Jason Becker

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Jason Becker
Birth nameJason Eli Becker
Born (1969-07-22) July 22, 1969 (age 50)
Richmond, California, [1]
United States
Genres Instrumental rock, neoclassical metal, heavy metal
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, composer
InstrumentsGuitar
Years active1986–present
Labels Shrapnel
Associated acts Cacophony, David Lee Roth, Marty Friedman
Website jasonbecker.com

Jason Eli Becker (born July 22, 1969) is an American musician, songwriter and composer. At the age of 16, he became part of the Shrapnel Records-produced duo Cacophony with his friend Marty Friedman. They released the albums Speed Metal Symphony in 1987 and Go Off! in 1988. Cacophony broke up in 1989 and Becker began doing solo work, having released his first album Perpetual Burn in 1988, also through Shrapnel. He later joined David Lee Roth's band and recorded one album with him, A Little Ain't Enough .

Shrapnel Records record label

Shrapnel Records is a guitar-oriented record label started in 1980 by record producer Mike Varney.

Cacophony was an American heavy metal band formed in 1986 by guitarists Marty Friedman and Jason Becker, and signed to Shrapnel Records. They remained active until 1989, after which both guitarists forged their own solo careers and joined other bands.

<i>Speed Metal Symphony</i> 1987 studio album by Cacophony

Speed Metal Symphony is the first studio album by the American heavy metal band Cacophony, released in 1987 through Shrapnel Records.

Contents

Becker's performing career was cut short by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In 1996, Becker lost the ability to speak, and he now communicates with his eyes via a system developed by his father. Despite his disability, he continues composing by using a computer and has since released with Shrapnel Collection , a "best of" album of his favorite songs and three new songs. Becker is now the longest currently living person with ALS, holding the title since the death of Stephen Hawking in 2018

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive muscular weakness

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neurone disease (MND) or Lou Gehrig's disease, is a specific disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Some also use the term motor neuron disease for a group of conditions of which ALS is the most common. ALS is characterized by stiff muscles, muscle twitching, and gradually worsening weakness due to muscles decreasing in size. It may begin with weakness in the arms or legs, or with difficulty speaking or swallowing. About half of the people affected develop at least mild difficulties with thinking and behavior and most people experience pain. Most eventually lose the ability to walk, use their hands, speak, swallow, and breathe.

Musical composition aesthetic ordering and disposing of musical information

Musical composition, or simply composition, can refer to an original piece or work of music, either vocal or instrumental, the structure of a musical piece, or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called composers. Composers of primarily songs are usually called songwriters; with songs, the person who writes lyrics for a song is the lyricist. In many cultures, including Western classical music, the act of composing typically includes the creation of music notation, such as a sheet music "score," which is then performed by the composer or by other instrumental musicians or singers. In popular music and traditional music, songwriting may involve the creation of a basic outline of the song, called the lead sheet, which sets out the melody, lyrics and chord progression. In classical music, orchestration is typically done by the composer, but in musical theatre and in pop music, songwriters may hire an arranger to do the orchestration. In some cases, a pop or traditional songwriter may not use written notation at all, and instead compose the song in their mind and then play, sing and/or record it from memory. In jazz and popular music, notable sound recordings by influential performers are given the weight that written or printed scores play in classical music.

<i>Collection</i> (Jason Becker album) 2008 studio album by Jason Becker

Collection is an album by Jason Becker released by Shrapnel Records on November 4, 2008. The album includes three new songs in addition to some older recordings. It includes many musicians and features guitarists such as Marty Friedman, Greg Howe, Joe Satriani, Michael Lee Firkins, Steve Vai, and Steve Hunter.

Biography and career

Hometown, birthplace, school and early years

Becker was born and raised in Richmond, California, by his parents, Gary and Patricia (Heffley) Becker. He was born in Richmond Hospital on 23rd Street in 1969. His maternal grandfather was actor Wayne Heffley. [2] Becker graduated from Kennedy High School where he performed Yngwie Malmsteen's "Black Star" with his band at a talent show. While still in high school, Becker was introduced to Marty Friedman. He was exposed to the guitar at an early age because both his father and his uncle were guitar players. He absorbed all kinds of music from around the world and melded different aspects of each style into his playing. He cited Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen as early influences. [3]

Wayne Heffley was an American television and film actor, known for the role of Vern Scofield on Days of Our Lives, as well as over 100 other roles. He died of kidney failure in 2008.

