Meet the Fret Zealot team!

The Fret Zealot team is dedicated to creating new advancements in music education technology. We also are guitarists ourselves! 

Here’s some information about us:

Shaun Masavage, CEO

Q: How long have you played guitar?

A: 15 years (only a few spent making any progress)

Q. What got you into guitar?

A. I had a fascination with the creativity of the instrument, artists, and industry. Nobody in my family played it, but it always inspired me. I was jealous seeing people be able to pick up guitars, jam, and create a bond with someone instantaneously through it.

Q. Why are you passionate about music?

A. I’m a technical person, both literally (engineer) and figuratively (very detail oriented). Music is built upon explicit rules, which appeals to my technical side, but allows for inexhaustible creativity. Layers and layers of ideas, adding in additional players and elements, it’s a wonderful tool for personal fulfillment for life. Even that isn’t just limited to one’s self, but opens up a new way to communicate with so many others, even transcending language and culture barriers.

 

Q. Who are your top three favorite bands/musical artists?

A. I have very diverse interests. I lean towards punk rock on guitar and classical on ukulele. For reasons I can’t clearly articulate, my favorites (not necessarily most played) are: Jimi Hendrix, Dave Grohl, Tom Morello.

John Tolly, CTO

Q. How long have you played guitar?

A. I picked up my first bass guitar when I was 13, so 20 years! (in some capacity or another)

Q. What got you into guitar?

A. My parents are both musicians, but I didn’t really know this growing up. There was always this dusty closet in our basement filled with big cases, and it was the ideal hide-and-seek spot. One day I decided to open one of the cases, and found a 1980 Fender Precision Bass. I didn’t know what I was looking at, but I tried to play, my parents got me a few lessons and books, and it became a hobby of mine through high school, playing lots of tabs, but never really getting a handle on the theory all too well. Since then, my parents have gotten back into music as the kids have grown up, and now have their own band! 

Q. Why are you passionate about music?

A. As Shaun knows, I have an internal soundtrack in my head, so I feel like I’m always listening to something, which helps me focus. (however since becoming a parent, a lot of the tracks have been replaced with ‘baby shark’ and the Moana soundtrack on repeat). Music is one of those things that can instantly bring back up memories (Good or bad), but itself is timeless. Who doesn’t enjoy a good groove,. and a song written 50 years ago can be scarily applicable to current events or feelings.

Q, Who are your top three favorite bands/musical artists?

A. The True Loves, The Strokes, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd (I tried to pick one in different genres, but not possible for me to pick a favorite between Zepp and Pink Floyd)

Alex Zorychta, head of product 

Q. How long have you played guitar?

A. Since I was 14. 

Q. What got you into guitar?

A. I started learning violin in school and realized I didn’t like any of the music for the violin, but I loved the stringed instrument. I switched over to guitar and never looked back!

Q. Why are you passionate about music?

A. I’m all about real, authentic connections between people. Music is a universal language that allows any two people to communicate much more than words. My favorite pieces of music are those that capture an exact specific feeling, and when you find one that resonates with you where you are right now, it can help you feel that you’re not alone in what you’re feeling– either happy or sad! The immortal pieces of music are those that actually offer different specific feelings depending on when you listen to them, especially changing meaning as you grow older.

Q. Who are your top three favorite bands/musical artists?

A. Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, Chris Carrabba from Dashboard Confessional, Eric Clapton. 

Kaley Lynch, creative content producer

Q. How long have you played guitar?

A. I’ve been playing since I was 12. 

Q.  What got you into guitar?

A. Growing up, most of my family played guitar or were musical in general. My grandfather always had a few acoustics around the house, so I was captivated by the sound since I was little. When I was in middle school, I started listening to music on my own (rock and alternative) for the first time, and wanted to play the type of music I heard. I also started writing songs a little before that, and I wanted to learn an instrument to help bring them to life. 

Q. Why are you passionate about music?

A. Music is something that transcends all differences. It can help transport you back to certain times in your life and connect you to new people. I’m currently in two bands – a cover band and an original band – and playing music is my creative outlet and stress relief. There’s nothing like playing a song you wrote to an audience and having them respond to it. 

Q. Who are your top three favorite bands/musical artists?

A. Vampire Weekend, Beach Bunny, and Rilo Kiley. Both their lyrics and melodies tackle complex themes in a beautiful way. 

