your motivation to do so? Did you wanna hear some opinions before recording the album, or did
you not plan on "Big Sky" at all back then? Did you get feedback for those songs, and did that inspire you
when you picked and worked on the tracks for the album?
Brett: I suppose it was a combination of market research and personal statement. I did want to see what people thought
of the tunes and by putting them on sites like Mp3.com it made them available to people that I knew would have never
heard of me before so their feedback would be very unbiased. I would love to be able to give music to people as a gift
but making albums costs money unfortunately and as most of this kind of music is self-financed it's hard to do it without
trying to at least cover the basic cost of recording and duplication. It was really great to hear from people all over the
world and see that the music really did reach them at a personal and emotional level as that's where I write the songs
from. I want to inspire and move people just like my influences did and still do till this day.
Q: Can we look forward to another solo-album by you in the near future? If yes, (and I know it's hard to tell
for you just now), do you think it will be similar (vast, rather atmospheric, dreamy songs) or will it be very
different, like i.e. "Lash Of Gravity" was very different from "Quid Pro Quo"?
Brett: I'm sure I'll do another album but I have no idea what direction it'll take. I guess we'll just wait and see! I'm
hoping TJ and I will be able to do another Uncle Moe's project with Willis, Kinsey and Chambers someday.
Part 2: GIT / The Guitarist
GIT

Q: You're still teaching at the GIT at a regular base, right?


Brett: I was until the John Farnham tour came up so as much as I love teaching at MI nothing compares to touring.
Q: Is it still as much fun as it was in earlier years? I mean, is it still interesting, or is it more like going in
circles for you?
Brett: It's always fun to interact with other players and a huge bonus to give them some insight which may open a door
to another musical world. Teaching has also allowed me to investigate my own playing and in the process of trying to
explain something to a student I've learned a lot myself. I like to look at it as two fellow musicians exploring music rather
than the teacher/student angle as I'd never be arrogant enough to think I knew more than someone else. You can always

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learn from anyone and I think it's essential to remain open to that no matter how long you've played or where you're at
with your career.
Q: Back when you started teaching there, was it hard to get into it, to adjust to teaching there? Or did you
give lessons before?
Brett: Well, I guess there had to be a first time at some stage so yeah, it was a little strange but as I've always taught
myself I just remembered a lot of the same questions and referred back to my own experience. If we encountered a
situation where I had no previous experience I'd just say,"Well, let's figure it out!" and we'd both put our heads together
and start brainstorming ideas. Like I said, I consider myself the eternal student so I'm always looking for a new angle on
things.
Q: When I teach, be it private lessons, at a school, at workshops or on the internet (writing articles), I often
notice that I constantly learn new stuff, sometimes because one of my students has a unique style and plays
something I never thought of, or because the questions of a student make me take a closer look at
something I never paid much attention to... do you experience the same thing? I mean, you have been at the
GIT for several years, so do you still get a lot of new ideas from teaching there?
Brett: Absolutely. Not only from the student but also from the other teachers. It'd be pretty hard to walk around that
place and not hear someone doing something that intrigued you and also inspired you to pursue it.
Q: Do you notice any difference in the skills, expectations and style of players who attend the GIT these
days, compared to earlier years?
Brett: Well, I like to consider myself to be open minded and to be honest I really like a lot of the new music and also the
new sounds that are being created with guitars but at the same time I'm amazed at how many people between 18 and
25 years old still want to learn things about Hendrix, Clapton, Page and Van Halen so it's still pretty much anyone's guess
as to where the guitar will go in the future and who'll be taking it there.
Q: You see a lot of aspiring musicians at GIT. Can you tell what they lack the most: is it their technical
abilities? Their attitude?
Brett: All people are unique and we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. The only thing that stops younger
players is probably the realization that it may take years to develop a certain amount of facility whereas these days with
high-speed internet, cell phones and most aspects of life being instantaneous we want it NOW!! I'm just as bad as
everyone else so patience and perseverance are still a musicians greatest virtue and also their most valuable asset in the
pursuit of not only musical excellence but also a successful career as well.
Q: Do you stay in touch with your former students, or are you checking out what projects they get involved
in, or do you usually lose contact after a while? (I know how easy that can happen)
Brett: Oh yeah. Once again, the beauty of the internet has allowed me to reach people and stay in touch no matter
where they are on the planet so it's been an amazing thing for making the world a smaller place. I'm pretty easy to find
out here in cyberspace so if I lose contact with someone it's usually their doing and not mine. I try to answer all e mails
with helpful responses as I consider it a rare opportunity to be of help to people. It's the very least I can do and it takes a
minimal amount of time. My typing has improved out of sight as well! :)
Q: How does it make you feel when you see that some of your former students get some kind of notoriety (i.
e. Marshall Harrison) and use the skills they learned at the GIT to create some very unique stuff? Is there a
certain pride? Some of my former students are busy with several projects, and one of them recently called
me up and played me some of the stuff he had recorded, and it was a great feel. I mean, sure, he did most of
the work and stuff, but it was great to see a former student use the stuff he learned and is actually getting
somewhere...
Brett: I consider it the highest compliment and also just history repeating itself as I really wear my own influences on
my sleeve so for a student to even consider me an influence is great. As long as I see people having as much fun as I do
playing music I'm really happy to think I may have contributed to that. I owe an enormous debt to people like
Holdsworth, Henderson and Gambale to name just a few so I hope I'm helping inspire people the same way. I also really
enjoy getting a sneak preview of some the people that could be the next revolutionary guitar heroes of the future.
The guitarist
Q: You have an amazing legato technique. We talked about this when I was at the GIT, but for the visitors of
iBreathe... what caused you to develop it to that point? Was it the Holdsworth influence, did you try to
emulate a certain instruments sound ...?

