Take Five with Francisco Quintero

Francisco Quintero By

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About Francisco Quintero

Francisco Quintero is a guitarist, composer, arranger and producer born and raised in Venezuela. He attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in 2009, where he obtained a degree in instrumental performance, and also holds a master's degree in Jazz Studies from Northern Illinois University. He has studied with artists such as Richie Hart, Ed Tomassi, Lin Biviano, Alain Mallet, Mike Stern, Adam Rogers, Peter Bernstein, Fareed Haque, and more, and played with an impressive list of artists including Andres Briceno, Gustavo Caruci, Derrick Gardner, Carl Allen, Victor Provost, Paul Carr, Geof Bradfield, Reggie Thomas, Ari Brown, and more.


Guitar, both electric and acoustic, bass, and some drums. My very first instrument was the drum set, and later I changed to guitar. Even though I really liked being a drummer, I was always curious about guitar. I grew up looking and playing around with my mom's guitar, which was just around the house. She got it as a gift from my grandfather when she was around fifteen, and she played a little bit. I think it was an original Spanish Tatay, a really beautiful sounding instrument.

Teachers and/or influences?

I had good teachers in Venezuela. My first teacher was guitarist Frank Osorio at the school, and then I went on to study with Richard Perez privately. Richard exposed me to fusion music and some jazz —I was coming from a rock background. He let me take home CDs from artists such as Scott Henderson, Diana Krall, Chick Corea, Frank Gambale, and others. As a musician I have always been extremely curious, so it was natural for me to really dig into all sorts of genres. At home, I was getting familiarized with Paco De Lucia, Wes Montgomery, and classical music, while I also played metal and progressive music such as Metallica and Dream Theater. I slowly started to transcribe all that other stuff, without thinking too much about genres. I just loved the sound of different types of music.

Much later when I was at Berklee, I studied with a lot of great musicians and teachers, and went to many clinics/workshops conducted by many of my musical heroes, but my main mentors there were Richie Hart, Alain Mallet and Ed Tomassi. What I got out of them was really important for my development. It really changed me and helped substantially. Then I also studied with Peter Bernstein in New York City, who is one of my favorite musicians and who I learned a lot from.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I never really gave it much thought. I am a very passionate person, so if I like something, I am really curious and go into it very deeply. It's been music for most of my life so when I was graduating from high school I really wanted to keep playing and have the time to dedicate fully to it. Most of my time in high school I spent practicing many hours every day and studying music, so I just went with it and followed my heart when I got out.

Your sound and approach to music.

I have studied very deeply and passionately the music of Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and all of the jazz tradition, but I am also able to appreciate so many other styles of music. I am a fan of good music in general, and I love details. In good art, there is a lot of details, so it doesn't matter what the style is, you can hear or see that if the work is of high quality. For this reason, my sound is a lot of things that I am passionate about and have invested a lot of time in, but mainly jazz. The music I am currently writing is rooted in jazz; I am really passionate about swing, the history and the concept of improvisation in this style. Montgomery, Charlie Christian, Coltrane, Rollins and Monk are my favorite players.

But as I said, I am also very interested in other genres. I study a lot of Brazilian, fusion, rock, and also even world music.

I am constantly trying to be creative in my own playing and understand my sound to project it in the best possible way, but I also want to be connected to the history of the music in some way. It's a language and you should speak it, but have your own opinions for sure!

Your teaching approach

I like to be really honest when I am teaching. A teacher is supposed to show you the path to whatever you want to accomplish. As a student, you must choose the path and overcome the obstacles in it with the guidance of your teacher. If you are giving directions to somebody, you have to be completely honest about what road that person must take to reach the destination. There is no point in giving wrong directions, so I like to share the things I know, what I am working on and what has helped me reach whatever level I have. I don't really hide anything or keep it to myself when somebody asks me. At the end, all of it is on you though. You must put a lot of work in to reach the goal.

I focus on teaching my students that music is an art related to the ear more than anything else. Just like a painter will develop the eye, you must develop the ear. You have to become really intimate with sound and engage in activities that will activate your ear. It needs to be "thinking" and working when you practice. If you disconnect it, then it is very hard to really improve and later on find ideas when you play or write music.

I also teach my students how to design a practice session that will emulate the situation that they are not good at. For example, if I want to be better at playing fast tempos, you have to play fast tempos in your practice. I emphasize that this environment must be rehearsed to be able to be better at that specific thing you want.

Lastly but not least, look for things that make you feel you are really bad at, and make you uncomfortable. The more your brain is engaged while you practice, the better you will become. Don't practice what you are good at too much. That's nice as an incentive that you can play some stuff, but move forward. Throw curve balls at yourself.

Your dream band

I would like to work with many of my musical heroes. It's really an amazing experience to play with people that you admire. Another aspect for bands is friendship. I find that the more you know somebody and have shared experiences with, the better you will connect. It's a conversation, and if both parts are intelligent, there is no reason why the conversation shouldn't take off. Have a talk with your band members, share some stuff. Engage in communication.

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About Francisco Quintero
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