 

Shane Nolan, operations manager 

 

Q. How long have you played guitar?

A. 15 years

Q. What got you into guitar?

A. I was inspired by the ‘School of Rock’ movie with Jack Black.

Q. Why are you passionate about music?

A. I have always been inspired by the great music we get to hear, which has extended to finding great satisfaction in playing/ creating my own music and even music products.

Q. Who are your top three favorite bands/musical artists?

A. Green Day, White Stripes/ Jack White , Jimi Hendrix.

 

 

Talking guitar with Tigress

After COVID-19 shutdowns caused live music to grind to a halt over the past two years, British rock band Tigress is ready to pounce on their upcoming tour dates. 

 

The five-piece band has shows lined up through the spring and summer in the United Kingdom, and will join Billy Talent for their U.K. tour dates. 

 

Fret Zealot has teamed up with Tigress to bring lessons to their songs “Choke”, “Disconnect”, and “Alive” to the app. Check them out here! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03MPw0-rgQw

We recently caught up with guitarists Tom Harrison and Sean Bishop to talk about the return of live shows, their debut album Pura Vida, their musical influences, and more. 

 

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A post shared by TIGRESS (@wearetigress)

Q: How did Tigress form? 

Harrison: Sean and Katy (lead singer Katy Jackson) formed it. 

Bishop: Music college was where we met. I was studying the guitar. Most people go to university to do business studies or chem, but we went for guitar. When we were there, we met some people and formed this band. We met Tom there. 

Harrison: I was hanging out with the big boys [laughs]. 

Bishop: We did the Red Bull Bedroom Jam [they were finalists for the contest in 2011] which got us to play a bunch of festivals. 

Harrison: In 2015, we rebranded and reformed as Tigress and it’s gone from there. The album [Pura Vida] has cemented our style. It’s taken a few EPs to get there. Our album just came out with “Choke” and “Disconnect” on, that’s really who we are. Very guitar-driven, riffs all over the place, filthy riffs with some catchy vocals and 90s vibes. 

 

 

Q: Your debut album Pura Vida came out in Sept. 2021. Who were the influences on that album?

Harrison: I definitely have got a lot of 90s grunge influences. Billy Talent is my favorite band, and anything with drop-D riffs. I love that tuning. 

Bishop: We’re influenced by a lot of bands who were big in the 90s, early 2000s-era. I’m influenced by Radiohead quite a lot. Katy is influenced by Alanis Morrissette, our drummer Josh is influenced by Incubus and Linkin Park and Travis Barker. 

Harrison: Sean’s got on his Manson guitar, a Fuzz Factory pedal built it. It’s very “Muse”. We implement that in a lot of our music as well. 

Q. How long have you both been playing guitar?

Harrison: I started when I was 12. I really liked bands like The Offspring – they were one of the first bands I heard on the radio that had guitar-driven punk music. I liked Nirvana as well. It’s so long ago now that it’s hard to pinpoint the moment I wanted to pick it up. There was always a guitar lying around the house that I would pick up. My mom showed me the open chords. 

Bishop: I was listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana and those bands and I just wanted to play the riffs I was listening to. I think originally I wanted to play the bass and I told my mom and she got me a guitar by mistake. I wanted to be a bass player but I ended up on the guitar. But ‘m not complaining. I didn’t grow up around music, my family isn’t musical. I thought what I was hearing was the bass. I just wanted to play “Californication”. There’s an acoustic song off “One Hot Minute”, “My Friends” – that was one of the first songs I learned. 

 

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to start playing guitar?

Bishop:  Just play the songs you like listening to. 

Harrison: It gives you incentive then, to pick it up. 

Bishop: I just used to put the track on, turn it up and turn the amp up and try to play along and just rock out in my bedroom. Go on the Internet and look up the tabs. You need to learn how to read tabs. 

Harrison: You’ve got to be patient. Everyone wants instant gratification, but you’ve got to prolong your gratification and you’ll get there. 

Bishop: Practice should be fun. Playing along to things helps with your timing. The worst thing is learning to play without another instrument. Music is about performing with other people and how you interact with other people and stuff. It’s part of the experience.You need to sort of immerse yourself in the music. Always play through an amp – turn it up. 

Harrison:  Crank it, get a good tone out your amp because it’s fun then. 