Yngwie Malmsteen Swedish musician

Yngwie Johan Malmsteen is a Swedish guitarist, songwriter and bandleader. Malmsteen first became known in the 1980s for his neoclassical metal playing style in heavy metal, and has released 20 studio albums in a career spanning almost 40 years. In 2009, Time magazine rated Malmsteen as number 7 among the 10 greatest electric guitar players of all time.

Bob Dylan American singer-songwriter, musician, author, poet and artist

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, author, poet, and visual artist who has been a major figure in popular culture for more than fifty years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" (1964) became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement. His lyrics during this period incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied pop-music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture.

Cacophony and solo career

Becker started out playing alongside Marty Friedman in the Mike Varney-produced duo, Cacophony. Together, they put out an album, and toured Japan and the U.S. While they never went mainstream in the U.S., they proved popular enough in Europe to sell out almost every performance. In 1989 Friedman left to join Megadeth and Becker began to pursue a solo career, having released his first solo album titled Perpetual Burn in 1988. He has since released the albums Perspective and Collection , as well as two albums of demos, entitled The Raspberry Jams and The Blackberry Jams .

Megadeth American heavy metal band

Megadeth is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California. Guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson formed the band in 1983 shortly after Mustaine's dismissal from Metallica. Along with Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer, Megadeth is one of the "big four" of American thrash metal, responsible for its development and popularization. Their music features complex arrangements and fast rhythm sections, and lyrical themes of death, war, politics, and religion.

<i>Perpetual Burn</i> 1988 studio album by Jason Becker

Perpetual Burn is the first studio album by the American guitarist Jason Becker, released in 1988 through Shrapnel Records and Roadrunner Records (Europe). The album was released at around the same time as Dragon's Kiss, the first album by the fellow Cacophony guitarist Marty Friedman, who also co-produced and performed on Perpetual Burn.

<i>Perspective</i> (Jason Becker album) 1996 studio album by Jason Becker

Perspective is the second studio album by the guitarist Jason Becker, released independently on May 21, 1996, through Jason Becker Music and reissued on May 22, 2001, through Warner Bros. Records.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

At the age of 20, he joined David Lee Roth's band to work on Roth's album A Little Ain't Enough , replacing Steve Vai, who had joined Whitesnake. In 1990 Becker won the coveted Best New Guitarist award from Guitar Magazine. While preparing for the album, Becker began to feel what he called a "lazy limp" in his left leg. He was soon diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS; Lou Gehrig's Disease) and was given three to five years to live. He finished the recording using lighter (thinner) gauge guitar strings and other techniques, which made it easier for him to play with his weakening hands. Although he managed to finish the album, which was released in 1991, he did not join the supporting tour due to his inability to perform on stage; former Lizzy Borden guitarist Joe Holmes took Becker's place on tour.

David Lee Roth American singer

David Lee Roth is an American rock vocalist, musician, songwriter, actor, author, and former radio personality. Roth is best known as the original (1974–1985) and current (2006–present) lead singer of hard rock band Van Halen. He is also known as a successful solo artist, releasing numerous RIAA-certified Gold and Platinum albums. After more than two decades apart, Roth re-joined Van Halen in 2006 for a North American tour that became the highest grossing in the band's history and one of the highest grossing of that year. In 2012, Roth and Van Halen released the comeback album A Different Kind of Truth. In 2007, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Van Halen. Roth possesses a vocal range of five octaves and three notes.

<i>A Little Aint Enough</i> 1991 studio album by David Lee Roth

A Little Ain't Enough is the third full-length studio album by David Lee Roth, released in January 1991 through Warner Music Group. It was certified gold on April 11, 1991. Produced by Bob Rock, the album featured the lead guitar work of Jason Becker, a then up-and-coming guitarist who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis a week after joining the band. He managed to finish recording the album, but was unable to tour in support of the album, as his condition left him with little strength in his hands.