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Brett: I always used legato technique by accident so I suppose it was a totally natural thing which may explain why it's
developed to the extent it has. Of course as soon as I heard Allan I recognized that he'd taken the technique to the level
of an art form. I was mainly hit by the incredible emotional content of his songs and playing whereas I think too many
people just hear a bunch of fast notes. Everything he plays has tremendous depth and purpose to it and I wanted to
make sure I had that in my own playing instead of just mindless shredding although I was guilty of just that for years.
You have to start somewhere though!
Q: You have that quite unique right hand picking technique, using the fingers of your right hand to execute
stuff other players would most likely sweep... how did you come up with that? Did you find this easier than
sweeping, or did you never actually try sweep-picking, or was it just a natural thing to play that way?
Brett: It was a completely natural thing and happened totally by accident. I think it was trying to play Leo Kottke's
acoustic tunes using a flatpick and fingers that got it started. I did study classical guitar for a year so I'm sure that
helped as well. After seeing Frank Gambale's first video I realized the potential for the approach. I really admire Frank for
developing a whole new way to play the instrument and taking it light years beyond the basic sweeping patterns. I really
liked the way he could use sweeping for 2 or 3 note arpeggios and realized that my finger picking could be used in a
similar way so after seeing Frank my playing changed instantly.
Q: Could you describe your approach to songwriting ? Like, how do you come up with your songs, like i.e.
tunes like "Breathe" , "Crystal Voyager", "Drowning" etc.?
Brett: Once again, it's that musical imagination. I have no idea where melodies come from as I just hear them in my
head and then try to find them on the guitar. It's the same for soloing as well as songwriting as I feel they are one and
the same. I suppose I'm a frustrated vocalist as well so my melodies tend to be very lyrical.
Q: Would you consider yourself a perfectionist? Because, the "demos" you offered for free download at those
MP3-sites... man, those sound awesome. When I listen to my own "demos", I'm like "Dude, this certainly is a
different level of making a demo!" =)
Brett: Not really. I leave a lot of the rough edges on my work only because it's the honest truth. I could go through
every solo and clean out all the imperfections but then I'd sound totally different live. What you hear on the albums is
what I'm capable of playing even if I'd just rolled out of bed so at least it's the real thing. I'm so far from a perfect player
it's ridiculous but that's ok, I'm going to keep working on it. I'd love to eventually reach that Michael Brecker level of pure
expression where everything is perfectly composed from the first take. Your musical imagination is always light years
ahead of your ability so that should be your main source of inspiration and the goal is to lessen the gap of time it takes to
hear it and then play it.
Q: Is it easier for you to write an instrumental or a tune with vocals?
Brett: It's always hard to write a good song regardless of whether it's instrumental or vocal as they both involve melody.
It doesn't matter what instrument it's played on. I have much more facility with a guitar than my voice but that has more
to do with execution than composition.
Q: This might sound like an odd question, but do you think that growing up in rural Victoria / Australia (I
guess this isn't comparable to LA or NYC) had an influence on your development, on your practise regimen
etc.?
I'm asking because a lot of my students these days are so BUSY, they go to school and in the afternoon, they
go to all kinds of social events, parties, concerts, clubs etc. I grew up in a small suburb, and when school
was over, I pretty much had nothing else to do but play the guitar, so there were no distractions for me...
was that the same in your case?
Brett: Absolutely! I grew up on a farm which was miles from the nearest town so at night I was limited to entertaining
myself with music. I'd put on my favorite albums and jam along to them for hours which meant I was literally playing
with some of the best musicians in the world, if you know what I mean. When I eventually got a car and a girlfriend etc it
was still ok as I was always gigging. I've been playing in clubs since I was 13 so it was so ingrained into my life that
nothing was going to distract me from it. It's literally who I am.
Q: Was there anything you focussed on when you learned how to play? How did you get new ideas and
influences? I assume it wasn't easy to get hold of any instructional material, so how did you get your ideas
and develop your style? Did you develop both technique and theory knowledge at an equal pace, or did you
learn the theory part later?