Q. You guys have playthrough videos on your social media pages – what inspired you to do them? 

Harrison: It was just to kind of have more things with the single being released at the time. We did a load of silly things like “guess the lyrics to the song”. Because we’re really into guitar, we thought it was a good way to push the song, and hopefully have people create videos to share the song and have it push on even further. You guys discovered us through the playthrough videos, so that was a great positive. 

 

Q. How was it as a band going through lockdown?

Bishop: We both still have barely played since it happened. Nothing on the scale of what we were doing before it all closed down. I think we were quite lucky in a sense that we just finished recording the album when the lockdown came. We finished recording and a couple weeks later, it was like “that’s it, you’re not able to leave your home”. We had all this material ready to be worked on. It was weird. 

Harrison: It was really weird. We were able to mix and master the album over lockdown. 

Bishop: We did a few streaming concerts where we recorded our own parts in our bedrooms, and put them together on a split stream. We also did a headline gig at a real venue. This recording crew came in to stream it. It was like playing a gig to an empty room.

Harrison:  There were loads of comments in the chat but because our playing the gig you can’t interact with them live. 

Bishop: We’ve got some cool shows coming up for the summer so hopefully we’ll be able to get back in the swing of things. 

 

Q. What do you think of the Fret Zealot system?

Harrison: I think it adds an interactive element in a really unique way. Everyone goes on YouTube when they’re first learning guitar, but this is like adding Guitar Hero to a real guitar. Guitar Hero was legendary, so much fun. 

Bishop: It’s going to build up your muscle memory much quicker, because you can just see it. 

Harrison: You have to see how quickly your fingers have to move. I don’t think people realize how quickly your fingers need to move from chord to chord but when the lights move, you can see “I’m really lagging behind”. I think it’s going to be a game changer. Both me and Sean are guitar teachers as well, and I literally could have this in my guitar lessons and say “why don’t you check this out” to my students. Load up a song on the database and see how they get on. 

Q. What is your favorite guitar right now?

Bishop: During lockdown, I got myself a 1960s reissue Stratocaster in shell pink with a mint green pickguard. It’s really nice – it’s like my baby. I’ve tried to simplify my kit lately – I’m not using a giant pedalboard at the moment. I don’t think I’d end up taking the strat on tour, I’ll probably take the Manson with the built-in pedal. 

Harrison: I also have a Fender Strat, it’s a HSS Strat so it’s got a Humbucker in the bridge. It’s my favorite guitar I own. 

You can follow Tigress on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for their latest updates.

Check out Tigress’ song lessons on Fret Zealot here! 

The health benefits of playing guitar

Whether you’re picking up a guitar for the first time or just practicing your craft, you’re not just improving your musical prowess – you’re also taking steps toward better health! 

Many scientific studies have found physical health benefits correspond with playing guitar or just being around music in general. 

Similar benefits to physical exercise

Hitting the gym is great for your health – and so is hitting your instrument! 

A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that active music-making has training effects similar to those from physical exercise training. Researchers compared two groups of healthy people between ages 18 and 30, about half of whom were music students. They were tested for resting heart rate and blood pressure and baroreflex sensitivity. The study found that blood pressure was “significantly” lower in the group of music students, and they also tended to have a lower heart rate than the non-musicians. 

“Our study opens a new perspective, in which active music making, additionally to being an artistic activity, renders concrete health benefits for the musician,” the researchers wrote.

Master the pentatonic shapes  with this guitar gym class!

Pain relief

A study from the University of Utah Pain Research Center found that engaging activities – like listening to music – can help reduce pain in people with high levels of anxiety who can become easily absorbed in activities. The researchers hypothesized that music can help divert cognitive focus from pain. 

The researchers conducted the study on 143 people who listened to songs and were asked to identify wrong notes, while also getting shocked by fingertip electrodes. 

“Music helps reduce pain by activating sensory pathways that compete with pain pathways, stimulating emotional responses, and engaging cognitive attention. Music, therefore, provided meaningful intellectual and emotional engagement to help reduce pain,” the study concluded. 

Keeping the mind sharp

Learning a musical instrument as a child can help safeguard against cognitive decline in old age. A study by the Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology found that in a group of adults aged 60 to 80, those who played an instrument for at least ten years during their lives performed better on several cognitive tests than those who had never learned an instrument or how to read music. None of the subjects were professional musicians. 

