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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Learn the guitar in 11/2 hours

Guitarist, composer and music educator Az Samad, is conducting two 11/2-hour workshops at the Esplanade's Mosaic Music Festival next month.
The Straits Times - January 31, 2013
By: Melissa Kok
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Learn the guitar in 11/2 hours Malaysian guitar maestro Az Samad is also willing to teach via Skype. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF WONG HORNG YIH

If you have always wanted to learn to play the guitar, here is a chance to do it in under two hours flat. And what is more, it is taught by accomplished Malaysian guitar maestro Az Samad.

The 32-year-old guitarist, composer and music educator is conducting two 11/2-hour workshops at the Esplanade's Mosaic Music Festival next month.

By the end of the workshop, Az promises that participants will have accomplished three things: have a basic foundation in guitar technique, learn a few chords and be able to play percussion, using the body of the guitar as a drum.

Not to mention, they will learn from a master - he has taught at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston and recorded with Grammy award-winning musician Flaco Jimenez, a famed Tejano (Texan-Mexican) music accordionist.

Az tells Life! in a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur, where he is based: "People learning guitar usually say, 'Oh my fingers hurt' when playing the chords, or they'll have problems with rhythm and timing, which is why these things are what I address in the workshop.

"For technique, I borrow a lot of classical guitar fundamentals. So I teach how to press chords comfortably, or good posture so you don't hurt your back."

As for finding your rhythm, he has planned a series of exercises to teach beginners how to develop a good sense of time and groove.

He adds: "The tools that they learn in the workshop, maybe they'll go on to want to learn more guitar and hopefully want to write their own songs."

His upcoming workshops are part of a series by seasoned musicians that give music fans a chance to try out new instruments over a variety of musical art forms and disciplines, such as DJ-ing and turntable techniques, and body percussion, which is creating beats and rhythms with your body.

Mr Clarence Yap, Esplanade's assistant director of programming, said the workshops are to "ignite the public's interest in a variety of music forms and inspire beginners".

He adds that the response has "very good" with most workshops completely booked out, prompting the Esplanade to increase the number of workshops from seven in 2011 to eight this year.

Az picked up the guitar 16 years ago after a friend introduced him to American grunge rock band Nirvana's Unplugged In New York album (1994) by performing acoustic versions of their hits.

The guitarist, who holds a bachelor's degree in music (jazz composition and performance) from Berklee College of Music, and a master's in music (jazz studies) from San Jose State University, started out learning classical guitar before developing his signature fingerstyle technique. His father is Malaysia's national laureate, writer/poet A. Samad Said.

A versatile musician with seven solo albums under his belt, Az has also worked with drummer Bernie Dresel of swing and blues band Brian Setzer Orchestra, and was the opening act for legendary guitarists Tommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor.

He recommends his workshop for people who just want to enjoy themselves and learn music in an unregimented environment.

He says: "You don't have to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star if you like rock band Incubus. You can even learn a Taylor Swift song if you want."

And for those who cannot attend his Mosaic workshop, he says you can take lessons from him via Skype.

The music educator, who has had students from Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco taking lessons from him using the online-video communicating software, says he does not mind teaching students in Singapore from his Kuala Lumpur base.

He says: "There's very little lost when you teach via Skype. I cannot go over to fix your posture but a lot of the other stuff is very possible to teach, and I'll supplement it with videos on YouTube, provide backing tracks and PDF files. Technology has really enabled learning."

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