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Cross-handed tapping

Interview with Marek "Zefir" Wojcicki

Marek "Zefir" Wojcicki is legendary Polish tapper, who released first Polish CD recorded only with touch style, called "Solo". Marek uses cross-handed kind of tapping. I did interview with him on 31st of January 2003

  • Adam Fulara: When did your adventure with two-handed tapping begin?
    Zefir: It was in 1989.

  • How did it happen? Did Stanley Jordan inspire you?
    No, I did not listen to Jordan's music before recording my 'Solo' album, published in 1999. Only after I recorded the CD I heard his music for the first time.

  • So the idea of this musical technique was exclusively yours?
    Yes, the cross-handed tapping gives me originality.

  • Nowadays, while playing your music, do you apply more cross-handed tapping or traditional guitar playing with plectrum?
    I play both techniques with the same kind of respect for each of them. The traditional technique is still very important. The technique which you call is only a half-measure. Tapping won't replace two musicians playing simultaneously.

  • Marek Zefir WojcickiWhy did you start developing this technique then?
    My cross-handed tapping technique gives me a polyphonic potential e.g. I can play two totally independent melodic motives. I use a typical, traditionally tuned guitar with no modifications. I can take a plectrum and play the guitar the usual way any time I choose. First of all, playing with plectrum gives articulation and dynamics, which are absent in the tapping technique. In the cross-handed tapping technique there is very little legatto, all sounds are produced by fingers, just like when playing with plectrum.

  • How did it happen, that you created an exclusive and original technique, which you call 'cross-handed tapping'.
    It was an accident. One night I came back home from the Hybrydy music club early in the morning, but I hadn't had enough of music, so I turned the radio on and took the guitar in my hands. While playing the guitar I was trying to repair the guitar socket, interrupting the music. I bent over the radio and incidentally touched it with the guitar's fret board. The strings gave out a sound. Since it was very late at night I automatically put a finger just behind the twelfth fret to suppress this sound and I was astonished! The effect was as if two guitarists played at the same time. I have never heard anything like that before and it kept bothering me. I couldn't sleep for two nights, trying to think of a way to repeat this effect.

  • How long have you been playing guitar?
    Since I was six.

  • Do you practice a lot nowadays?
    I practice simply by playing. When playing the cross-handed tapping I do not memorize anything. At the moment, I play several different ways. For instance: using only the right hand. Is this tapping as well? If I don't use my left hand at all?

  • Actually, it's hard to call it tapping, because your case is very individual and it is better to say: the cross-handed technique?
    That's right. Moreover, in 5 minutes time I can play the same piece of music in a different way; ability to improvise is a great gift from God and not everyone has got it.
  • Does this mean that the stuff you recorded on your 'solo' album is pure improvisation?
    Exactly, it is a small fragment of what I play at the moment. If you pay attention to this record you see that each composition has different climate and style.

  • What is your way of working? I wonder because there are jazz themes on 'Solo,' for instance 'Autumn Leaves' (Kozma/Mercer/Prevert). Do you start playing a selected theme or you improvise from the very beginning?
    I played this theme because I like it. Everything is an improvisation depending on my mood. Usually, I play what I want to, while calling my effort 'A Music of the Moment'. Maybe today I play what other people would like to be playing tomorrow.

  • How did the recording of the 'Solo' album come about? Did you find a publisher right away?
    The 'Solo' C.D. was smuggled thanks to the first and sixth number (reverbs, etc.), which were included to make the whole record charming and nice. Otherwise the Head of Polskie Nagrania would not agree to publish 'Solo.' As a matter of fact I use the cross-handed technique to play some groovy music, avant-garde jazIf the whole 'Solo' would be this way, most certainly it would not have been published, because for many people the themes I play are difficult to understand. I play everything, but generally, the so called 'my moment' is what interests me most, let's call it jazAnyway, let the listeners of the 'Solo' album make their own theories on the things I play.

  • Were all your themes recorded in real time without using multiple tracks?
    Yes, all of them.

