Started: Age 13 in 1981
Instruments: Guitar, Ud, Saz, Balalaika, Bass, Drums, Percussion
Styles: World, Jazz, Rock, R&B, Hip-Hop, Fol
Books Publications: (National Guitar Workshop Publications/Alfred) Zen and the Art of Guitar Guitar Atlas � The Middle East
Recordings: Abu Gara � Dry World Groove Jeff Peretz Group � Vitality of Expression Inner Urge � Am I Blue Jay-Z - Fade to Black
Gear: Taylor Acoustic Gibson ES135, Les Paul, ES335, Sukkar Ud Fender Blues Junior Cry Baby Wah Tube Screamer Fender J Bass
Lesson Text: Learn to Play Guitar with Jeff Peretz Jeff's guitar lessons are for the intermediate Rock guitar player who wants to expand his guitar skills and add some new ideas for soloing. Jeff starts out with some basic advice about choosing the right strings and pick, and then examines diatonic intervals, scales and modes, and the natural minor scale. He demonstrates how to play scales staccato and legato, including the minor pentatonic scale. Learn aeolian licks, riffs and runs, arpeggios and some Jimi Hendrix fills.
Aside from being an in-demand guitarist, udist, and producer, Jeff Peretz is also a dedicated educator and author. Since 1998, Jeff has been the leader of Abu Gara, an eclectic ensemble dedicated to the promotion of harmony and unity through musical expression. When not performing with Abu Gara, Jeff can be found sharing the stage with the likes of: Simon "Bad Company" Kirke, Yerba Buena, Eric Alexander, and Yemenite-Israeli singer Bat-Sheva. He has recorded with everyone from Jay-Z to percussion master Zohar Fresco. His other group, the Jeff Peretz Group has shared the stage with The Fugees, Groove Collective, and Brooklyn Funk Essentials.
When did you start to play? I guess I was 12 or 13 years old. There was a guitar that used to hang on the wall in the house I was growing up in, and I just kind of took it down one day started figuring out television commercial melodies on it. Then I took a couple of lessons with a local guy. He showed me some Beatles songs. I happened to live in a town with this great college, William Patterson College, and they have a great jazz program there (which I subsequently graduated from.) I used to go up and hang out at the college, steal licks from some of the guys, and take lessons from time to time with some of the great jazz players that were there. When did you start to notice that your playing was different from everyone else's? I guess in high school. There were different jazz bands that you could get into, and I auditioned and got into the ones I wanted to get into. I got some attention from some of the older players, and that's when I started to take it seriously. I started looking for my own thing pretty early on, because everyone I know that played guitar was looking to sound like the same five players, so wanted to try to get away from that. When did you find your voice as a player? I don't know that I can say that I've found it yet � it's a constantly evolving thing. I've found several voices already; I'm not so sure I could honestly say that any one of them is purely mine. The easy answer is, I haven't found it yet, and the long answer is, it's just a process that I guess will continue on for the rest of my life. What I sound like the day before I die � that would be my sound. How do you keep your playing fresh? By just constantly listening to music and drawing inspiration from all over. I don't have that much time to practice anymore, because I have children. We play hand drums a lot in the house, and we sing a lot, and music is part of our life a lot, so when I get a chance to spend some alone time with the instrument, it's always fresh for me. It's a blessing. Also, I try to stay up on everything that's coming out, in all the different styles that I'm involved in, from rock n' roll to middle eastern music to Brazilian music to jazz. I get very excited when a new Hamza El Din record comes out, a new Pat Metheny record comes out or a new Arctic Monkeys record comes out. I'm first in line for all of those. What do you do when you get stuck? It happens more on a compositional level now than a playing level. I get writer's block when I'm trying to come up with new material for our group, or working on a record and writing with the artist. But not in my playing so much anymore. I love every note I play, whether it's right or wrong, so I don't get stuck playing. What do you still find hard to do? Getting in tune and carrying my amplifier up the three flights of steps to my apartment. How often are you surprised by your playing, or what you're listening to, or music in general? That's a tough question, because it doesn't happen that often. I'll surprise myself sometimes when I play something I've never played before. When Metheny puts out a new record there's always a lick or two that throws me for a loop. But right now, music is not in a place where it's ground-breaking. It's stuck in a neo-classicistic place where it's kind of re-exploring some of the things it's already done, so I don't really get blown away that much right now. Is there a piece of gear you just can't live without? Not really. I'm not really a gear head. I bring to most of my gigs a guitar, and amp, a chord and a pick. I try not to have attachments to the instrument and the gear. I can't live without my Blackberry telephone. Are there one or two core ideas that are central to your teaching that you make sure every student learns? Definitely. One of the books that I've written, "Zen and the Art of the Guitar," pretty much just talks about trying to separate your consciousness from your playing and trying to get an automatic pilot type of type of relationship