Inspiring masterclass from ICMP guitar specialist
ICMP guitar degree students were recently treated to a fantastic masterclass from guitarist and composer Tolis Zavaliaris.
Who is Tolis Zavaliaris?
Tolis relocated from Greece to London in 2001 where he studied a three-year BMus guitar degree course at the renowned Guitar Institute. He has collaborated, performed, and toured with many fantastic artists such as Vanessa Mae, Livan, Anna Savege, The Duvets and Killiopi, and has worked with producers Peter Greenwell (Flop-Star), Benny D (Depeche Mode), John Robertson (Morcheeba), David Crefield (Kaiser Chiefs). He has recorded his own materials and regular contributor to Guitar Techniques magazine and All Out Guitar. Tolis is also a past winner of the prestigious ‘London Guitar Hero’ competition, and he is an endorsee of Musicman guitars and Line 6 products. He has also become a member of ICMP’s specialist teaching faculty.
Tips and advice from the masterclass
This masterclass was packed full of useful advice not only for guitarists, but musicians of all disciplines. This, advised Tolis, is one area that contributes to being a particularly talented musician - being aware of how other instruments work. In terms of learning musical techniques (including harmony, theory and fretboard fluency) he explained that it should be thought of as similar to learning a language, and listening/training one's ear is extremely important. To illustrate this he questioned: "If you don't know what a 9th is, how are you going to know when you hear it?"
Guitarists shouldn't just shred, but take time to experiment, listening to different kinds of music and instruments to gain inspiration and mixing cultures for inspiration.
Tolis advised students to apply styles, vocabulary and improvisations to their instrument as a whole, as opposed to viewing them as separate aspects. He spoke about the benefits of singing alongside playing and practicing and how it is more important to be remembered because of one’s music, rather than just for great technique. For example, guitarists shouldn't just shred, but take time to experiment, listening to different kinds of music and instruments to gain inspiration and mixing cultures for inspiration.
Alongside this and more technical advice, he also covered the ways working as a musician can affect one personally and how it helps to be prepared for the psychological toll it can take. He pointed out that people don't always give honest feedback, but you must always be honest with yourself.
What they said
First year BMus Guitar student Leandros Toumpas was so impressed that he bought Tolis’ entire back catalogue and said: “we were blown away….I’ll have a listen to [this] at home to get some inspiration.” First year Creative Musicianship Bass student Carlo Garella added that: “We see Tolis as a teacher every day, but this was quite an experience to see him do his thing….and a little bit of who he is as an artist.”
Tolis himself was very pleased to have the opportunity to run this session with students from all the courses and said that he was “very impressed with their knowledge, musical desires and aspirations.” Of teaching at ICMP he also commented:
I still get the buzz from being around this place. The faculty is one of the best in the country and the students work very hard to build a career in the professional world.