Steve Vai American guitarist, songwriter, and producer

Steven Siro Vai is an American guitarist, composer, singer, songwriter, and producer. A three-time Grammy Award winner and fifteen-time nominee, Vai started his music career in 1978 at the age of eighteen as a transcriptionist for Frank Zappa, and played in Zappa's band from 1980 to 1983. He embarked on a solo career in 1983 and has released eight solo albums to date. He has recorded and toured with Alcatrazz, David Lee Roth, and Whitesnake, as well as recording with artists such as Public Image Ltd, Mary J. Blige, Spinal Tap, and Ozzy Osbourne. Additionally, Vai has toured with live-only acts G3, Zappa Plays Zappa, and the Experience Hendrix tour, as well as headlining international tours.

His ALS gradually robbed him of his ability to play guitar, to walk, and eventually his ability to speak. He now communicates with his eyes via a system developed by his father. Due to the nature of the disease, he remains mentally sharp and, with the aid of a computer, continues composing. In the back of the Perspective CD case, Becker states "I have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It has crippled my body and speech, but not my mind." His medical condition has remained stable since 1997. In 2003, Becker posted on his website that he was feeling better and had gained some weight, while the folder for his 2008 album Collection also mentions an upcoming book.

Perspective and the Berry Jams

In 1996, Becker released an album entitled Perspective , an instrumental album composed by him (with the exception of Bob Dylan's song "Meet Me in the Morning"). The writing of the music had been started before ALS completely crippled his abilities. By using guitar, and, later, when he was unable to use both hands, a keyboard, he continued to compose while his disease worsened. However, when Becker could no longer physically play even a keyboard, his friend and music producer Mike Bemesderfer [4] helped him with a music-composing computer program that reads movements of his head and eyes, enabling Becker to continue to compose after he lost control of the rest of his body.

Several years later, Becker released Raspberry Jams (1999) and Blackberry Jams (2003); the first contained various unreleased demo-tracks, and the latter contained demo-tracks and alternate versions of songs that were later reworked and published into other albums.

Two tribute albums to Jason Becker have been issued. Respectively entitled Warmth in the Wilderness I and Warmth in the Wilderness II, they feature guitarists such as Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, Joe Becker, Rusty Cooley, and Mattias Eklundh. The album profits were sent to Becker to help him with his medical finances.

Collection

On November 4, 2008, Shrapnel Records released a new Jason Becker album entitled Collection. The album includes three new songs in addition to some older recordings (some never before released) and features Marty Friedman, Greg Howe, Joe Satriani, Michael Lee Firkins, Steve Vai, and Steve Hunter.

Boy Meets Guitar

On August 20, 2010, Becker declared that he was considering releasing an album of music he recorded when he was in his teenage years. He has since released this album, titled Boy Meets Guitar, in 2012. [5]

Triumphant Hearts

In October 2016, Becker launched a campaign to fund an album, which was initially estimated for release in July 2017. The campaign raised more than $100,000. The album, Triumphant Hearts was released on December 7, 2018.

Track listing

  1. Triumphant Hearts
  2. Hold On To Love
  3. Fantasy Weaver
  4. Once Upon A Melody
  5. Magic Woman
  6. River Of The Longing
  7. Valley Of Fire
  8. River Of The Longing (2ª)
  9. Talking Me Back
  10. Tell Me No Lies
  11. Hold On To The Love (2ª)
  12. You Do It

[6] [7]

Musical style

Considered a virtuoso guitarist and one of the top players of his time, Jason Becker studied the works of violinist Niccolò Paganini and was a playing partner with Marty Friedman. He later arranged Paganini's 5th Caprice, performing it during an instructional guitar video. Becker's compositions often include high speed scalar and arpeggio passages—trademarks of his shred style of guitar playing. Often incorporating advanced techniques such as sweep picking, alternate picking, artificial harmonic accenting, and tapping; he was among the leaders of the field during the technical shred guitar and neoclassical metal trend of the mid to late eighties and is still respected and honored by his musician peers today. The song Serrana appearing in the album Perspective, is an example of his sweep-picking skills. He demonstrated the arpeggio sequence during a clinic at the Atlanta Institute of Music. A video of this performance first appeared on his Hot Licks guitar instructional video. [8]

Equipment

Becker's first guitar was a Franciscan acoustic. Prior to joining Cacophony in 1987, Becker worked his way through the Franciscan, a Takamine acoustic, a Fender Musicmaster, and finally, a black "Dan Smith" era Fender Stratocaster (likely a 1982 or 1983 model) with a DiMarzio Steve Morse humbucker in the bridge (seen in the "Black Star" video, circa 1986). On his message board, Becker said "I recorded SMS [Speed Metal Symphony] with my Strat."

