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Some recent interviews with Gustavo

Assis-Brasil:
Interviewed by guitarist Andrew Berman on July
2004 exclusively for www.gustavoassisbrasil.com
1) How did you build your guitar tone, and is there any equipment you feel
is essential in achieving your sound?
I have been working for years to get a good and unique guitar tone. In my
opinion, tone is one of the most important things for a guitar player. This is
not easy. Sometimes, you can recognize a guitar player just by the sound he
or she gets. Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth, Scott
Henderson, and Eric Johnson are good examples of unique guitar tone. There
are many others. I believe that the essential things are: a very good guitar
(obviously with a perfect intonation, noiseless pickups and good strings), a
good amp and good cords (wires). These are the first things you need to buy.
It doesn’t matter if you have a 5 grant guitar plugged in a cheap 15 watts
solid state amp. You aren’t going to get the tone that the guitar has. Another
example is if you have a great guitar and a great amp but your cord is bad.
After these three things you might get some effects (overdrive, digital delay,
chorus/flanger, compressor, wah-wah, etc.). The use of effects depends on
what style you are going to play.

2) How did the study of classical guitar help your playing?


The study of classical guitar was extremely important for various reasons.
First of all, the study classical guitar gave me a very wide knowledge of the
history of the different styles of guitar, beginning from Renascence, Baroque
until contemporary composers. I can say that I was very lucky because my
teacher Marcos Kroning Correa helped me to apply all these concepts on the
electric guitar. I developed a very good technique and a good sense of how to
control of timbre and dynamics. These things are not deeply explored in any
other style of music. Of course classical and electric guitars are different
physically, but the concept of music and how to have a good discipline can
apply to anything in life.

3) You use a variety of techniques in your soloing - including alternate,


sweep, and hybrid picking styles and legato phrasing - how did you go
about building this technical vocabulary and how has this varied use of
articulation helped you?
There are no secrets of how I develop these styles (I am still doing it...). I can
say that the main things are practice, listening and self criticism. When I
improvise I’m not thinking \Here I am gonna play a legato phrase, here I am
alternating my picking, there I should sweep, there I’ll use hybrid...\"” These
techniques came naturally. If you spend time developing them they happen.
For instance, you know that it is really hard to get a fast saxophone-like
legato sound if you don’t know your hammer-ons and pull-offs. How about a
banjo-like country run if you can’t use your right hand fingers? “
4) Who are your main influences and how have they affected your playing?

First of all, for me the concept of influence is very deep. Any musician that
inspires me to play the guitar is considered influential for me. Of course it
doesn’t need to be a guitar player. It is almost impossible to write all my
influences. What I can say is that they always make me love music more.
Ok....I’ll mention some: John Coltrane, Michael Hedges, Allan Holdsworth,
Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Charlie Banacos, Wayne Krantz, Mick Goodrick, Dave
Holland, John McLaughlin, McCoy Tyner, Frank Gambale, Astor Piazzolla, J.S.
Bach, Igor Stravinsky, Ramon Ricker, Chico Buarque, Milton Nascimento,
Shawn Lane, Chris Potter, David Binney etc…

5) Does your playing change depending on the situation you find yourself
in?
Yes, it does. In order to be a good player I think you should be a chameleon
without losing identity of course. To reach that level, you have to be very
open minded regarding styles of music. Good instrumental country, all styles
of jazz, funk, rock, latin styles, classical, pop and folk. I am not saying that
you should like and play all these styles, but you have to know the essence of
each one. Of course it is good to specialize in a specific style, but I think that
mixing styles and influences gives you an unique voice, which is the hardest
thing to develop.

6) How do you organize your practice time so it is efficient and what are
the aspects of guitar you continue to hone?
I always plan my practice time a little bit before I begin each session. My
practice routine is always made with percentages. It doesn’t matter how
many hours I have available a day to practice. What really matters are the
topics that I have practice. The percentages depend on what topics I have to
do during that period. For instance, I might do 30% of the time available for
voicings and comping, 10% for finger stretches, 30% for a phrasing subject
(modes, intervals, passing tones, approaches,etc.), and 20% for learning
tunes. Again, it all depends on what subjects I am exploring. I never get to
many topics to practice, and, once I know what to do, I stay with the same
topics for months, until I master the subjects. I usually get 3 or 4 topics
maximum per session of practice.

7) How did you forge your compositional style and what would you suggest
other due to help find their own voices?
I believe that I’m still improving my compositional style. I think that writing a
little bit a day is the best thing to do. It will give you a base of good ideas to
develop. Write or tape at least a measure or a phrase a day. Never check
what you composed on the same day. Wait a week or two and go back to the
ideas. You’ll be surprised sometimes. Stay away from imitation. Try to be
yourself. It takes time but it’s worth it.

8) Are there any essential musical texts/books that have been essential for
your development?
There are many excellent books and instructional videos that helped me to
develop my style. I can name some of them with their topics. These aren’t in
order of preference.

- Intense Rock by Paul Gilbert (instructional video)- for alternate picking


- Abel Carlevaro - classical guitar technique books
- Chord Chemistry by Ted Greene - harmony / beautiful voicings
- The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick - advanced concepts of
improvisation.
- Speed Picking by Frank Gambale - sweep picking
- Intervallic Designs by Joe Diorio - modern jazz phrasing.
- A Arte da Improvisacao (The Art of Improvisation) by Nelson Faria -
improvisation concepts
- Jazz Guitar by Ted Greene Vol.I and II- jazz guitar soloing
- How to Play Jazz by Jamey Aebersold - introduction to jazz improv with
good advice
- Telemaster by Danny Gatton (video) - country/blues/jazz guitar, hybrid
picking
- Any book by Jerry Bergonzi, Hal Crook or Mick Goodrick
- This Is The Way I Do It - Incredible Instructional DVD by John McLaughlin

There are many more…

9) You are an excellent teacher. How did you develop your teaching style
and has this helped your playing?
Thanks Andy. I’m still learning the art of music education. I honor this. I’ve
been teaching for 16 years now. I think that every good musician should have
at least a little bit of experience teaching. My style definitely comes from my
teaching experiences. I always learned from my students. In the past, if I
didn’t know the answer for a question, I would go and try to learn the topic
questioned for the next lesson. This was one the ways I learned music. That’s
why I never stopped practicing and studying, and of course teaching.

10) What do you think is essential learning for the modern jazz guitarist?
As I mentioned before, I think that a jazz guitarist has to be very open minded
to find a place on the music scene. He or she should learn how to improvise in
various styles of jazz and contemporary styles (rock, pop, funk, drum’n’bass,
etc.). We know that jazz is something new (considering music history) and
that it is developing very fast. We just have to be ourselves and try to play
what we love. Quoting what Patti Cathcart Andress (Tuck & Patti) once sad to
me “Gustavo, you have to play with love to your soul as you play from your
heart”. That explains everything.