  • What is your present attitude to this CD? Are you glad with it?
    Looking from the perspective, I like this album. It forms a certain story with different musical themes. Now, and even 5 minutes after finishing recording, I would play it in a different way. I still have some DAT tapes from the recording sessions, with one piece of music played in a number of ways. In the studio I played dozens of versions of each theme and a group of my friends chose the versions to be recorded on the 'Solo.'

  • It is commonly known that, as far as performing music goes, you have a wide spectrum of interest, from heavy metal to jazBut what kind of music do you like the best RIGHT NOW - is it the one sketched on 'Solo?'
    Yes, this is my kind of music, which is only an 'instant,' captured in a specific moment of time, connected with my mood, to cut it short - improvisation.

  • Are you preparing some stuff for your next album?
    I can record an album any time, I just have to sit down and play. At present I'm busy with creating my new recording studio. When I'm done I will sit down and record a new CD. It will probably take one hour one day and an additional hour the next day - for improvements.

  • Will you find a publisher for such a CD?
    It's hard for me to meet half way with producers. I never played easy stuff and I'll never play commercial music. Thus, finding a publisher won't be easy, the times are hard for art in general.

  • Which musicians inspire you?
    I haven't listened to music for over 10 years now, I pay attention to sound production and quality. In the past there was Hendrix, McLaughlin.... those were the times! - I was 14 and they are the guitarists I respect the most. I was brought up with their music. Apart from guitarists there was also J. Coltraine, M. Davis and the USA Under-Ground Jazz from 25 years ago, and, let's not forget - Jaco Pastorius. Their music was my whole inspiration. I sometimes listen to records concentrating on sound quality, because I'm building my own recording studio.

  • I guess sometime in the future you will record one of your next CDs in this studio?
    Yes, I also play drums and bass guitar. I shall record the rhythms on my own, and play the guitar live, during concerts. There will be different kinds of rhythms, different musical styles. I will change guitars according to the nature of music and its style.

  • Have you ever thought about purchasing a special instrument, suited for cross-handed tapping (e.g. a Stick)? Or will you stick with the guitar forever?
    I will always be faithful to the guitar. Imagine, if it is possible to play many interesting things on six standard strings, just like in case of plectrum technique, there are unlimited possibilities. For me, playing on two guitars simultaneously is like eating a ham sandwich.

  • Sometimes you really play two guitars simultaneously?
    Imagine, that the same thing you play on two guitars can be played on one guitar with six strings - that is the challenge! I played two guitars simultaneously on several occasions but it is too easy. Playing one guitar, and making it sound like three instruments - that's the way to go!

  • Did you specially prepare your guitars for cross-handed tapping?
    I have two typical, traditional guitars, made of course exclusively for my needs but not in any way modified for the tapping technique.

  • What guitars do you have?
    The guitars were made by Marek Witkowski, according to my specifications and long experience. I designed them and Marek constructed them perfectly.

  • You performed with many famous stars. Did you play any of the themes from your CD during your individual live concerts?
    I played that live many times but only in places I liked. In places where people wanted circus tricks but didn't have money to pay for them, I quit. I play where I like, where people understand my music. You have to see me playing live; I don't use any tricks or guitar gadgets. Many people don't believe that, thinking that I have tape recorders hidden somewhere, playing instead of me. This is why I refused to use a DigiTech Aplifire (with a sampler inside) which was given to me by the company for the promotion of my album. I must sound like a musician, the instrument is only a transmitter.

  • Are you planning any concerts soon?
    None at the moment. I'm busy with building of my recording studio but surely I will play concerts many more times.

  • Will you cooperate with other musicians in the future? Or maybe you're planning to continue performing solo?
    It is impossible to divide it. Wherever possible I perform solo, if I like. Some people mistake my trio with my solo performances. These are two different concerts, although sometimes, after being persuaded by my friends, I play one piece of music by myself - of course, if I feel like it. There are some good musicians who play with me. I select people depending on the stuff. I won't reveal their names, but I can say they are really famous musicians.

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