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Rock Guitar Improvisation by Brett Garsed

It's been a while since I reviewed Brett's first instructional video ("Rock Fusion"), but it's been even longer since that one was released in the first place. We have since moved into a new century, new technologies have become available, and hense Brett's latest offering comes on a DVD.. and what a great package it is.


Let's start with the features. This DVD basically consists of three parts.
The instructional part, which lasts for about an hour, covers the following topics:

- Tuning
- Ear Training
- Hybrid Picking
- Legato Technique
- Fretboard Coverage
- Modal Improvisation
- Slide Guitar

I'll get to this later...

Next is the "Live Footage"... which consists of about 30 minutes of live footage of Brett performing with his band. The playlist includes mainly songs from the "Big Sky" album, but also a live-version of "Food Fight", which is NOT on that album.

The video- and audio-quality is awesome. You get plenty of upclose-shots of Brett's hands, which is cool, especially after watching the instructional part. This is where you'll see some of the concepts Brett talks about at work!

The third part is the "Bonus" section...
Three pretty rare clips, recorded live. The first one is a solo of Brett from a show he did with John Farnham, the second one is the first part of the legendary "Nelson-solo" (recorded during one of the tours Brett did with Nelson), and the third one is a song from a MI-performance of Garsed-Helmerich... so you get to see some playing by Brett's partner-in-crime, tapping-master TJ Helmerich.

The clips in the "Bonus" section will not only interest fans of Brett (I was really excited to finally see some video-footage of those older performances!), but will further prove what an amazing player this guy is.

The Instructional Part

The video- and audio-quality at the "core" of this DVD (the instructional part) is really great. Brett is sitting in front of the camera with his gorgeous ESP, and discusses some topics that he has spoken about before (in his first video), and some new topics he didn't talk about previously in any video.

Don't worry, even if you own "Rock Fusion", this video will be extremely helpful and interesting to you. I'd consider it both a continuation AND a "more detailed version" of "Rock Fusion".

You can see that 10 years have passed (during which time Brett continued to teach at the MI), by the way he now tackles topics like "Hybrid Picking" and "Legato Technique"- a bit differently than in the first video.

All licks are displayed on the screen while Brett plays them. To some, this may be seen as a bit of a disadvantage. It doesn't bother me personally and if it did, I'd take some time and make a Powertab-transcription of the licks in order to have them down on paper. I guess this was done in order to save on printing costs (and ultimately, the price of the DVD), and again, I don't see this as a real disadvantage.

Brett starts with a short section about "ear training", demonstrating some very basic exercises you can perform with your guitar to work on your ear. This might be an odd choice to start an instructional DVD with, but it sets the mood for what's to come... this video is extremely MUSICAL and Brett never ceases to point out that you should use your ears and think musically instead of just worrying about the technique. He also mentions some of his experiences with students which I like a LOT, cuz the musical part is often forgotten about in instructionals.

Next, he talks about his hybrid picking technique. If you have ever seen him play (remember that this DVD will enable you to see footage of him playing some of his songs!), you know what an amazing finger-technique he has, - playing stuff that sounds like sweeping, when actually it's hybrid picking. This is a very interesting part, with lots of great licks.

Another technique, that Brett is amazing at, is legato. This is the one he discusses next, giving away lots of great licks utilizing hammer-on's, pull offs, small slides, and approaches like string-skipping (one lick reminded me of the amazing string-skipping lines in the Nelson-solo a lot!).

"Fretboard Coverage" deals with patterns and how you get out of them if you're stuck in the "pattern way of thinking". This seems to be an essential topic for Brett, and being a teacher myself, I know why.

He starts this chapter off by showing how you can play a simple lick in so many different ways, thereby demonstrating perfectly that there is no reason to get stuck in one pattern.

"Modal Improvisation"... deals with playing through changes. Brett points out that he considers himself "Not a jazz player, but an improvising rock player", and therefore, the lesson is not centered around hyper-complicated improvisation math-stuff, but rather a great, musical approach to improvising over different chords. In this section, he jams over some jam-tracks, which is a very hands-on approach as opposed to just talking about theoretical possibilities.

The final chapter of the instructional part deals with slide-playing... yet another technique Brett uses a lot. He might not be a "classical blues-slide player" a la Ry Cooder, but he uses the slide a lot to create vocal-like lines and melodies.

Since Brett points out the problems he encountered when he started using a slide, and due to the fact he uses A regular tuning, this section might be great for players who haven't yet tried slide-playing. Rest assured, the info in this chapter is pretty unlike regular "slide instructionals"

Bottom Line:

A GREAT video by a great player. This is not simply revising his older video, there's plenty of new stuff in there that should be interesting for any rock- or fusion-player who likes to improvise.

It shows that Brett has been teaching a lot at the MI, since he is a great instructor... his approach is very hand-on, he knows about common problems and points them out, kind of like a warning.

The topics and licks are very unlike most other instructional videos, and might be a good way to get out of any rut you may be stuck in. The best part is that it's all very musical, instead of just "here is lick 1... here it is slow... now practice" type stuff.

After you have worked your chops off, it's time to enjoy some great music and you get more than half an hour of music by an awesome player as a bonus. Since there are no other performance DVDs by Brett out, this should be of particular interest to Brett-fans, and not only them.

The fact that TAB is displayed on-screen might look like an disadvantage, but IMO, it really is not.


Even though some of the philosophies in here will be interesting for beginners, I'd say that this is primarily appropriate for advanced players... whether they're stuck in a rut or just wanna explore new topics.

Rating: 5/5

This DVD is available at Brett's shows and on his website www.brettgarsed.com


About the Author
Eric started playing the guitar at age 10. He attended GIT and studied with Scott Henderson, Brett Garsed, Dan Gilbert amo. Eric is involved in several bands and recording projects and his instrumental debut - Hidden Creek - plus his instructional book Talking Hands - A Guide To Contemporary Lead Guitar Techniques is available HERE
Visit his website at www.ericvandenberg.net

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