Nir Felder and the beauty of music

Max Frankl and Nir Felder in Brooklyn, 2017

Max Frankl and Nir Felder in Brooklyn, 2017

When I recently met and interviewed the fantastic guitarist and composer Nir Felder for my podcast, I once again became aware of the importance of playing music every day. Without too my thinking involved, without formulating goals. Of course, it is important to set new goals and try to find a path for your musical journey. 

Nir has put it this way: "A lot of it (in music) is learned by doing."

Sometimes we forget that music tells us how to solve certain things. It is the flow of a composition that shows us how to improvise over a particular song. We can discuss melodic material, scales, triads, and shapes, but ultimately you can learn and experience it only by doing. Use this blog post as a reminder that it will always help you to take the guitar and just play. 

It's the beauty of music: the path is always the goal. It helps to leave the reflexive process, stop thinking and just enjoy the beauty of music. 

If you'd like to hear my conversation with Nir, just subscribe to my YouTube-Channel. I will publish our interview soon. 

Notes from New York I

Max Frankl at 72 Orchard Street, New York City

It's my first week in the Big Apple, and I'm glad to be back in the city I spent half a year back in summer 2013. I am thankful for all the experiences and lessons I could learn back then, and I'm so excited about this new adventure that I'll live through in the coming six months. I want you to explore New York City with me, listen to music I record in my home at 72 Orchard Street and see the city through my eyes here on my blog. After the first two days, I started recording new music, and I wanted to share it with you. I hope you enjoy listening and if you do, please share this blog post with your friends. Thank you!    

'Live in Munich' feat. Nils Wogram out on January 21st, 2017

In the life of every musician there are concerts that seem to stay in memory so much so, that one is actually capable of recalling just about every little detail years after it’s over. These special musical experiences have the ability to make us feel as if we had reached a type of creative enlightenment, previously only open and familiar to us through our dreams. In these rare moments the element of time seems capable of stretching itself into an experience in which, as if in a trance, one is both the listener and simultaneously playing an active role within the musical performance. 
After performing together on a number of tours, the quintet collectively managed to create and shape a unified vision of my music. Nils Wogram’s warm tone mixed with his incredible musical creativity allowed him to perfectly blend and assimilate himself into the group’s sound and my personal style of composing. I am unbelievably excited to be able to release this special concert recording and to share it with you, the listener. 

On Stage

I have a particular habit of preparing for a concert or a tour, and it starts the minute I begin to practice the music, weeks ahead of the performance. This journey through a set of music gives me both confidence and trust; I couldn't play without that form of preparation. The day before the gigs is always special, too. I put together all the effects and devices I'll need, check out the travel routes and try to relax for some time. As soon as I am at the venue, the real fun starts. Soundchecks are most of the time comfortable and relaxing, and it's always nice to get together with your band, find a natural sound on stage and go through some of the pieces. As soon as the concert starts, you have to let go of all the things I just mentioned. Being on stage is special, unique and of course always different. The thing I enjoy most is the non-verbal communication that goes on during a performance. It's an open and honest way of sharing your thoughts on a musical topic, and there's no lying or pretending involved. It's the most positive way of seeing another human being the way she is and trying to come up with something that creates a story around that. These things happen- on stage. 

Type Seth into Google

Max Frankl recommends Seth Godin's book Purple Cow

If you sit down and think about your life for a minute or two, you will remember situations or human beings that changed your life. That teacher in high school who saw your talent, encouraged you to learn more about it and helped you taking each new step in mastering your craft. Your friend Mark who wouldn't get tired of reassuring you that you are on the right path and just needed not to give up too soon. In my career as a musician, I had a lot of different teachers. Some of them taught me great material, some of them showed me a mind setting you need to be happy and productive as an artist. The single most important teacher in recent years I haven't met once in person. He's a humble human being and a brilliant thinker. He has inspired a huge number of people with his ideas and continues to do so. He is a seventeen times New York Times bestseller author. His ideas have changed my life, and especially they way I think about being an artist in 2016. No matter what industry or business you are in, I would strongly recommend that you check out his books and his online blog. Start with 'We Are All Weird' and 'Purple Cow'. Where do you find him? Type Seth into Google.   

