Artist Feature Friday: Andreas Öberg
Platinum songwriter and producer Andreas Öberg is no stranger to the music business. With numerous No. 1 releases in Asia (Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand & Vietnam) and millions of physical records sold, Andreas’s talent is undeniable, and he is becoming a sought after writer in pop music. We had the opportunity to catch up with Andreas recently and chat with him about his songwriting, influences, and the guitar work that accelerated his career.
Here’s what he had to say:
I read that you started playing as early as 8 years old. Do you remember what it was that initially got you into playing guitar?
AÖ: Even since I was a very little I wanted to play guitar. I picked up small pieces of wood or anything with a resemblance to a guitar and started banging on it. My parents and my grandfather have told me that and they also said I loved listening to music every day.
Were you primarily self-taught?
AÖ: Partly self taught, but I went to private guitar classes kind of early on where I had a good teacher called Robert Liman. who opened up the door for me to to blues, smooth jazz and fusion music.
Do you play any other instruments?
AÖ: I play bass and piano at a pretty high level even though I don’t get to play that often.
Your playing spans anything from classical and jazz, all the way to pop and rock. Who would you consider to be some of your biggest influences?
AÖ: My biggest influences are George Benson, Django Reinhardt and Joe Pass, when it comes to guitar. Especially Benson is “the guitarist” I’ve always admired. Among other musicians I really like Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson and Woody Shaw. Talking more in terms of pop/rnb music, I’ve always admired Stevie Wonder and I also listen to modern artists like Beyonce and Chris Brown.
You’re a highly accomplished and sought after songwriter. Can you tell us a little about your approach to songwriting? Do you have any tips for young songwriters that are just starting out?
AÖ: Songwriting has become my main focus during the last couple of years and I’m fortunate to have had Nr1’s in 10 countries. The Jpop and Kpop markets in Japan and Korea have been my focus because actual physical cd’s are still selling well over there. I have written for some of the biggest artists on that market like Girls Generation, SHINee, BoA, TVXQ, Sexy Zone, VIXX and many more.. I also like the musical freedom within those genres since I wouldn’t wanna sit and write the same kind of songs every day. My best advice to young song writers is to really try to listen and dig in to the style you are aiming it. Imitate, integrate and innovate…it’s three steps and when reaching step Nr 3 you will be able to come up with really original stuff. Same goes for guitar playing actually!
The right hand technique to playing the Django-style is so crucial. Can you tell us a little about your approach to learning the Django-style playing technique?
AÖ: Yes, when playing Gypsy style on acoustic guitar it’s important to be aware of the gypsy picking technique and the rest-strokes (meaning that to get more power and accuracy, you rest the pick on the next string after doing a downstroke). Most gypsy players also do downstrokes on every string change (both ascending and decending) to get more power, rhythmic impact and volume.
You’re known for having a very innovative approach to incorporating altered scales and harmony to your compositions. Do you have any tips for players that are trying to lean how to visualize the fretboard?
AÖ: Visualizing the fretboard is probably both the curse and the blessing of our beloved instrument. It’s easy to transpose stuff etc. compared to other instruments but a lot of people also get stuck in the same old boxes and positions, relying on muscle memory. That’s why I like practicing scales, arpeggios and melodies on one string to actually hear the different intervals and color of each mode and chord.
Speaking of scales and harmony, can you elaborate on the importance and the role of music theory in your playing?
AÖ: Music theory is good to know. You can analyse what you do, you can communicate with other musicians and also teach it more easily to others. But when I improvise I don’t think about theory, I rely on my ears. The theory is more like a tool box that you always have available if/when you need it…
Can you tell us a little about your practice regimen?
AÖ: These days I practice a lot without the guitar. I improvise and sing lines over different chord changes and tunes. That way i’m not depending on muscle memory and i’m free to play what i hear and not vice versa.
What has been one of your biggest challenges when it comes to guitar playing? How did you overcome it?
AÖ: The biggest challenge has been to reach the level where I can do what I want technically without getting stiff and tense. Also to be able to outline chord changes clearly within a single melody line is something I’ve worked a lot on and it’s absolutely one of my strongest abilities as a guitarist/musician.
Do you have a specific way you like to record guitar? Do you have any specific microphones or mic setups you like to use?
AÖ: I like to combine a good amp like the Henriksen Jazz Amp with a mic in front of the guitar. That way you could blend the accosting string sound with the amp sound.
Your guitars are very beautiful and have a very full, rich tone to them. Can you tell us a little about the guitars you are using?
AÖ: I’m using two different Benedetto arch tops. Both have my signature dark plum color. One guitar is a Manhattan model and the other one is a Bravo. When it comes to acoustic guitars I’m using an AJL steel string made by Ari Jukka Luomaranta in Finland.
What do you look for when it comes to a guitar’s tone?
AÖ: I practice a lot with out amp so I prefer guitars with a rich and crispy acoustic tone.
Do you find a specific kind of wood combination between the neck and the body of the guitar creates a better tone than other combinations?
AÖ: Im not an expert on woods or equipment. I just know when I like a guitar, from the sound and from the feeling when I’m holding it.
When/how did you get into becoming a producer?
AÖ: I got a little tired of touring a couple of years ago and then I started looking into the opportunity of writing/producing songs for other people. The pop world was interesting to me cause I felt I had the opportunity to reach out to so many more people compared to only playing jazz.
As a producer, do you find it difficult to separate your personal taste from a song/album you are working on with an artist?
AÖ: Well, sometimes it could be like that. But I kind of try to just take on projects where I feel it’s fun and where I can contribute in a good way.
Do you have any tips for our readers that are aspiring to become producers?
AÖ: Once again, listen a lot and learn the musical language. Then try to be creative. As a producer it’s also important being able to keep yourself updated on sounds, drums, mixing etc so it doesn’t sound dated.
You’re a highly accomplished music educator. Do you have any tips for other teachers out there that stubble to keep their kids engaged to learning their craft?
AÖ: The key of becoming a good teacher is to be passionate about it and find a reward in seeing hearing progress among the students. Also finding your own way of teaching and not just doing/copying everyone else out there.
I think it’s very admirable that you are sharing your talent through your online guitar education. Can you tell us a little about your ArtistWorks involvement?
AÖ: I first met David and Patricia at a Benedetto event a few years ago. They told me about the plans of starting this online based company, teaching music through a modern platform with video exchange lessons as the main feature. I was immediately interested and we started our collaboration. I’m happy to see the company growing and also proud to be one of the first teachers who got on board.
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