For his next guitar, Becker said on his message board "Mike Varney got Hurricane to endorse us after we recorded Speed Metal Symphony. I liked how they were like Strats, only beefier."

On Perpetual Burn, Becker said on his message board: "I used my white and black Hurricane guitar for everything. For clean tone I went direct. For dirty tone I used a 100 Watt Marshall with a Boss Super Overdrive pedal."

The Moridira Hurricane guitar he used is called a Limited Edition LTD.2 model, believed to be made in Japan. (It is not a Hurricane EX series, which appears to be lower quality.) His LTD.2 was a "strat copy", but with a HSS pickup setup, a 24-fret rosewood fingerboard, and unique Floyd Rose where you don't have to cut the strings. For pickups, Becker said on his message board: "I just used the stock pickups it came with." The pickups were Japanese-made pickups.

While Becker is pictured with a blue Hurricane guitar on the cover of Perpetual Burn, he did not use this blue guitar on the album. Differences on this guitar from his first Hurricane include DiMarzio pickups, a maple fretboard, and 24 frets. (Marty Friedman recorded the whammy parts of his song "Dragon Mistress" using Becker's blue Hurricane, one of the rare times Marty has recorded whammy work.)

For the second Cacophony album, Becker switched over to Carvin gear, utilizing 2 DC Series models, one in a trans blue finish with flamed maple top, and another one in a solid burgundy finish (This is the guitar seen in the famous "Yo Yo" video from the 1989 Japan tour with Cacophony). Both have double cutaway bodies, Kahler locking tremolo systems, 6 in line machine heads and 2 Carvin humbucker pickups. He used these up until he was diagnosed with ALS in 1989.

During the sessions for A Little Ain't Enough , Becker used various Carvin, Ibanez, ESP and Valley Arts guitars, as well as a Les Paul on some tracks and a Gibson acoustic for select things. Becker has also been pictured with a few Hamer superstrats as well. From 1989–1991, Becker used various guitars, most notably a Peavey custom model with the numbered fretboard markers. Also used were an Ibanez Custom Shop guitar (probably based on an RG), a custom from Performance Guitars, a couple of various unknown Strat style guitars and a black Hurricane with 3 single coil pickups.

As of very recently, Becker has allowed Paradise Guitars USA to release a Jason Becker signature guitar. It is similar in appearance to the numbered Peavey but with a different headstock shape.

Becker used various types of amplifiers in his music. Before joining Cacophony, he used a small Peavey Studio Pro 40 with the older style Peavey vertical silver stripes on the grille cloth. During his early days Becker was also seen with a red Marshall JCM800 head and 4x12 cabinet.

For the first Cacophony album, Becker used an ADAMP1 preamp. He recorded Perpetual Burn with a borrowed '70s Marshall half stack and a BOSS Super Overdrive and Cacophony's second album was recorded with a Carvin X100B stack.

For the David Lee Roth album A Little Ain't Enough , Becker used "eight different Marshall amps." He also used the SX300H head at some point during that era. After Cacophony Becker used various amps, including a "Fender M80", an unknown Marshall amp, an ADA Preamp and possibly the aforementioned Peavey combo.