About Energy

One of the greatest things about being a musician is to be able to play for people. It might seem evident and clear, but maybe not entirely known is the fact that the audience plays a significant role in the process of a concert. Last week we played in front of a great crowd at Jazzclub Unterfahrt in Munich (picture: backstage after the gig at 1am) and the audience carried us through the first set; playing music felt great and comfortable. We could feel the energy of the people that came to see our show. The second set happened to be a live broadcast on public radio which is pretty unique. Most of the time music is recorded at a gig but will be aired days or weeks later. As soon as we could see the red light of being on air and heard the audience cheering and applauding, we felt an uplifting and positive vibe and energy that wasn't there to that extend in the first set. We started to play and took this extraordinary power and created a beautiful set of music which was entirely different from the first one. The feeling of thousands of people listening to our music in their living rooms gave us the extra kick to dig even deeper into the music. I'm sure that we'll never forget the way this recording felt like and I would encourage you to remember this story for the next concert you go to: It's not only between the music and the artist. It's between the artist and the audience which provides energy for the music to show up in its most beautiful way.    

Max Frankl backstage at Jazzclub Unterfahrt in Munich

Three of my most favorite albums

In our vibrant and fast-paced world, we got used to the fact that there's always music around us. There's music in your favorite restaurant, and you're listening to music at the gym while you try to do five more push-ups than you were able to do last week. There's so much music on all streaming platforms that it's already overwhelming only to choose which album of a new band you want to listen to. So, there's a lot of old and new music out there, and it is as close as it has never been before in the history of humanity. When I grew up, music was a rare thing. I didn't own much music because I didn't have the money to buy a new album every week. This led to the fact that I listenend to those albums for a long time. I knew every word of the booklet, every song name and I could sing along with every tune. This behavior hasn't changed for me, so I come back to my favorite music and listen to it for days or weeks. This way I'm really into the music, feel it, know it and it becomes a part of me. Albums become my friends and life wouldn't be the same if they were gone. For today, I wanted to share some of my favorite music with you. It's Ben Monder's brilliant album "Amorphae", Aaron Parks' fantastic "Arborescence" which is by far the album I listenend to most during the last three years, and Trixie Whitley's "Fourth Corner". I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I do.  

Max Frankl recommends his favorite music

Playing from your heart

Right now we're preparing music for the live radio broadcast on October 14th at Jazzclub Unterfahrt in Munich. My band and I went through all the songs, trying to find the right mood and energy that serve the music best. What always strikes me is when music touches you in a way that it reaches your heart. That's what it's all about and why it is so much fun and a privilege to be a musician. It is surely different for everyone, and I don't want to establish a rule for that, but there's one thing I observed here. The more a musician is connected to his fellow band members and the music itself, the more he will be able to speak to an audience. We as artists have to be as much into the music as possible, know our songs well and be most familiar with the musicians we play with. These two are a necessary condition for the third thing that I want to point out: A musician needs to be connected to his heart. Whenever these three qualities are involved, we see a great chance of touching peoples' hearts, which is the only way we can make a lasting impact on our audiences and society.   

Max Frankl quartet rehearse for the upcoming tour.

On Audiences and Connection

Max Frankl blogs on being on tour and meeting people.

I'm back from the tour and already preparing music for the upcoming radio show on October 14th when our gig in Munich will be broadcasted live on radio BR-Klassik. The concerts we recently played were both very nice; great venues run by fantastic people who designed a special place for music. Somehow, playing music is all about connection: You're by ear connected to your band members as soon as you start to play the first tune. You connect to the audience by the music and of course the things you tell them about it. Besides playing, my favorite thing to do at concerts and gigs is to have a chat with my audience. There are many funny stories that I get to know, learn about my music and the way people hear it. I meet old friends and get to know new people which I like to do. It's like a party, with music I like. With all the great things of your digital environments we live in, this connection from one human being to the other won't be replaced or artificially produced.

