--- Kris Barras Interview--- 12/Feb/06
Hi Kris - so, how long have you been playing guitar?
- I started playing guitar at the tender age of six, shredding away versions of 'Happy Birthday' and 'Frere Jacques'. You know, quality stuff!!! I'm currently 20 years old, so i guess thats 14 yrs of playing.
I guess so! A lot of people worry that because they didn't start to play at a young age they may not ever be as good as they'd like to be. What is your opinion on this matter?
- Well obviously i'd consider it an advantage starting at an early age. However, I don't really think it's that important. Unless you're like 80 years old or something, then i think you've got no chance of being the next Vai!!! Take Satriani for example, he didn't start until he was about 14 i think, and UK Jazz Metal pioneer Shaun Baxter didn't start until his late teens.
How many hours per week do you usually practice playing guitar?
- Not as much as I would like. Too many darn students!!!! A few years back, I was only teaching about 15 people/week, so I had time for 8 hours/day practice at least. It was solid, structured practice too. These days with all my teaching, recording and general musical prostitution, I manage a couple of hours/day. Just to keep my technique topped up, and working on new ideas etc.
Motivation is crucial to develop as a guitarist, what motivates you to sit down and practice?
- You know the best thing for me, is watching a video/dvd of a quality player. I see some of these guys and think "$@#&%!!! I gotta get my Sh*t together!!!"
sure, but i bet a lot of people think that when they watch you play as well?
- But seriously though, the real motivation for me is just the guitar itself and it's capabilities. That's enough motivation for me. I love nothing more than sitting down and trying out different ideas, different approaches to improvisation etc. That feeling when you break through a barrier, a brick wall in your playing, its the best.
What does your average practice routine consist of?
- Lots of swearing, couple cans of beer and sh*t loads of sheet music!!! Nah not really, I'm always really structured in my practice rountines, and I don't drink beer! Only good old English Tea! I like to split the session into sections. You know, like I'll do a 30 min warm-up routine through a range of techniques, then do a section on improvisational ideas, and work on each individual technique like sweep picking, legato etc. I might spend a bit of time transcribing, working on my aural technique. Make sure you spell that "A U R A L" !!
I keep everything separate, then at the end i'll work on combining them in phrases, possibly over a backing track. That's the fun part. You have to make it fun aswell, so make sure you leave some time at the end of a section to practice jamming over a track.
You're an expert in music theory and teach at The Academy of Music and Sound. What would you tell a student who questioned the importance of learning the theoretical side of music?
- I would say it is essential. When you learn to drive, you don't say "I wanna learn to steer, but can't be bothered to learn what the traffic lights mean" do ya?! I think if you want to achieve any kind of advanced level then you must understand at least the basics of music theory. Now I'm not talking about understanding the ins and outs of Baroque counterpoint, just understanding chord and scale construction. Knowledge of chord progressions, Key centers etc is a valuable skill for song writing. Good improvisors need to know their modes, arpeggios etc otherwise they are destined to join the other 20 trillion pub guitarists 'widdling' in Minor Pentatonic heaven. Music reading is a great tool as well.
It's a universal language
- Exactly, I could give a piece of music to a Japanese session pianist who reads notation but can't speak a word of English, and he would play it perfectly. We would be playing music together perfectly, without having to say a word. None of the usual band practice banter "you're supposed to go to D minor in that section IDIOT!!!"
I understand you are currently working on your debut CD, can you tell us a little bit about what to expect?
- Its music. I've spent a lot of time working on technique, but I will always maintain that melody comes first. I'm not into some of these 'mechanical' players out there. Yeh ok, they can alternate pick 24 notes a second but where's the tune? Where's the hook? My stuff is kind of a Rock Fusion sort of thing. Rock mixed with Jazz, Blues, Funk. That sort of thing. I mix technical stuff with melody.
There is a demo track available for download on your page so our visitors can check that out now. You are also working on some things for Shred Academy, as well as your free lesson. Can you tell us what they are?
- Yeah, I'm working on an E-Book at the moment which features chapters including Alternate Picking, Sweep Picking, Legato, Tapping etc. It will start from the basics of each technique and work straight through to more advanced stuff. Its aim is to give you something that will last. For example, people new to any kind of speed playing will struggle with later sections, but in a few months/years hopefully you will manage them with ease. It won't do it for you though.
as long as you put the time in, right?
- Of course, you will need to mix the exercises/techniques explained in the book with sweat, blood and tears. There is no easy way to become a great player, but this book should make the rough ride a little smoother.
I'm sure it will be great, we'll put up more news on that when it's ready to go on sale. Thanks for your time Kris. Check out more from Kris at his website www.krisbarras.com