Brett: I made a decision very early on to create my own licks and ideas as I felt that would be of the most benefit in the
future. Lucky I had the insight to do that! My theoretical knowledge, such as it is, is very limited and came much later so
most of my development came from playing live. My cousins and I formed a band and we didn't have enough songs for a
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full show so I had to improvise long solos to fill in the time. It was great training for me but was probably pretty awful for
people to listen to! Perhaps the fact I was so young made the crowds more forgiving! I pretty much play by ear so
whenever I learn a new concept I always try to take it to that place where it's instinctual rather than premeditated. It
takes time but as I said, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life so time is what I have.
Q: Did you take lessons, too?
Brett: I originally took 4 lessons from a guy in my home town who told me to use all 4 left hand fingers. Probably the
best information I could've ever got! Then it was back to jamming with the band and trying to figure things out. He never
taught me any scales or chords so I just had to try and learn by myself which is probably why my style is rather
unorthodox and also why I quite arrogantly assume I can find a different way to do things. I also took classical lessons
after I'd been playing for about 5 years and that helped a lot. It also introduced me to some of the most beautiful music
ever created.
Q: Do you still practice a lot? If yes, is it still fun, like does it feel like you're developing, or is it merely to
keep up with the requirements of teaching at the GIT or playing the stuff you play with the projects you're
involved in?
Brett: I love to play the guitar so I'm always playing although not as much as I'd like. As I said before it's a part of who I
am and not merely a career choice so I'll be playing regardless of whether I'm making albums and touring or pumping
gas so I'm always working on my chops as I want to grow as a musician. Plus, if I'm playing with people as good as Ric I
have no choice as I'm always running to catch up! I don't really care if I'm pushing my limits or just strumming a chord
and staring into space, as long as I have music I'm happy.
Q: What do you play to keep it interesting? I know you love to play slide, but, are there days where you sit
down with some "jazz guitar" and play some stuff people wouldn't automatically expect from you?
Brett: I like to play acoustic although I don't really consider myself very good at it. Maybe that's because I know a guy
like Tommy Emmanuele exists! I will practice 2-5-1's and work on changes as it really helps me relate to other kinds of
music. I really consider myself a melodic rock guitarist who's been influenced by fusion in the sense that I like to relate to
the chords I'm playing to so I'm always pushing myself to get better at that. Scott Henderson can make even the nastiest
changes sound incredibly musical so I figure that's the industry standard right there and there's no reason why I
shouldn't expect myself to reach that place too.
Q: Do you have a practice regimen, or is it a rather spontaneous thing you do? Vinnie Moore i.e. has a certain
routine he goes through every day to keep up his chops, in addition to working on new stuff... how about
you?
Brett: It's very spontaneous. My practicing is usually more about the conceptual side than the technical. I usually just
tap my foot and play to the changes in my own head which I feel makes my internal sense of time and melody stronger.
Once again, when I'm playing with guys like Ric and Toss, Kofi or Virgil Donati I have to bring something to the party. I
have this habit of putting myself in the most stressful and challenging situations but the payoff is that you never listen to
old recordings of yourself and feel you've gone backwards. I always feel I'm improving even though I'll probably never be
satisfied.
Q: Do you have any advice for new players (I sure you do), like a basic, general thing to keep in mind or pay
attention to?
Brett: Time is the most important thing. You can play very simply with great time and you'll sound great whereas having
tons of chops but no control is a bit like being all dressed up with no place to go. Interval recognition and relative pitch
are really important too as they'll help you melodically.
Part 3: The Past / Gear etc
The Past
Q: I know that some of your earlier influences included Allan Holdsworth. What other players inspired you
throughout the years?
Brett: Almost too many to even mention! I don't think I ever heard a guitarist I didn't like or at least respect for going
for it. This is a brutal business and it takes enormous courage to put your arse on the line and stand behind your own
music so I really respect anyone for having a go. The short list of influences would be Blackmore, Page, Beck, Hendrix,
Santana, Gilmour, Rory Gallagher, Larry Carlton, Van Halen, Holdsworth, Henderson, Gambale, Michael Brook, TJ, Stuart
Fraser, ok, that's enough for now!

