Billy Pezzack began playing the guitar at age 12 . He was completely self taught for well over 20 years.
He later studied music as a mature student gaining -
B.MusHons P.M.P Degree ( Guitar Institute London - Grad 2002 )
P.G.DipMus Jazz Studies ( R.W.C.M.D - Grad 2008 )
M.Mus ( top up masters course with A.M.S - London college of Music)
He has now been playing guitar for over 40 years and taught his first paying guitar student in 1989 . He currently teaches guitar for Cardiff university's contemporary music degree course and at his private home studio.
Read Cardiff University's blog on Billy Pezzack - https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/music/people/instrumental-and-vocal-tutors/billy-pezzack
Billy also creates his own brand of contemporary instrumental jazz which is a heady blend of his strong early rock and blues influences with the added harmonic sophistication of Jazz .
... oh and he's also a singer song writer when the urge takes him.
Yes this could be just fancy words and ' biggin' it up ' 'promo blurb' ... which then might lead you to thinking he's trying to cover too much musical ground - until you check out just what he can deliver in all of these styles -
Check out the example video's below of Billy playing in a range of styles ... and there's even more on the 'Billy Pezzack guitar lessons' , ' You tube' channel
Example 1 -
Singer songwriter ?
Here's an original ' Folkie pop ' song from Billy
Like most Billy first connected to the guitar through popular song -
The way we respond to music is of course about the percieved emotional content and energy levels - Lyrics obviously then play a massive part in getting the point across -
A great melody / song with some simple chord changes can be one of the most communicative things you can do with a guitar .
Example 2 -
Playing ' Blues guitar ' is all about vibe and feel.
You can of course take a simple no nonsense approach and dig in with the maj and min blues scales - Billy does that here and lets us know he has the blues vibe wise - but then mix's things up a little 'playing on the chords' to add more sophistication.
Example 3 -
Here's an original ' Shred rock ' tune -
This guitar style is all about blazing 'technique' - Fast picking and legato runs / Sweeps / 2 hand tapping / Pinch harmonics etc
Here Billy adds a twist on what you might expect at the solo section ( more shred ! ) ...Adding instead some unexpected harmonic sophistication / unexpected chord types and sophisticated chord substitution .
Example 4 -
Here's a clip of Billy letting go of playing 'style' or 'genre' a little and searching -reaching for something new... there is clearly a strong jazz / bebop influence and approach - but there's also moments of shred ( Shredbop ! )
Jazz, Shred, rock, Blues and Funk etc all happily banging heads in this one !
Jazz is a little ( four letter ) word that people use too often to attempt to summarize and define around 120 years of music making - from Trad , Dixie , Big Band swing , Popular song , Crooning , Bebop , Blues , Cool, Modal , Free jazz , jazz fusion , jazz rock , jazz funk ... jazz metal
If you say you dont like 'jazz' ... then you probably just havent heard ' your kind ' !
Most good musicians understand it as ' improvisation ' on chords - you have to know your chord types ! ... and for most, it must swing ! : )
Billy has recorded x2 original instrumental guitar albums to date -
' I don't really think of ' style' so much when I am writing or playing my own music ... just the mood or vibe I am trying to get across - I've been influenced by a lot of music styles and musicians over the years but its all definately still in there when I just let go and play.
You can check out what happens when Billy lets go of any 'style' constraints and fuses his Rock , Blues and jazz influences on his albums -
Blues guitarist ? Rock musician ? Singer songwriter ? Jazz head ?
A little confused ?
He's not - He says he's simply 'music mad'
I remember the exact moment like it was yesterday. This local kid Hadyn knocked our door and asked for my older brother. He had an Eko acoustic guitar with him, no case and while I shouted to my brother he stood there with his foot on the garden wall strumming G to Em. I knew him but hadn’t seen him play guitar before. I was jaw dropped. It just sounded fantastic. He let me have a few plays on his guitar over the next couple of weeks and I was hooked.
The first guitar I got to keep was an acoustic which only had 1 string. It was just left lying around the house. I got a tune or 2 happening on that. I can remember playing ' Satisfaction ' the Rolling Stones riff .I then had a second hand Jedson Tele that wasn't very playable and I had the same problem with a lack of strings after a few weeks .For some reason it also kept getting taken to pieces and painted. It was Red then Blue then Black ... but not really played very much.
Eventually I got a playable Eko acoustic guitar myself for Xmas, I was 13 and I went nuts practicing the few chords and riffs that I had picked up. I couldn’t leave it alone.I also discovered the musics shops in town where I could get new strings !