to the whole thing. So I'm constantly telling my students to not think about it, after they've done all the thinking about it. Another one is I make sure they always count out loud in anything they do, to have them understand that the most immediate element of music is rhythm and they have to develop their relationship with rhythm from the onset of their playing, because if they try to come to it later on it's going to create a lot of pedagogical problems. Do you find yourself returning to listen to the artists who inspired you when you first started to play? Yeah � always. My earliest love of music was the Beatles. Pat Metheny's been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager. John McLaughlin is someone who I really love to check out. Bill Frisell, guys like that. And then all the classic rock stuff. My mother was a hippie, so the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix were on my stereo when I was two years old. The great thing about being a teacher and teaching teenagers and college aged kids, is that a lot of them are discovering stuff for the first time right now, so I get to discover it with them every day. I'm constantly listening to it and hearing it and writing it down to teach it and talk about it. Does your playing change when you switch instruments? A lot of it has to do with technique, and once you develop your technique it kind of transfers to all the other instruments. That being said, playing the oud and playing the saz greatly influences the way I play guitar. Part of the repertoire of the oud is within the techniques. There are picking techniques that really capture the sound of the way that instrument is supposed to be played. And I totally incorporate that in my guitar playing now. I've studied some of the classic repertoire and perform it, and I also write on the oud for our group, Abu Gara. I use the eastern maqam, which is what the scales are called, as a compositional tool to write songs with a harmonic structure that I can improvise on top of, kind of like jazz. What music would you suggest your students listen to? Mostly what I would suggest is to check out music from different parts of the world, and not necessarily guitar players. Hamza El Din is an oudist from Nubia. That's something that really, really flipped my mind when I heard it. Milton Nasciemento from Brazil. Wilco. Guitar player wise, there are some guys here in New York City really doing great things. Dave Fiuczynski, is one, although he's kind of popular now. Ben Monder is another. Kurt Rosenwinkel. What are you listening to these days? Do you search out music that's new and unfamiliar to you? All of the people I mentioned are in constant rotation. I've got an iPod filled with stuff I like. I put it on shuffle a lot, and they all come up from time to time. Lately I've been producing a rock and roll record with a band called Hysterics. It's their debut � it's going to come out on a non indy label in a couple of months � so I've been listening to a lot of the new rock and roll that's been coming out, but mostly for the way it's been produced. Hamza El Din is the kind of music I put on at the end of my day when I just want to relax and enjoy good sounds. Do you have a musical wish list - other instruments to learn, people to play with, artists or styles to explore? Everybody! Everybody who I haven't played with, and everybody who I have. It's not so much instruments or players; I love to travel the world and learn the indigenous musics and instruments from wherever I happen to be, so my wish list would be to continue to be able to do that. And to go different parts of the world where I haven't been and learn about their rhythms and their musics and their instruments and their culture. I'm a big believer that you can't separate the way a style of music sounds from where it comes from. If you really want to get inside of it, you have to go spend some time with that culture to understand how that works. That's one of the great things about living in New York City, is that there are so many great musicians from all over the world. You can just go from restaurant to restaurant and have that same experience at a smaller level. Have you ever had a really great teacher? What made him/her so good? Yeah, I've had several great teachers. My high school jazz teacher is the guy who let me know that I could probably do this if I wanted to, and that's something I'll never forget. John Scofield told me that I should stop trying to sound like every other jazz guitar player already, because they all already exist, and keep looking for my own thing � that was really important. John Damien taught me that I've got to love every note that I play, whether it's right or wrong and to not judge myself while I play, and those are all really important lessons. How do you learn best? Music is an aural art form, so listening to it. Put the record on, figure out, and then play a long with the recording. I also read a lot, and check out a lot of books. But I don't have one way that works for me more than another. Be systematic when you practice. You have to be very organizaed and finish what you start. Otherwise, if you bounce around from idea to idea when you practice, your playing's going to sound scattered. It's really important that you've got to hit it every single day, because if you take three days off, you're just going to go back are redo what you were doing before. You've got to stay in constant motion. If you get 20 minutes a day, it's better than all day Saturday and not at all on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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