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Q: How were the sessions for the legendary "Centrifugal Funk" record? Your soloing on that one is awesome.
Can you tell us about how you created and recorded your parts?
Brett: That was a pretty funny experience! It was the first time I'd physically met Mark (not Mike) Varney and I was the
first guy to lay down solos which was very good as I think I would've run away screaming if I'd heard Frank and Shawn
first! It's the only session where I've been told to play "more" so it was challenging. I wasn't very familiar with any
chordal stuff other than the usual rock changes so I was limited as to what I could play on but it was great fun plus I got
to meet Frank and watch him play. I just went for it and hoped I didn't sound foolish next to those guys. That album has
done so much for me in letting people know who I am so it was a truly great experience.

Q: Was "Bad Luck Go Away" ("Under The Lash Of Gravity") improvised on the spot, or was it rather planned
out? I think it's a beautiful tune, and has some very inspired playing...
Brett: Just about everything I do is improvised although some things are first take and others are agonized over. "Bad
Luck Go Away" took awhile for me to get the direction of the piece but it came rather quickly once I figured out where I
wanted to go with it. I'm always looking for phrases that are like hooks so it's never a question of chops. I'll keep a
roughly executed phrase if I find it memorable rather than a mundane passage that's technically difficult and well
executed.
Q: One question about the "Whispering Jack" album... how was working with John back then? Did you have a
lot of room to come up with your own stuff and decide for yourself what would be appropriate, or did John or
the producer kinda "guide you"?
Brett: John and his producer Ross Fraser have always given me tons of latitude in the studio and they'd usually let me
go and see what happens first. If I needed input they'd then step in with a ton of ideas so it's always very relaxed and
fun working with them.
Q: Ok, one more... is that you in the videoclip of "You're The Voice", playing the guitar?
Brett: Yeah, that's me. Back when I was young and fit!!:)
Q: One question about your time with Nelson... I heard your guitar-solo that was recorded during one of
their shows... it was released on some guitar sampler. First of all, its an amazing solo, both technically and
regarding the musical ideas in there. You're quote of AC/DC's "Back In Black" cracked me up... did you quote
that one every time you had your solo-spot, or did you change that around ? And, are you actually a fan of
AC/DC, or was that rather meant to be a little "tip to the hat" to fellow Aussies? =)
Brett: Mate, I saw AC/DC in my home town when I was 11 years old! They'd just released "TNT" and it was a life
changing experience to say the least. Angus was and still is one of my all time heroes and they're one of the greatest
rock bands to ever exist. I NEVER do unaccompanied solos and it only came about when I was out doing drum clinic tours
with Bobby Rock. He kept begging me to do a solo and one night just introduced me and he and Carl
Carter, our bassist just left the stage! In my head I was saying "Play something! Play anything!" and "Back In Black"
came out so it kind of stuck. Matt and Gunnar were determined I was going to do a solo spot on the tour so when in
doubt, AC/DC will always save you!!
GEAR
Q: People can sure look at your site to see what kind of gear you're using, but I have some additional

