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All That Jazz: Rishi Sachdev on His ES-335 and How to Start Playing Jazz

Shawn Fernandes

Rishi Sachdev, the Delhi-based frontman and leader of the bands Syncopation and Moonshine, began playing guitar in college, winning a slew of “best singer” and “best guitarist” awards in those ultimate testing grounds of young talent – college music competitions. He would go on to form the band Idle Vice, which later became Clandestine and led Delhi’s ’90s rock scene in performing original music.

Like all good Indian boys, Sachdev eventually went abroad to study – Australia, in his case – only to realize that he couldn’t shake off his passion for music. He left his design course to enroll in a performing arts college, eventually winning a full scholarship to study jazz and popular music. After his stint in Australia, Sachdev returned to India and formed the first iteration of his jazz band Syncopation in 2009. At the same time he started writing songs for his other dream project – Moonshine, a psychedelic rock band, which has just released its debut album.

Gibson India spoke to Rishi Sachdev about Moonshine’s upcoming album and asked him to share his knowledge of jazz and jazz guitar with our readers.

First, tell us about your two very different current projects – the jazz trio Syncopation and psychedelic rock act Moonshine.

Syncopation is a contemporary jazz trio with Sahil Warsi on double bass, Nikhil Vasudevan (The Ska Vengers, Menwhopause, Emperor Minge) on drums. And myself on guitar. It touches various facets of modern and old jazz. From traditional to be-bop to fusion to funk, Syncopation plays it all. With only original songs in our set list we’ve performed over 100 gigs in the past one year across the country. We’ve just finished recording our first album and are at the mix stage of the mammoth process. The album should be on shelves around October 2012.

Moonshine, on the other hand, is India’s first all-original psychedelic rock band, where I’ve sung, composed and written songs, that speak about life, experiences and the different dimensions of love and emotions. The band’s songs are a mix of haunting melodies and soulful lyrics. With soaring vocals, abstract grooves and “Jekyll and Hyde” guitarscapes, the band has genuinely forged a new sound.

Your primary guitar is a Gibson ES-335. Tell us why this is your guitar of choice.  

The ES-335 is one of the most legendary and greatest sounding guitars ever made. When you hold a 335 you know you’re holding a piece of genius guitar creation. The ES-335 gives you the most perfectly balanced blend between the electric and acoustic guitar. It gives you the character tone that no other guitar can possibly create. I love everything about my guitar, right from its tones to its bones.

O.K., let’s talk jazz. What are the five albums you’d suggest for someone looking to get into jazz?  

Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, Blue Train by John Coltrane, Still Life (Talking) by the Pat Metheny Group, Giant Steps by John Coltrane and Wave by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Wow, that’s a list of classics! Now, what if someone wanted to start out learning how to play jazz guitar. Any tips?

1. Quality and not quantity is essential for playing jazz. Establish a good regular practice routine.

2. Start with playing smaller motifs to build up bigger lines later. Break things down into smaller sections that are more practical to digest.

3. Listen and transcribe the records or artists you love. Start with one song at a time and not fifteen.

4. Read and research to develop your own take on jazz because jazz means freedom of music.

5. It all starts from you. Be interested, committed and self motivated, always!!!

For the beginner, jazz can sometimes be confusing and hard to follow. As a jazz musician, can you tell us what to look out for in a jazz composition? Also, what separates a great jazz guitar player from an ordinary one? 

Jazz is about simplicity described in billions of colors. Some of the best jazz compositions are simple beautiful melodies with interesting chord changes which is the backbone and essence of all jazz.

“What you put in is what you get” – this saying holds true in separating a great jazz guitar player from an ordinary joe.

For more information, follow Moonshine and Syncopation on their Facebook pages.

Photo credit: Swapnali Sachdeva

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