The first things I learnt to play were songs. I always sang as a kid. I can’t remember not singing. I used to go and sit in the old stone walled toilet we had because I liked the sound when I sang in there, the reverb.
The first music I was exposed to was Elvis and the rock' n roll stuff my mother was listening to I suppose, so that was what I was interested in learning at first. She also had Rolling Stones and Beatles records , 50's and 60's stuff mostly - Motown . I loved the Beatles . My older brother was a big fan of their music and he used to get the Beatles monthly magazines (these were the mid 1970'S re issues ) so I would steal them and read them back to front ten times. I then got a guitar version Beatles song book and spent hours and hours with that . I started writing songs at about age 13 or 14 . Then a bit later on another friend brought Pink Floyds ' The dark side of the moon ' and ' Wish you were here' LP's to the house. It was life changing. I went electric at about age 16 and then really tried to develop my soloing. It was good that I had spent a few years just singing and playing acoustic guitar. Like most I had connected so much with songs at first . Simple Chords. Chord progressions. I have taught lots of beginners who just try to play riffs and solo's as soon as they pick up a guitar and dont know any chords ! Singing really helps a lot and you really do need to know your chords or you wont ever understand much.
Yes , but not just guitarists .I really started listening to music with a lot more focus and became hooked on the long guitar solo’s but also the sax playing , bass lines , grooves , drums , everything. I really started listening to instrumental music then I suppose.
I carried on listening to song based music but I was never really happy with my own singing and as the years went by I just got deeper and deeper into instrumental music making and guitar playing. Looking back, it seems like a series of accidents the way I progressed. I didn’t take any lessons and figured a lot of stuff by ear off the records. I remember I recorded a G major vamp on my tape recorder and then sitting there for hours trying to figure where all the sweet notes lived on my fingerboard. I eventually came across the info; the basic scale and chord books I had, I had found by complete accident. I was seriously ripe for it and desperate to order things and get on with being creative !
No, no one ever taught me how to play rock guitar. I had no lessons or anyone showing me any technique from the beginning . I had taught myself right up till I went to uni / the guitar institute. I was 35 before I started taking lessons at uni and had been playing since age 12 ...so I was self taught for 23 years. Its really silly looking back , lots of wasted time. I really wish I had taken lessons as a little kid. But then when I stop and think about it ... I dont think its the 'rich kids ' who have had a great musical education on their guitars that are always going to be the ones to watch... It's also about having creative musical idea's and not just mastering an existing genre ... not just being good at the stuff thats already been done before .Bringing something of yourself to it is the big challenge.
Being 'self taught' , I struggled like most to teach myself for a long time. This was way back in those sunny days long before ' You tube ' or the internet ... and even a few years before we had a VHS video player. I did my own transcrriptions of lots of stuff from vinyl and tape. I got things wrong of course ... but I came up with similar rhythms and note choices which worked.
Thats really the way most players learnt back then . You just gave it a go if you didnt know anyone who could show you. I had outgrown and over taken the guitar players I knew fairly quickly and no one I knew of was teaching advanced stuff , so I was on my own ! I did my own transcriptions of everything I liked .
I always remember reading about the Beatles, Paul and George getting on a bus to go and see this guy who lived in the next town who could play a B7 chord ... It was a bit like that for me for a while .
I did try a couple of times to find a teacher ... but no one I knew or heard of around where I lived was playing the way , or the kind of stuff that I wanted to play at the time .
Looking back now I know that I went around the block a few hundred times more than I needed to. That’s a big regret, that I didn’t really get a good early start. It was a bit like trying to re invent the wheel without taking lessons !
I had started teaching a few students by the mid 90's as I was by then pretty good at technique driven rock and simple song stuff... I became a dad in 1995 so was taking things more seriously. I found out the Guitar Institute were running the degree course and I saw it as a way to prove what I had already achieved with my playing . I simply thought I could get taken more seriously as a musician / guitar teacher with a music degree .
I was self taught for well over 20 years until I enrolled at Uni . Coming from a single parent large family ( 7 kids ! ) meant not ever having the luxury of taking guitar lessons early on. I left school with no qualifications ... My family life was pretty messed up and I had missed so much school . I didn't ever imagine myself at uni.
I suppose that makes me very aware of the pitfalls that most self taught guitar players encounter .I think that really makes me a more understanding guitar teacher. I certainly don’t judge and assess simply by grade and academic levels. Real world it’s more complex with the way people learn to do things. Anyway going strictly by the book is not always the most interesting is it?