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questions... what would you consider important for your sound? What does it need for you to feel good with
your gear? Like, high gain, or a certain effect, etc...
Brett: Definitely not too much gain. I use a reasonably clean sound by most rock standards as I like to have dynamics in
my playing. If I pick hard using the Bogner the amp distorts more and if I pick lightly it cleans up. It makes it more
difficult to play legato but it's just how it is I guess. I like a bit of reverb and sometimes some delay but I can play just
the same through a dry amp if I have to.
Q: What's important for you in an electric guitar. I'd consider the Tele, the Strat, the Steinberger and the
Brian Moore quite different guitars... what are you looking for in a guitar?
Brett: Personality which Tele's have tons of. That guitar just brings a different side out of me and they're tough so you
can drop 'em accidentally and they can take it. Guitars are going to get beat up if you play live a lot so I can't afford to
baby them. Ever since I first saw Rory Gallagher and Roy Buchanan I wanted a Tele. All the guitars I still have are unique
in their own way. The Brian Moore, Steinberger, Fernandez and Strat all do different things and I'll keep them forever.

Q: Did you replace the pickups in any of those, or are they stock ?
Brett: I have DiMarzio pickups in most of my guitars. Steve Blucher has been an invaluable help to me in recommending
the best pickups for my various guitars.
Q: You use a lot of legato techniques... do you need to adjust the gear to that... I mean, are there certain
components that make legato-playing easier for you, like i.e. light gauge strings, thinner necks, high outputpickups?
Brett: Not really. I use La Bella .010 gauge strings and have even used .011's in the past. I wouldn't mind going back to
the .011's as the tone is way better and it's great for slide but my hands get a bit beaten up. I don't have the Stevie Ray
Vaughn strength!
Q: I assume that for legato-stuff, you prefer a lower action, but at the same time, you like to play slide,
which usually requires a medium to high action... do you switch guitars for slide playing or...?
Brett: I do it all on the same guitar so it's a compromise live but in the studio I'll set up a guitar for slide with heavy
strings and high action as the tone is better. I had to learn on the same guitar for years as I could never afford a second
instrument and it's just become habit I suppose.

Q: A few years ago, we talked about effect processors, and you mentioned that you still use that old Digitech
harmonizer... is that because you're a "if it works, don't fix it, dude"? I mean, do you check out a lot of the
new gear and change things about your setup a lot, or do you keep it all the way it is as long as possible?
Brett: Man, I just don't have the money to buy new stuff! I'd really like to get a TC Electronics G Force but the wolf's at
the door so it'll have to wait for now. The old Digitech is like an old friend that hangs in there so I'll never get rid of it
even if I replace it in the rack. I'm always open to new gear but for now the Bogner is keeping me very happy.