“The study confirms that musical activity preserves cognition as we age, by comparing variability in cognitive outcomes of older adults active in musical instrumental and other leisure activities,”  said lead researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy.

Even if you’re older, there are benefits to learning an instrument. 

Try relaxing with the Musical Meditations Course!

Stress relief

We can all use a little stress relief in our lives! A study published by the International Journal of Music Education found that college students who spent 30 minutes either playing the piano, molding clay or doing calligraphy had “markedly” decreased cortisol levels, indicating a reduction in stress. Students in the group that played piano had significantly greater results than the students who had clay or calligraphy as their creative activity! 

Find some “peace of mind” by trying our song lesson on Boston’s Peace of Mind here! 

You can start learning guitar today with  Fret Zealot. Choose from thousands of video lessons, over 80,000 song tracks, 10,000 chords, and more. 

You can download the Fret Zealot app from the Apple App Store or Google Play, watch lessons online, and start playing today! 

Pi Day and the relationship between music and math

March 14 (3/14) is Pi Day! 

The holiday celebrates mathematical constant “pi” (π), which is one of the oldest and best-recognized mathematical constants in the world. Pi is the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter, and it’s valued approximately to 3.14159265 – although its actual digits after the decimal point are infinite. 

To celebrate Pi Day, Fret Zealot is allowing you to “Play through Pi” in the Fret Zealot app. We created a song that maps the C major scale to the first 31 of the digits of Pi. You can find it in the Fret Zealot app under the artist “The Constants”. 


Here’s how you can find your birthday or any number in pi!

Music and math might not seem like they have much in common – but there’s a lot of overlap between the two studies.

 

“Music is the arithmetic of sounds as optics is the geometry of light.”

Claude Debussy

Reading music

“Music Sheet Photo” by Aleksander%20D%u0119bowski is marked with CC0 1.0.

Each piece of music has a time signature, which looks like a fraction. The time signature shows the rhythm – how many beats are in each measure. Musical notes are also assigned a value, including quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes. To read sheet music, you have to know how long to hold each note – which requires math!

Frequency

Why does a ukulele sound higher than a guitar? Why do you play higher notes on a guitar closer to the body?

“File:Pythagoras (titel op object) Lycurgus en Pythagoras (serietitel), RP-P-1964-2902.jpg” by Rijksmuseum is marked with CC0 1.0.

It’s because the pitch of a vibrating string is proportional to its length, and the pitch can be controlled by the length – getting higher as the string gets shorter. 

Greek philosopher Pythagoras studied this phenomenon around 500 B.C on lyres, Greek stringed instruments. He found that a string exactly half the length of another string will have a much higher pitch, but they sound constant when played together, an interval called an octave. 

Patterns

What do the Fibonacci sequence and “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynrd have in common?

They both follow patterns, which are a common occurrence in both mathematics and music. 

(Most) music has repeating patterns in choruses, verses, chords, and riffs. Numerical patterns are sequences of numbers created based on formulas or rules. These types of patterns can be seen in nature, architecture, and everyday objects! 

You can start your musical journey with Fret Zealot. Users can choose from thousands of video lessons, over 80,000 song tracks, 10,000 chords, and more. 

You can download the Fret Zealot app from the Apple or Android store, watch lessons online, and start playing today! 


Fret Zealot iOS apple appFret Zealot android google play app

For Women’s History Month, check out these inspirational female guitarists

March is Women’s History Month – and we’re celebrating some groundbreaking, genre-defining, guitar pioneers who have perfected the craft – from singer-songwriters to experimental sound makers.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1938 publicity photo with guitar)

Sister Rosetta Tharp, 1938 publicity photo/ James J. Kriegsmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

With a powerhouse voice and innovative electric guitar solos, Sister Rosetta Tharpe blazed a trail for rock music in the 1930s and 1940s. Sometimes called the “Godmother of rock and roll”, Tharpe was one of the original great recording stars of gospel music, and one of the first recording artists to use distortion on her guitar. She was born in Arkansas in 1915 and started performing gospel music with her mother at age six. At 23, she signed with British label Decca Records and released songs like “Rock Me” and “That’s All”.  Her gospel music also was loved by rhythm and blues and rock and roll audiences, influencing Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Little Richard, among many others.

She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. 

