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 🙂

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! 🙂

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:

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: Щедрий вечiр, “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! 🙂

Morning Star (Vinnie Moore) – cover by Alexandra Zerner

Here’s one more shred guitar cover, that I did – it’s a Vinnie Moore’s track from his great album “Time Odyssey”, and I think it’s the track, that I love the most from this album – “Morning Star”.

I put a lot of efforts to learn this one, because Vinnie is one of the most clearly playing guitarists, so it is hard to achieve his preciseness, also learning such piece by ear is very time consuming, but definitely rewarding.

Enjoy, subscribe and share! 🙂

Brothers (Yngwie Malmsteen) – cover by Alexandra Zerner

I didn’t do any covers recently, because I’ve got a lot of work, also I am writing material for my second album, but this track by Yngwie Malmsteen (one of my favourite guitar players) doesn’t stop rushing in my mind since this masterpiece “The Seventh Sign” was released back in 1994. These were still tough years here, in Bulgaria, because the country was freshly freed from the communistic regime, and the only way to learn playing something, was rewinding the casette over and over again, until you get to hear the exact phrase. You can be sure it is very hard task to do, especially when it comes to such guitar heroes like Yngwie. Nevertheless, I finally made up my mind to sit down and learn this piece good enough, so I would be able to make a good cover of it. I recorded my own, a little bit rearranged backing track, partly (but not only) because the key is Am, but Yngwie tunes his guitar half step down, so it actually sounds in G#m… However, I don’t like transposing music to a key, different than the original, because it kills the music in some degree, also me, being a synesthete, changing the key changes the colours, that I am “hearing”, hence it feels uncomfortable. And because my guitar is in standart tuning, I had to play it in G#m, as you will see in the video below.
Another interesting thing is, that this is also the first track, that I am recording with my upgraded 8-string Jackson JS32-8Q – I put a Seymour Duncan Pegasus and a Kahler 2218 Stud Mount tremolo on it. I used and my brand new tube preamp ENGL E530, with my Boss GT-8, plugged in the FX loop of the unit. Keep in mind, that the preamp is plugged directly into the sound device, no cabinets or simulations. I am writing this, because there are no demos for this preamp, plugged direcly like that, so most of the people, who are interested in getting this unit, can’t decide whether they like it or not. Well, enough talking! Here’s the video, so enjoy, subscribe and share all around! 🙂

Cryin’ by Joe Satriani – covered by Alexandra Zerner

It was a long time, since I did my last cover, but this masterpiece of Joe Satriani remained stuck in my mind for so long, that it would be a shame not to try to play it… and put something from me in there as well. I must admit, that beside the strong emotional load, this piece consist of, it is also like a guitar lesson about string bending – so many of them here, every single one being pitched perfectly by maestro Satriani, so even though it is far from shredding, it is still a great challenge for every lead guitarist.

Well, enough talking – here’s the video, so enjoy, subscribe to my channel and share! 🙂

 

Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov | Flight of the Bumblebee

Because I’ve recently got my first 8-string guitar from Jackson Guitars, I decided to make something interesting… like arranging “Flight Of The Bumblebee” in some sort of a djent style. I thought, that there are too many people, who just play this piece from 170 bpm to 98234098234098 bpm, using the same midi file as a background, which is a little bit annoying in a musical aspect… Of course, I highly respect these people, who had the patience to reach such speeds, but I didn’t do this cover to compete with someone. I am not trying to be the fastest guitar player – I can’t be, neither it’s a goal for me. I actually like the music in this piece, because it is a great example of making a melody, using mainly chromatic scales. This was and the challenge for me – I needed to integrate very different counterparts and low end riffs, which needed to keep the harmony of the piece and give it a brand new modern sounding at the same time.

Well, enough talking from me. Below is the video, so enjoy, subscribe, share and… enjoy again 😉

Wait For Sleep (by Dream Theater)

It is some idea, I was thinking about for some time, and when I heard the complete arrangement in a dream two days ago, I was already convinced, that I had to make this cover, dead or alive…images and words 😉 … I even put my phone to the charger the night before, because it would play an important role in this recording, being the only option to record video, while playing piano via sampler on the laptop… Well, I am actually a little bit surprised, that I did all the takes almost from the first attempt, so I plan to give myself some medal… or chocolate… or beer… or both 😀
So, I am not a singer, therefore I had to replace the vocal part with something – a guitar, for an example 😀
Well…. too many words… let’s start with the images:

Alex Uncovered

Brand new feature on my #YouTube channel (Alexandra Zerner Official), which is called “Alex Uncovered”… Too many meanings for explaining why it is called that way, so I leave it all to your imagination 😉

The point of this feature is to be found a place, where you can see all of the covers I do of my favourite songs and instrumental pieces, so they will be easily accessable and you can enjoy the things I enjoy 🙂

 

Alex Uncovered