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Garsed & Helmerich

Q: Can we expect a new release by Garsed & Helmerich anytime soon?


Brett: We're hoping we may get to do a follow-up to Uncle Moe's Space Ranch so we'll see. I really love working with TJ
as we have a great time and our styles compliment each other perfectly and we feel zero competition with each other
which is quite unusual for a couple of guitar players I suppose. Plus, he's the best recording engineer in the world in my
opinion so I always know the music will sound incredible.
Q: What really impressed me was the variety of styles on "Quid Pro Quo" and "Under The Lash Of Gravity". Is
that a conscious thing, or is it because you guys split up the songwriting?
Brett: We prefer to write as a team but we have submitted songs from our past that were written separately on some of
the albums. I think our most original songs are the ones we write together. TJ's also an incredible singer so it's really cool
doing vocal material with him.
Q: Do you and TJ still jam a lot, trying out new ideas and stuff, or do you get together at a certain time and
work on new songs etc. for a certain period? Like, is it a constant thing going on, or are you coming together
at certain times to work on new music?
Brett: We jam constantly or at least we did when we lived closer together. I'm away so much on tour lately that it's been
put on hold but maybe in the future we can start again.
OK, we're almost done...
Q: Please name 5 of your favorite albums:
Brett: This is a completely impossible question but here goes...the 5 albums I just couldn't live without...
1. "Regatta De Blanc" - The Police
2. "Live At The Aquarium" - Michael Brooke
3. "Symphonies Of The Planets #3" - NASA Voyager Recordings
4. "One Of A Kind" - Bruford
5. "Physical Graffiti" - Led Zepelin
Q: Your 5 current favorite players (guitar):
Equally impossible.....and in no particular order.....
1. TJ Helmerich
2. Stuart Fraser
3. Scott Henderson
4. Allan Holdsworth
5. Pat Metheny
Q: Your favorite music-related website:
www.brettgarsed.com

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OK! You asked for that one!! :)


Q: And what do you do when you have some free-time, to relax and maybe get away from all the music for a
little while?
Brett: After being on the road for so long I spend time with my wife. I'm lucky she still talks to me!! As I've said, music
is my life and is my hobby and major pastime. I've just been lucky enough to be able to do it for a living. (sometimes!)
Q: Thank you so much for doing this, and I hope it was at least a bit fun for you too... if you have any
message for the visitors at ibreathe, here's the mic... =)
Brett: Yeah. As Jimi once said,"Make Love, Not War". Peace!

BG guitar-feature
Brett's playing
Brett Garsed is a very unique player, not only regarding his playing-technique (he does have a mind-boggling legatotechnique) but also regarding his tone and his sense for melodies.
So not only is his playing impressive technique-wise, but also very interesting to listen to if you like melodies and licks
which are beyond simple blues-cliches and standard-runs.
Other than the legato-technique, Brett also uses the slide quite a bit, and he does have an interesting right handtechnique (to the point where he plays licks that sound like standard sweep-picking with some kind of fingerpicking!!!
This can be seen in his REH-instructional video "Rock Fusion")
I met Brett while being a student at the MI, and I was not only blown away by his playing and his talent to teach, I also
learned that Brett is a great dude, who loves playing his guitar, performing and teaching...
Here are some licks and exercises that might give you an idea of his style and the elements of his legato-technique. Of
course the best introduction would be to listen to some of his music, but for now we wanna take a look at his technique
and some exercises.
Let's take a look at exercises No.1a and 1b
Both are regular legato exercises. Pick the first note, then hammer on the other notes with the fingers of your left hand.
One very important thing to pay attention to is that the picked notes should be exactly as loud as the hammered / pulled
off ones.
This might take a while to learn, but you'll get there. Most players tend to pick the notes too hard, so that they kinda
stand out. But once every note is at the same volume, you can play long seamless runs where it's tough to determine
which note is picked and which is not.
Example 1b is pretty similar to 1a, the difference is that the first note on each string is not picked anymore, but
"hammered on from nowhere"... play the note by hammering it.