The Day before the Tour

Max Frankl blogs about the life of a touring musician.

There’s one special day in any musicians’ life, which is the day right before a gig or going on tour. It’s the day you make sure your practicing enabled you to play all the notes you want to. It’s the day you are thinking about set lists and solo spots. I try to imagine the sound of the venues, how my band will interact on stage and what I want to say to the audience. I think about the fact how much of a privilege it is to be able to play for people who came to hear my music. Every gig is a great chance of presenting the best version of yourself to your audience and friends, and that’s  the thing I love most about being a musician. You can show your evolution as a musician and human being. What a great way to spend your life! 
As I write this blog post, I am traveling to Munich by train. My father was a train driver, so I always feel very at home while being on a train. I look forward to playing my music with my band, which turned into great friends during the time we spent together. Our little tour brings us to an ancient villa in the heart of Munich and a new, great spot for live music in Traunstein, Bavaria.      


I am more than happy that after around half a year of putting together a concept, writing music, putting my ideas into words, my new book "Introduction: Modern Jazz Guitar" has been published by AMA Publishing on April 7th, 2016. I always wanted to write a book that helps you to learn to play jazz guitar, inspires you to write your music and comes with someone who cares about the reader so much, that he offers online support for every question you might have while you are learning with this book. So, here it is! I am very excited! I'll be doing some workshops in cooperation with D'Addario in June 2016. The book is written in German, but the translation is already on its way. In the meantime, just check out the video I produced, I'd be glad if you like it! 

How Pat Metheny helped me

Max in High School playing his first gig, around 1996

As a young guitar student at the age of 15, I got into Pat Metheny`s music through my best friend, who was a piano player. He had enough money to afford to buy the only decent jazz magazine at that time, and he would eventually give it to me, to dive into the music we liked so much. The first guitarist I saw in this magazine was Pat; it must have been around that time when the Pat Metheny group released 'Letter from home', which is an epic album by the way. The only way to check out the music back then was to travel 40 miles north all the way up to Munich, which had a great record store.'Jazz at Beck`s' felt like a candy shop, for music. We spent hours and hours of listening, checked out albums, sometimes without even buying anything, since we were both teenagers with a small budget.

I remember that we once got 'We live here', another of Pat`s great releases for playing a little gig at our school; the principal of the school gave this album to us as a present, and we were so happy to check out the music. It is hard to imagine, but back then, it was almost impossible to read interviews of your idols, without buying jazz magazines; the internet was still years away, at least in Germany. When I heard that Pat Metheny released a book with all his compositions and a section with quotes, I simply had to get my hands on this book. My parents gave it to me on my 18th birthday. I tried to play all the tunes I loved and read through all of these quotes, in one single day. 

Out of all of the brilliant thoughts he presented, one thing stuck with me most: 
'Everybody has a unique voice and a story to tell, that is theirs alone. The challenge is to develop your skills enough so that you are able to tell that story in a compelling way'. I printed this out and put it on my wall, right next to my bed. It became my mantra for every second I played the guitar. It`s still there, after 16 years. And every time I visit my parents, I get this little reminder of what it means to develop your voice. This little quote made me try to learn all that I can, to achieve that goal Pat was talking about.I thought a lot about Pat`s influence on my playing when we recorded the music I had written to the poem "Der Panther" by the famous writer Rainer Maria Rilke. Especially Pat`s album 'One quiet night' had a significant impact, both on my writing and playing for this album we released in 2011. I am so grateful for everything Pat gave us and I am sure that without him, music wouldn`t be the same for a lot of people.

