Rez Abbasi- On Practice, Improvisation, & Composition: Creative Strings Podcast Ep. 30

rez abbasi

Guitarist/Composer Rez Abbasi is well known for his distinctive fusing of modern jazz with influences from Hindu North Indian music and Pakistani traditional music.

In this episode of the Creative Strings Podcast, hear him reflect upon how he developed his own voice as a player and composer, as well as relevant points for musicians on practice, improvisation, composition, and the business of a freelance creative.

While the classical musician’s practice model may seem clear cut for most of us, it can get fuzzy as soon as we begin to expand into “creative” territories.

For example, musicians outside the classical sphere may think of dividing their practice time between technique, composition, improvisation. They may split or blend their focus between improvisation, technique, and composition.

These questions and more are delved into my just-released interview with Rez Abbasi. If you don’t listen now, maybe take a quick second to bookmark or download it so you listen later when you’re driving, chilling, eating, or whenever you listen to podcasts.

Rez is also our featured teaching artist this summer at the 16th annual Creative Strings Workshop.

A unique component at the heart of our workshop model has to do with experiencing the musical process directly from composers and bandleaders in rehearsal and on-stage. There’s nothing like playing in an ensemble under the guidance of the composer. It’s this direct hands-on experience that helped shape my musical development, which is why I hand pick a dozen or more teaching artists each year to lead chamber coaching experiences for participants coming from around the world, including pros, collegiate, teachers, amateurs, and teens.

This episode also includes:

  • Tips and tricks for composers- Where’s the balance between mapping out a form and letting the composition form itself?
  • The business of music
  • Tons of amazing clips from Rez’s albums

“It’s easy to see people who are successful and then compare yourself and think, ‘OK man I feel like quitting.’ I’ve been through that many times and we all do that once in a while, most of us; because you’re never gonna be at that place you think you could get to one day. Then you get older and realize, ‘Whoa, I don’t even have that many years so what am I striving for?’ That is the idea, that the path and journey is the success- you gotta get that in your head right away.”

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, removed at the age of four to the vastness of Southern California, schooled at the University of Southern California and the Manhattan School of Music in jazz and classical music, along with a pilgrimage in India under the tutelage of master percussionist, Ustad Alla Rakha, Rez Abbasi is a vivid synthesis of all these influences and genres. Making New York home for the past 25 years, Abbasi has developed a unique sound both as a composer and an instrumentalist and is considered by many to be one of the foremost modern jazz guitar players.

Now it’s time to plan for summer! Join Rez and I, with tons of amazing faculty and participants, at the 16th Annual Creative Strings Workshop in Columbus, OH July 1-7. I am thrilled to host Rez for this year’s Creative Strings Workshop as our featured instructor.

Thanks so much to our sponsors Yamaha and Electric Violin Shop for supporting the Creative Strings Podcast. Their support makes it possible to invest in the production of each episode and bring you great stories like Rez’s.

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Please take a moment to visit Electric Violin Shop, your one-stop shop for electric instruments, amps, gear, accessories, and most of all, expertise. Use code CHOWES at checkout and take 5% off of your order. Call 866-900-8400 to get your questions answered on “all things electric strings.” While you are talking to EVS, be sure to ask them about the new Yamaha Electric Violin (you can check out my video review here). I’ve been a Yamaha performing artist for almost 20 years now and am very proud to be a part of the Yamaha family.

Watch the extended conversation on YouTube:

Learn more about Rez Abbasi:



Clips used in this episode:

“Prana” from Third Ear

“Dance Number” from Unfiltered Universe

“Pearl” from Snake Charmer

“Butterfly” from Intents and Purposes

“Phosphor Colors” from Out of Body

Check out these other great episodes of the Creative Strings Podcast:

Identity, Injury and Rewriting a Musician’s Story w/ Janet Orenstein

“Young Guns”: Alex Hargreaves, Mike Barnett, Eli Bishop, and Greg Byers on How to Practice