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Example 1 c is a combination where you kinda go back and forth. I'll leave it up to you whether you pick the first note on
each string or hammer it, but I recommend to try both ways...

Example 1 d is the same kinda exercise, this time on all six strings. You can make up different combinations, picking the
first note on each string or hammering it, descend instead of ascend etc.

Now let's move on to a diatonic context ( the ones above were kinda mechanical, chromatic exercises... you sure can use
them in your playing too, Brett also uses a lot of chromatics, but let's get to the modes now... )
Example 2a depicts an ascending D Major scale ( 3 note per string ), played with hammer-ons... again, I'll leave it up to
you whether you wanna pick the first note on each string, or hammer it on...

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One thing that Brett taught me was to stay away from becoming a "three note per string-player". What I mean is to not
get stuck with playing 3 note per strings exclusively, which can be limiting. Instead, you can play 2, 4, 5 etc. notes on a
string. And you can do that by using yet another legato-technique, the slide. Check this sequence:

Now, let's get to some string skipping exercises, similar to things Brett would play. String skipping is a great tool to play
bigger intervals, which might help you to get away from cliche-licks. It's even possible to emulate the sound and playing
style of a saxophone that way.
Examples 4a & b are again in D Major, using the same pattern as our previous example no.2 . They're sequential licks,
played mainly with hammer-on's and pull-off. You should again pay attention to the picked notes and their volume,
and also make sure you mute the strings which are not being used with your left and / or right hand to avoid unwanted
noise... after all, string-skipping is kinda tough to do.

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Example 5 is another cool sequence, this time in the key of E min. The scale we're using is the E minor stretch (3 note
per string) pentatonic. Check out my articles about the stretch pentatonic for a thorough introduction to the topic. Here is
the scale:

And here's the actual sequence:

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Here's the descending version:

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Guitar feature continued


As Brett mentioned in our interview, he is actually using all four fingers of the left hand, to play 4 notes per string, either
by using big stretches or slides. Here is a fast sequence based on that concept, 4 notes per string. It also involves some
huge skips (from the low E to the high e-string). So start out very slowly. Brett played wild stuff like that both in his
legendary "So What"-solo (from the Centrifugal Funk Album) and during his live-solospot with Nelson, just giving you two
examples...

Here is one possible way to continue this:

And let's try some even bigger stretches... if you want to, or if you feel like your hands won't be able to stretch that far
( DON'T HURT YOURSELF ! ), use the right hand and tap the top note on each string:

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Again, some more exercises for the 4 note per string-concept. Remember to start out slowly, avoid hurting your hands,
and try to alternate between playing the 4 notes per string by stretching and by adding slides...

Here's a possible way to play a run that way:

OK, just a few basic things about his amazing right hand / hybrid picking technique. The idea is to use a combination of
pick and 4 fingers. Hold the pick between thumb and index finger, play the lowest note ( measure 1: on the G-string,
measure 2: on the D-string ) with the pick, while picking the other ones with your remaining fingers. For measure 2 that
would be: D-string: pick, G-string: middle finger, B-string: ring finger, high e-string: pinkie.