Etting > New York City

Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn

As you might not know by now, I grew up in a tiny town in southern Germany (300 people, twice as many cows), that didn`t even have a grocery store it had no store at all. There was a soccer field, but no music school. I was totally thrilled when I got my first acoustic guitar at the age of 13, bought some instructional books and became very obsessed with music. Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers became my school.
I was so into music that I brought these instructional books to my classes and was reading through them while my teacher tried to explain some math. My dream was to become a musician, move to New York City and play with all those excellent artists in the Big Apple.

So I grabbed all my money, studied music in three different European cities, practised for many hours, have released five albums until now, played lots and lots of sessions and finally made it: I was living my dream of being a guitarist. 
I was awarded "Best Guitarist National" in the 2012 ECHO Jazz Awards (the German version of the Grammys), toured Africa and moved to New York City shortly after that. What can I say? New York was more than the fulfilment of my dream! I met so many great musicians, got amazing new friends and love this vibrant city. My most favorite spot is the neighborhood I lived in, Clinton Hill. I walked around Fort Greene Park many, many times and also wrote a song about it. We recently shot a little video of a new project in Brooklyn, and this video features new music as well as me walking around the lovely Clinton Hill neighborhood. As I was walking around, I thought: 'This is exactly what I dreamed of when I was this little kid living in the small town of Etting, Germany'. I would love to know your thoughts on my trip from Etting to New York City. Just leave a comment on this blog post or just say "hi". I'd love to hear from you! 

Check out the video here...


I love summer breaks! While I enjoy working on a lot of different aspects of my life as a professional guitarist throughout the year, I also need time to reflect on developments and experiences as a musician and artist. I always try to base my decisions for future projects on research and thorough study; July seems to be the perfect time for that, with its warm weather and lots of sunny days in Zurich.

My visit at Ibanez and D`Addario Germany in June turned out really great. I played some of my favorite Ibanez guitars and chose four of them that I will be playing in different musical situations in the future. I`ll keep you updated and will post some videos that feature the new instruments in the near future. Talking to the folks at D`Addario was a brilliant experience, as well. I have always played these strings because I felt at home with them from the first moment on. To actually be asked and able to give D`Addario feedback about new products, like the NYXL series, is a great privilege and makes me proud. I really respect the kind of trust they put into their artists. We will definitely develop some great things in the second half of 2015, I`m looking forward to all of it very much.  

Check out my page at Ibanez and see what I am currently playing and using.


It's always a real pleasure for me to go on tour with my quartet. If you get lucky, then a great band ends up being even more than a combination of superb musicians, great music and intimate performances. It becomes a unit built on a foundation of trust and friendship which is something that usually only develops over time and yet for me is an aspect of working with people that I look for in all of my projects. The Max Frankl Quartet embodies all of the conditions and positive characteristics mentioned and therefore is one of the most enjoyable band projects I have ever been involved in. The concerts we played together this year in April and May, allowed us to grow together even more, resulting in that we are all really excited to head back out back out on tour later this year. Click here to listen to our recent album "Fernweh".

I am very proud to present this fantastic group, all stemming from my secondary hometown Zürich, to audiences throughout Germany in November 2015. We are going to start off in the Textile Museum/Helmbrechts near Nuremberg. Then we'll be off to play the classic infamous club, "Das Rind" in Rüsselsheim. After that, we are going home to the club in Waldstrasse 4, near my hometown, Weilheim. This one is real special to me because it's the stage that I started on and where I played my first sessions and concerts. I also happened to end up working behind the bar as well. Home is where the heart is! Our grand finale for this little tour will be at the Jazzclub Erfurt. We looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible! Thanks to Stadt Zurich Kultur, Pro Helvetia and SIS for supporting our tour.


Being a Vovox endorser for almost ten years now, I recently had the great pleasure again of visiting Jürg and the Vovox team at their factory in Ebikon, which is a small town located close to the beautiful city of Lucerne. