Kiesel Guitars Solo Contest | Alexandra Zerner

Another cool contest popped up and I had a serious dilemma if I should enter or not, because usually such competitions are an arena of an enormous amount of show off, which is actually disgusting. Then a brilliant idea hit me – I will do an anti-shred 4-note solo! Well, after the spicing, it actually came up to be 7-notes solo (and an additional short “blue” note in the transition arpeggio-like phrase before the theme repeat), but I still kept it simple and melodic. So, here’s the video (vote for me here) and below you can find some additional details, if you’re interested.

In this recording I decided to give a try to my brand new Bias FX from Positive Grid, which is a great plugin to have – I really appreciate it, being a session musician. The guitar is Jackson JS32-8Q, equipped with Kahler 2218 tremolo, and goes directly into my Scarlett 18i8 from Focusrite, without any other devices on the path. Due to the fact, that many people asked me about the preset, that I used, I decided to upload it here, so you can enjoy it and mention me around ūüôā
For downloading the preset – click on the picture.
bias-fx-alexandra-zerner

Nili Brosh’s ‘A Matter of Perception’ Guitar Contest – Alexandra Zerner’s Entry – Behind the Scenes

Generally I stopped participating in guitar competitions, because most of them turned into a shredding show-off, which is not my cup of tea, but this contest grabbed my attention just because Nili Brosh announced it as a melody writing contest, which is something, that I would gladly participate in. It’s done by the courtesy of PremierGuitar as a PG Giveaways.¬†The other major reason is that this contest actually helps Jason Becker by generating donations to his fund and this is a great motivation to me to do something about it.

Nili Brosh is a great player and musician in general, and she does very interesting music, so it was a pleasure for me to compose something over her track. It was a quite challenging task to perform, because of the two distinct¬†parts, bringing very different flavours for the listener, combined with nice chord progressions, so it was really ‘A Matter of Perception’¬†for me to work on.

As a matter of fact, I wrote the second part first – when I heard the track, this √† la Marty Friedman¬†melodic line popped up in my mind immediately, so it should be¬†a shame not to record it. It is a bit harmonically demanding, so I needed to adjust few notes and phrases in order to fit the chord progression good enough. Then came the first section, which¬†sounded to me a bit middle-east asian, so I decided to use an arabic octatonic to build my melodic lines there. I was afraid, that both sections won’t go along together very good, but nevertheless I gave them a chance. I hope you’ll like the result.

Enjoy, subscribe and share! ūüôā

Happy Birthday Song – cover by Alexandra Zerner – Behind the Scenes

The idea of making a cover version of this peremptory hit, is wandering across my mind for a very long time, as the genre concept of the eventual release is changing all the time. In fact, I’ve never found time to invest in developing the idea and coming to a complete idea of how this cover should sound like, until March 10th, when realising that two of my friends have their birthdays on that date, I concluded, that it’s an excellent occasion¬†to start working on this cover.

I already had some basic concepts of what I should do with the harmony in order to make it more interesting and… more me-ish, so I grabbed the 12-string acoustic guitar and started experimenting, until I hit the right key, which, being a synesthete, I value as a component of a high importance. I wanted to integrate several different flavours in the arrangement, because this is how it sounded in my head, so beside the 12-string, I cleaned the dust from the the mandolin’s case and put this small and exquisite instrument at work. I often tend to use a mandolin in a combination with a 12-string guitar in my work as a composer, because it gives me the opportunity to create a broadband string-based soundscape, where these instruments¬†could also¬†move in counterpoints, creating interesting and full harmonic and melodic content.

Then came the piano as a timbral and melodic addition to the acoustic guitar and the mandolin, then the bass and the drums. I put the last two in order to develop the composition dynamically, which was already extended to more than 2 min. because I decided to put a guitar solo part as well, moving into the relative minor key, so I can create more dramatic and well constructed shape of the song.

Finally I came to the lead guitar part, which is the most interesting element here. The first and the obviously most logical approach was to put the main melodic theme, played in a¬†traditional 6/8 bluesy fashion, but then I asked myself “Why should I do that? Everybody would do it exactly this way.” Once I saw a movie, where a guy was asked how he¬†constructs so complex and well working plans, when he’s not that smart. He answered: “I imagine someone smarter than me, and then imagine what they would do.” There is a enormous amount of wisdom in this principle and it saved me a lot of times, when I felt stuck. In this particular case, I imagined my guitar heroes Jason Becker and Marty Friedman and asked myself: “What they would do with this track?” Right away¬†the “answer”¬†popped¬†in my mind and I just translated it into sound, using my guitar.

I must admit, that I fancy¬†the result, which doesn’t happen often, but¬†what’s more interesting is that Jason Becker liked it too and shared it on his facebook page – there couldn’t be a greater recognition for this rendition of mine ūüôā

Concerning the video, I thought that the approach I used for my cover of Dream Theater’s “Wait for Sleep”¬†would be a great idea, that’s why I shot all the takes of the different instruments, except playing the drum parts on my keyboard – it’s not so interesting performance to watch, also it would unnecessarily flood the screen and won’t leave space for more important things.

The other essential thing is, that this is the project, that I finished¬†for the shortest period of time, considering the amount of work – starting from¬†scratch (not even chords on a paper) to a finished¬†video, uploaded to YouTube, there were exactly 12 hours, with two 15 min. breaks within this period. I doubt I will ever do that again, because it’s extremely exhausting, but at least now I know I am capable of doing it.

Well, enough talking – below is the video, so enjoy, subscribe and share! ūüôā

Perpetual Burn (Jason Becker) – Cover by Alexandra Zerner – Behind the Scenes

As you may remember, last year I uploaded a video on my official facebook page of me practicing Jason Becker’s “Perpetual Burn”. This piece is one of the greatest guitar challenges and¬†a milestone for every melodic¬†shred¬†guitarist since 1988, when the “Perpetual Burn” album was released. So, this video of mine was shot for personal intends in order to check where I am in the process of learning and polishing the piece. Due to my practice to upload such videos to my facebook page, I decided to upload and this one and five minutes later, Jason Becker himself posted it on his page, which left me with my jaw dropped… Honestly, I didn’t expect such thing, at least because this so-called cover that I did, wasn’t the full track – it stopped somewhere around 2/3 of the length, also it was captured by the built-in microphone of my laptop and the sound quality was pretty bad. Nevertheless, I gained a serious amount of views and popularity, which was,¬†according to my own beliefs, an undeserved fame, especially when later the same year Jason Becker mentioned my cover in the October edition of Guitar Player Magazine¬†along with Jeff Loomis (whom I would like to thank a lot for the great backing track of “Perpetual Burn”). I felt both proud and bit ashamed, because it’s a great thing for someone to be aknowledged by their idols, but at the same time I¬†still didn’t think I should get such credits for just a practice video with a poor quality. This, though, motivated me to sit down on my butt and practice¬†“Perpetual Burn” until I get it right – it was a long and difficult road to walk on, because I learnt this piece by ear, which is a serious challenge, considering the speed of certain phrases, also every month I was discovering, that I play something wrong and I needed to fix my mistakes. Finally, I reached some point, where I think I played the piece at an acceptably high level, so I decided to shoot a decent video of it and put in on YouTube. This, of course, led to issues that every musican is pretty familiar with – the sudden drop of the playing abilities when recording, which combined with my “recording apnea”, causing constant hiccups, forced me to play this piece about 30 times in a row to get it right on the video. As a result, my hands got very tired and a bit aching at the end, but I think the result is somewhat good, so enjoy and feel free to share:

Alexandra Zerner joins Vivaldi Metal Project

As you probably know, besides the progressive rock and metal, I am also a big fan of the Baroque music, which inevitably makes me a fan of Antonio Vivaldi’s work. When I heard about Vivaldi Metal Project, I was fascinated by the idea and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me, if somehow I participate in this great project, started by great musicians as Mistheria (keyboards) and¬†Alberto Rigoni (bass).¬†The project involves 70+ world-famous musicians from all around the globe such as:

Rick Wakeman (YES), Mark Boals (Y. Malmsteen), Rob Rock (Impellitteri), Edu Falaschi(Angra/Almah), Ruud Jolie (Within Temptation), Rolf Pilve (Stratovarius), Michael Lepond (SymphonyX), John Macaluso (ARK/TNT), Mark Cross (Scorpions/Firewind), Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork), Chris Caffery (Savatage), Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire/Angra), Dani Loeble (Helloween), Victor Smolski (Rage/Almanac), Marco Sfogli (J. LaBrie), Mark Wood (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Andreas Passmark (Royal Hunt), Steve Di Giorgio (Testament), Anna Portalupi (Tarja), Atma Anur (T. MacAlpine/G. Howe), Tommy Denander (Radioactive/Toto) and many more.

Now you can see, that it’s been a great honour to be accepted in this costellation¬†of talents.
Here’s my page at the¬†site: Alexandra Zerner (guitar) | Vivaldi Metal Project.

Alexandra Zerner’s “Aspects” (2015) – Behind the Scenes

Once upon a time, the solo musicians and the bands have been releasing a new album almost every year. These were good times, ages of nice and intelligent music for intelligent people, played for real. But those days are long gone now. Today, the darkness is creeping all over the Earth, sneaking up into the tiniest holes of every single media, troubling the good people and comforting the bad ones.
In thess times of terror, I stood for the sake of the good music, in the name of the ones, who built the Empire of the Guitar!
I released a second solo album just one year after my debut one!
And this album, I called “Aspects”!


My first album “9 Stories” was –į conceptual one, although it may not sound like such, but anyway – all the pieces in there were inspired by books and movies, having something in common in their plots. If you have read/seen them, you will notice, that every single one of them describes the relationship (of any kind) between older, wiser man, and younger girl… I will leave the rest to your imagination.
Due to my passion to enigmatic works, symbolism, and occultism, also being a devoted progressive metal/rock listener and fan (besides being a player as well), it came naturally to put my efforts in composing a more conceptual album, or at least Рmore noticeable conceptual.

The first question I am receiving, everytime I speak about my second album is “What aspects?” Well, the answer couldn’t be short, because I need to put on the table certain terms, along with clarifications, so they could serve as a background for further explanations. So, basically, we’re talking about astrological aspects (detailed explanation here). I used this as a base, because the concept of the album is, again, relationships between people; in this particular case – me and other people. Everyone you meet falls in some basic category according to astrology, and this category (zodiac sign) forms a specific aspect with your own¬†zodiac sign. This aspect produce an¬†environment of the relationship, which can also be categorised to certain degree, so when summarising all of these experiences as objectively as possible, you could describe and even predict this environment, therefore¬†the relationship itself. This is what I did, composing every one of these seven aspect-pieces – I did my best to paint in a musical form how I felt in all these personal environments, connected them all in a quasi-scientific order, and put them into the bigger picture.

When you’re listening to the album (the video below), at certain point you will notice repeating motifs, patterns and reprises – these were made, considering the specifics of the already mentioned relationship environments, that came up to be similar between the different aspects, and the zodiac signs¬†Elements as well (more on the topic here). You will also see, that the pieces are 9, but I mentioned only 7 aspects – I used two more basic astrological events for an intro and outro track of the album, as they still have their important roles in the whole piece – the Ascendant is considered to indicate the direction of the individual’s path in life and the soul’s intention, while the Descendant¬†indicates our perception of others, notably in our intimate relationships, thus these both, put that way in the whole picture, form this specific journey from “me” to “you/us”.

Being a some sort of esoteric and occult geek, I decided to present this work of mine in the style of the¬†medieval mysticism, so I used the old latin names of the aspects, put some¬†alchemy symbols in there, and used¬†a big amount of symbolism in the main drawing, which I scratched¬†with a pen on a piece of paper, then I gave it to Sofia Zasheva (check her other works here), who did miracles and created great artwork. In this matter, she also did the artwork for my first album – “9 Stories” (both albums can be purchased here).

In a purely musical sense, this album is more prog, more metal, and maybe a bit darker than¬†“9 Stories”, and this time not every instrument part was recorded by me – the bass parts were played by Simon Slavcheff, who is (besides being a great¬†bass player) and¬†my sound engineering mentor – he helped me a lot with the mastering of the album. There is also¬†a guest musician appearance from the Land of the Rising Sun – Japan, where the amazing Keiko Kumagai does her keyboard sorcery with her well known japanese progressive rock band Ars Nova.¬†Keiko was so kind to accept my invitation to contribute to my album and she did a great keyboard solo on my track Quadratum.

Speaking of the technical side, this time I used 8-string guitar for the whole album – my Jackson JS32-8Q, which I customised by replacing the bridge humbucker with¬†Seymour Duncan Pegasus, put a Kahler 2218 stud mount tremolo on the guitar, also now it has my custom, designed by me, Moon Phase Inlays, special thanks to Univox Guitars Bulgaria. I recorded all the electric guitar parts with this guitar, plugged into my tube preamp from Engl Amps – the E530¬†(with¬†a Boss GT-8 plugged into the FX loop), and then the preamp goes directly into the sound device, without an amp. I used D’addario EXL120-8 strings and¬†Jim Dunlop Jazz III 2.0 guitar picks. Almost all of the gear, I use, I got it with the great help of Nikki Savov from MusicWorld.bg.

Well, I hope I enlightened you good enough about my ways and reasons to do my album this way, so the rest is up to your ears and brains. Enjoy and buy it if you like it!

Carol of the Bells (Shchedryk) – cover by Alexandra Zerner – Behind the Scenes

Here come the holidays again and this year I decided to do something, that I intended for a long time. I guess you’re familiar with the piece, named “Carol of the Bells” and maybe some of you were singing it around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Well, this piece has an interesting story, that I decided to share with you, before I show you my cover:

“Shchedryk” (from Ukrainian: –©–Ķ–ī—Ä–ł–Ļ –≤–Ķ—ái—Ä, “Bountiful Evening”) is a Ukrainian “shchedrivka”, or New Year’s carol. It was arranged by composer and teacher Mykola Leontovych in 1916, and tells a story of a swallow flying into a household to sing of wealth that will come with the following spring. “Shchedryk” was originally sung on the night of January 13, New Year’s Eve in the Julian Calendar (December 31 Old Style), which is “Shchedry Vechir”. Early performances of the piece were made by students at Kyiv University.

“Shchedryk” was later adapted as an English Christmas carol, “Carol of the Bells”, by Peter J. Wilhousky following a performance of the original song by Alexander Koshetz’s Ukrainian National Chorus at Carnegie Hall on October 5, 1921. Wilhousky copyrighted and published his new lyrics (which were not based on the Ukrainian lyrics) in 1936, and the song became popular in the United States, where it became strongly associated with Christmas. (Wikipedia)

Now, when you know the story, I want to add, that I used the arrangement, that Mykola Leontovych did, but transposed it in Dm, because it sounded better on guitar (the original key is Gm). So… enough talking… here’s my cover.

Enjoy, subscribe and share! ūüôā

Memoirs of a Geisha – Guitar Playthrough Video

A lot of people told me, that “Memoirs of a Geisha” is their favourite track from my debut solo album “9 Stories”, so I decided to do a playthrough video of it. Recently, a friend of mine gave me a beautiful chinese black dress with dragons on it, and when I saw it, I thought that this dress would fit perfectly to the concept of¬†the video of “Memoirs of a Geisha”. So¬†I put it on, put some delicate makeup and started shooting… I hope you will like the result.

Enjoy, subscribe and share! ūüôā

P.S. In my “WeeklyckZ” videos, I did several tutorials about licks, taken from this track, so if you’re interested, check them below the video.