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This also is a cool exercise to improve your fingerpicking for the acoustic guitar. Brett plays that way a lot, both on
acoustic and electric guitar, and he plays stuff that guys like me could only execute with sweep-picking, as evidenced
here:

That's one part of his Nelson-solospot. He plays that by using his hybrid-picking, at a pretty high speed. Check it out, it's
definitely a technique worth practising, and might be a perfect alternative for you, as opposed to sweeping...... CLICK
HERE to hear an excerpt from his solo on the Nelson-tour, using this technique...
I don't wanna limit Brett's style to only these components. He is a very unique player who commands a lot of different
technqiue, added to a great tone and a great sense for melody. So take all this as an inspiration, and check out his
playing.
Make up your own exercises based on the ones above, try to create "seamless runs", with no picking-accents in there.
Brett definitely was influenced by Allan Holdsworth, while using his impeccable technique in a rock-context too, and has
thereby created a unique style.
Let that inspire you to work on your legato-technique. Most important: Listen to Brett playing all this amazing stuff...
check out his leads at the end of Farnham's "You're The Voice", try to get hold of those Nelson-albums, check out the
Garsed / Helmerich albums (Great music, and TJ Helmerich is another unique player) or Brett's work on the Centrifugal
Funk-album (his solo in "So What" is absolutely mind-boggling and still is one of my favorite fusion solos EVER), and I
definitely recommend to listen to "Big Sky"... and if you get to meet the man, be it at the GIT or at one of his shows, tell
him I said "Cheers, mate" !
Gear and Epilogue
Gear / Tone / Sounds
Brett does have a warm, singing guitar sound, even when playing slide. When he plays his fast legato-passages his sound
is clear enough so you can hear each note.
His main guitars are a Brian Moore electric, an ESP Tele (which still sounds smooth and warm in his hands, not too harsh
or too twangy) and his old faithful, a Steinberger.

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Amps of choice range from a Hughes & Kettner (Brett appeared in some of their ads around the time of Centrifugal
Funk), a Diezel VH4 (as seen on the video of one of his gigs at the MI) and a Bogner. Effect-wise, I heard him use some
delay and reverb (he's careful enough not to let those "mush up" his sound) plus some flanging / phasing...
Epilogue
Well, that's it. I hope you enjoyed this introduction, this special feature. My intention was to introduce you to Brett's
music. He is a quite unique player, and still one of the guitar scenes best-kept secrets. In my opinion, it would be
interesting for a whole lot of players to check out his music.
I remember when I showed a video of Brett performing live at the MI to my good friend Tommy Alderson. Tommy said:
"Man, this guy's as unique as Eric Johnson". I think this sums it up pretty well.
To me, Brett is a big influence. Not only as a player. I sure do remember my time at the GIT well, and I learned quite a
bit from Brett. I'll always be grateful to him for showing me a lot of cool, inspiring stuff. But he also is a great person,
and that is something to consider too. Anyway, I hope you like this feature, and I hope you'll check out some of Brett's
music. Time's perfect, cuz "Big Sky" will be released soon.
Finally, I would like to thank Brett for agreeing to do this, for answering my questions honestly and comprehensively.
Furthermore, I would like to thank:
- Jay Matsueda, who did the photo for the album cover
- Gary Bernard, who did the graphic design for the "Big Sky"-album
- Guni, who added some good questions to the interview and stayed patient throughout the creation of this feature.
Thanks, guys!
All soundfiles and pictures were used with Brett's permission.
Eric Vandenberg
PS: As you might remember, I posted a soundfile at the iBreathe forums. It was an MP3 of me loosely
jamming over a jam-track based on the Garsed / Helmerich-tune "Loch Rannoch". I left it the way I recorded
it that night, dings and mistakes and all.
Click THIS LINK to hear it. Hope you'll like it. It shows the influence Brett had on me as a player... migth say
more than a lot of words about what a great teacher and influence he is to many players...
This article can be read online at http://www.iBreatheMusic.com/article/100
Eric started playing the guitar at age 10. He attended GIT and studied with Scott Henderson, Brett Garsed, Dan Gilbert
amo. Eric is involved in several bands and recording projects and his instrumental debut -Hidden Creek- (soundfiles can
be heard at his website) was released in 2004. Furthermore, Eric is an active songwriter, arranger, instructor and -hired
gun-, available for studio- and live-jobs as well as workshops. Visit his website at www.ericvandenberg.net

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