Becker typically used Dean Markley and SIT strings

Paradise Guitar

In 2008 Paradise Guitars worked with Becker to design a Jason Becker signature guitar. The design is based on the Peavey with colored number fret inlays. Features include an alder body, maple neck with steel 2-way truss rod, maple 16" radius fingerboard, 24 jumbo thin frets with colored number fret marker inlays, black Floyd Rose Pro Style floating Tremolo with Floyd Rose Tremolo stop, Sperzel red satin tuners, 14-degree tilt-back headstock with black Paradise logo and matching tremolo and electronics plates. The pickups are DiMarzio pickups; a PAF Pro-Custom in the neck colored yellow and red, a DP116 HS-2 in the middle colored green, and a Tone Zone-Custom in the bridge colored pink and blue. These colored pickups complement the colored inlays and seem to give the guitar a rainbow effect. There is also a red 5-way switch and purple 1–11 volume knob. [9]

Kiesel/Carvin Tribute Guitars

In 2012 Carvin worked with Becker to design the JB200C Jason Becker Tribute, a guitar that is modeled after the original DC200 guitar he used toward the latter part of his career. The guitar features an Alder body with flamed maple top, maple neck with a flamed maple fingerboard, a Floyd Rose tremolo, jumbo frets, 2 humbuckers, active electronics, and comes standard in a transparent blue finish.

In 2015, Kiesel Guitars, which took over Carvin's guitar manufacturing, worked with Becker to release a second tribute model, called the JB24 "Numbers" guitar. It is the third incarnation of his "Numbers" guitar, previously released by Peavey and Paradise guitars, and is also one of the first Carvin guitars to feature a 24-fret bolt-on neck, alongside the GH24 Greg Howe signature model released in the same year. It features a tung-oiled ash body, maple neck and fingerboard, colored number inlays, stainless steel frets, and 3 custom-colored Seymour Duncan pickups (Perpetual Burn in the bridge, Vintage Hot Stack in the middle, and Jazz in the neck). [10]

For the official launch of Becker's signature Seymour Duncan Perpetual Burn Humbucker and the Carvin JB24 numbers guitar, Danny Young was chosen as the guitarist for both performances due to stylistic resemblance to Jason Becker and Niccolo Paganini. The Perpetual Burn performance was played on the Carvin JB200C. These performances led to the widespread notability of Danny Young's virtuosity in the guitar community and an authority in the tone and playing style of Jason Becker. [11] [12] [13] [14]

Documentary film

A feature-length documentary film about the life of Jason Becker entitled Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet , was released in 2012. The film includes interviews with Becker, his family and friends, and the various musicians he's worked with, including Marty Friedman, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Richie Kotzen, and Steve Hunter. [15] The film was generally well received by fans and critics and won many awards. [16]

Clinics

Atlanta Institute of Music

Japan Clinic

Discography

Cacophony

Marty Friedman

Solo

David Lee Roth

Joe Becker

Other works

Compilations

Tribute

Instructional

Films

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. Rock on: Richmond world-renowned guitarist has lived more than two decades with ALS, Matthias Gafni, Contra Costa Times , March 23, 2012, access date March 26, 2012
  2. "Biography for Wayne Heffley". imdb.com. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
  3. "Jason Becker may issue previously unreleased songs written with David Lee Roth". blabbermouth.net. January 7, 2015. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
  4. Gold, Jude. "GuitarPlayer: Jason Becker". GuitarPlayer.com.
  5. "Becker confirming album project". Jasonbeckerguitar.com. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  6. "Jason Becker's New Album". Indiegogo.
  7. "Jason Becker". Jason Becker.
  8. "Jason Becker playing Serrana arpeggio section (from YouTube.com)" . Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  9. Paradise Guitars USA Archived December 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. "New Guitars of 2015 With Seymour Duncan Pickups".
  11. Kiesel Guitars (May 11, 2015), Carvin Guitars Jason Becker's JB24 "Numbers" Signature Model 24 Fret Guitar , retrieved March 12, 2018
  12. Seymour Duncan (May 8, 2014), Jason Becker Perpetual Burn Pickup , retrieved March 12, 2018
  13. "Blazing "Betcha Can't Play This" Supports Jason Becker's New Album Project". Guitar World. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  14. Becker, Jason (October 26, 2016). "Thank you so much Danny Young and Guitar World!...http://fb.me/4B3d6x3th". @jasonelibecker. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  15. "Website for the movie". Jasonbeckermovie.com. July 22, 1969. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  16. "Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet". imdb.com. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  17. "In The Style Of Jason Becker". DC Music School.