I first studied as a mature student at Thames Valley University Guitar Institute in London. Their degree course started out music performance wise with R'n B then moved on to Funk , Rock... Jazz was required from year 2 on if I remember correctly .
I was up for the challenge by then anyway as I had been playing for a long time . I didn't ever see myself turning into a straight ahead jazzer. But I was driven to try and understand it - how to play on more challenging changes - on complex chords moving quickly.To develop better control in my music making .
I did my degree there and then after graduating ( B.Mus Hons grad 2002 ) I took another 2 years of monthly private jazz lessons with Shaun Baxter . I had taken the jazz rock fusion module with the advanced playing style option at the guitar institute . There was a choice of advanced style specialising with Jazz ii or jazz Fusion options and I felt at the time that relying on my technique a little more was a safe / better brownie points collecting bet. I was actually really more interested in the further jazz studies. Shaun was head of jazz studies throughout my time at the Guitar Institute and is a fantastic musician and teacher. I leant a lot about teaching from the staff at the guitar institute.
At the Guitar Institute Billy gained final distinctions in:
I then went on to do more Jazz study with post grad jazz studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama ( R.W.C.M.D ) in Cardiff ( P.G.DipMus grad 2008 )
So I did the B.MusHons course in London and then advanced jazz studies with P.G.DipMus in Cardiff.
Jazz was always lurking in the distance. I always had a massive respect for the level of control the best jazz musicians display . It’s just been a gradual and natural development via pop and rock music. I just kept trying new things and always moving forward.
I had progressed from thinking of guitar as a singer song writing thing , through Blues, Rock / shred , some Rock fusion & then later jazz. I didnt ever at any point stop and think to myself , right I have got this style down and then move on. I just kept getting distracted by the music I came across . I still do !
I didn’t grow up with a jazz musician dad or uncle and get it right from the off like some do ( wish I had ! ) . It was a long development , growth thing . That makes me a certain kind of musician I suppose. I like that anyway , Its not so same' y ... maybe the more thats thrown into the pot, the more original the stew is... Okay yes, I am very proud of my dodgy musical past ! ha ha
I dont really think of myself as a jazz musician or a blues / rock musician anyway. I am a guitar player. I make 'music' on guitar and thats it. I studied contemporary
music/jazz to learn harmony and theory ...gain control , to learn the language and develop my voice on guitar. People do seem to need to give a name or category for the stuff we make
though , maybe so they know where to put it, which shelf to put it on or file to put it in . Its all just under ' music' or 'guitar stuff' on my computer !
If the kind of 'jazz music' I create is a bit more rock or bluesy or funky than what the listener might expect , I can live with that. I never liked copyists ... even if its really hard and takes you 20 years or more to copy it , its still just a copy thing anyway isn't it ?
I still enjoy a good sing a long with students every week as I teach singer song writing stuff a fair bit. I also teach a lot of rock and blues guitar, I always have. I often say to people when talking about muso 'taste’ that I would still value a simple 3 chord song like John Lennons ‘Working Class Hero’ over a vibeless join the dots jazz tune that has no meaning or conviction other than ' we are clever’ . I think music works best when it has a strong feeling. It could be 'spooky', ‘funky’ ,'sad' or 'angry etc but if you don’t get a feeling from it other than ' we have practiced a lot ' it’s not going to have much appeal to me. Okay, sometimes pure technique is fascinating, sometimes dazzling, especially if you don’t have much of it and are at the envy stage. But it’s kind of like looking at and admiring the letters in a sentence. Its the words, the whole conversation that we are touched by. It’s really about communication.
I have taken a few lessons since doing post Grad jazz studies but I have some individual concept and technique things that I am excited about and trying to develop and adapt to. I am certainly still working on developing as a player and composer - revising stuff , its still a work in progress. Thats the fun ... or I would get bored with it.
There is no end to it , I will always keep learning. It really is a life long thing.
In fact I need a few more life times to get to where I'd like to be with my music making !
Depends what guitar I'm playing really ... 10's for rock / blues - the 'all round stuff ' on my strat - but I use flatwound 13's for jazz . I think it's a good idea to have a few guitars ( yeah of course I would ! ! ) because they do take a little time to get used to swapping up or down string gauge's - they will probably need a little adjustment if you change string gauge ... and also some time to adjust as 13's have a very different level of tension to 10's . It's a good reason to claim I ' need ' all my guitars anyway !! ha ha.
Creative music wise I have always got an idea in my head , I am really not happy unless I have a project on the go ... So more to come , yes.
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