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 à 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! 🙂

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! 🙂

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 а 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 – more 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!

WeeklyckZ #29

This week I made for you a video tutorial for a descending picking lick with some interesting flavour – it is in Hungarian minor scale, aka Double harmonic minor scale. The pattern of the phrases is often used in the neoclassical shred – you will see it clearly enough in the slow tempo part of the video.

Enjoy, subscribe and share! 🙂

WeeklyckZ #28

This week in “WeeklyckZ”, I decided to show you another exotic lick, which is a Gm6/9(7#) arpeggio. I know, that the chord name sounds frustrating, but it is not that hard as it seems. The arpeggio is inspired by Django Reinhardt and it is basically a minor arpeggio with added major 6th (which gives the subdominant Django’s flavour), an added major 7th, which makes the chord even more unstable, and a major 9th, which is actually the 2nd note of the scale (melodic minor) – just for fun 🙂
Enjoy, subscribe and share! 🙂

WeeklyckZ #27

This week I am presenting you one more extended range lick, and more specifically, a 7-string one. But this time it’s even more interesting, because it is also a hybrid picking lick, with string skipping. The lick is in Harmonic minor scale in F#m.

Enjoy, subscribe and share! 🙂

WeeklyckZ #26

Another two finger tapping lick, but this time the challenge is more serious, because the lick is based on string skipping. It is in Dorian mode, in the key of Em.

Enjoy, subscribe and share! 🙂

WeeklyckZ #24

This week in “WeeklyckZ” – a little bit of jazzy influence. I made for you tutorial for a descending lick in an octatonic diminished scale, in this particular case – in A, so enjoy, subscribe and share! 🙂

WeeklyckZ #23

This week I am turning up again to the exotic scales and that’s why I made a two finger tapping lick in Double harmonic minor scale, aka Hungarian minor scale, in this particular case – in F#m.

Enjoy, subscribe and share! 🙂

WeeklyckZ #21

This week in “WeeklyckZ” I decided to show you something more interesting as a playing technique, combined with one of my favourite exotic scales. If you haven’t already heard about “hybrid picking” – it’s a method of playing, combining both pick and fingerstyle, giving the opportunity to play wider range of phrases. In this particular case, I used the pick and only my middle finger, and the scale is a japanese one, called “Akebono”. Actually, there are two variants of this scale – the first one sounds like Aeolian mode (E F# G B C), while the other, that I am using, gives more Dorian feel (E F# G B C#).

Enjoy, subscribe and share! 🙂