You can find tabs for her songs “This Train”, “Up Above My Head”, and “Rock Me” in the Fret Zealot app. Download the Fret Zealot app to try them out!

Joni mitchell 1974 cropped

Joni Mitchell, 1974/Paul C. Babin, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Joni Mitchell 

Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell has had a prolific career, starting as a folk performer and branching off into pop, rock, and jazz. She was born Roberta Joan Anderson in Alberta, Canada and contracted polio at nine years old. While she was hospitalized, she entertained the other patients by singing, and later taught herself guitar. Mitchell’s compositions feature creative open tunings.  According to Sweetwater.com, Mitchell’s childhood bout with the disease weakened her left hand, and open tuning allowed her to more easily play chords. Her use of open tuning was also influenced by country blues performers.

She has won nine Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

Search the Fret Zealot app to find and learn her songs, including “A Case of You”, “Big Yellow Taxi”, and “Both Sides Now”. 

Elizabeth Cotten Statue

Statue of Elizabeth Cotten in Libba Cotten Grove, Syracuse NY/Smerdis, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth Cotten

Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten, born in North Carolina in 1895, didn’t record her first album until she was 62 – more than half a century after she taught herself to play guitar and banjo. She would secretly borrow her brother’s instruments when she could, flipping them to play left-handed. She created a unique style of playing – simultaneously plucking the bass line while playing the melody on the higher strings. The technique later became known as “Cotten style”.

Cotten’s music – including her song “Freight Train”, which she wrote before her teenage years, was beloved by the folk revival moment in the 1960s, and she toured and performed up until her death in 1987. She won a Grammy for her live album in 1985, and her songs have been covered by Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, among many other artists.

You can find tabs for her songs “Freight Train”, “Wilson Rag”, and more in the Fret Zealot app. Download the  app to try them out!

St. Vincent (51628524457)

St. Vincent at 2021 Shaky Knees Music Festival/Thomson202019, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Annie “St. Vincent” Clark 

Annie Clark – known by her stage name “St. Vincent”, started playing guitar at age 12 and spent some time during her teen years as a roadie for her aunt and uncle’s jazz group. She played with Sufjan Stevens’ touring band in 2006 before embarking on her solo career, releasing her debut album in 2007. The former Berklee College of Music student does anything but play it safe when it comes to her guitar playing – she uses effects, angular riffs, and creative playing of open strings on certain tabs to make her sound unique. Dweezil Zappa has compared her playing style to his late dad, Frank’s.

You can find tabs for her songs “Birth in Reverse”, “Paris is Burning”, “These Days”, and more in the Fret Zealot app. Download the app to try them out!

Yvette Young at EMG booth NAMM 21st January 2016

 Yvette Young at EMG booth at NAMM, Jan. 2016. Lauriemonk, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Yvette Young 

Multi-instrumentalist Yvette Young conjures up a variety of sounds from her guitar using fingerstyle and tapping techniques – both in her math-rock band Covet and her solo project. Her keyboard-like playing style was influenced by her years of playing piano at the age of four.

You can find tabs for her songs “Acoustic Lullaby”, “Blossom”, and more in the Fret Zealot app. Download the app to try them out!

Gabriela Quintero

Rodrigo y Gabriela (214404243)

Rodrigo y Gabriela/Bryan Ledgard, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One-half of Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, Gabriela Quintero brings her flamenco guitar alive with rhythmic strumming and playing percussion on the guitar body. The two have been playing professionally since 2000. They received a Grammy in 2020 for their fifth album, and played at the White House during Pres. Barack Obama’s administration.

Check out the Fret Zealot app to find and learn songs by Rodrigo y Gabriela. 

Bonnie Raitt 

Bonnie1977

Bonnie Raitt, 1977/Carolan Ross, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ten-time Grammy winner Bonnie Raitt started her musical journey at age eight when she was given a guitar for Christmas. According to the musician’s website, while attending college at Harvard, she played blues and slide guitar at local coffeehouses before leaving to play music full-time. She plays with her slide on her second finger, which allows her to switch between rhythm and slide playing.

Raitt has won ten Grammy awards and was given the Grammy Lifetime Award in 2021.

You can find tabs for her songs “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, “Used to Rule the World” and more in the Fret Zealot app. Download the app to try them out!

If this list has you inspired to pick up a guitar, you can find hundreds of songs and courses through Fret Zealot and learn to play guitar with light.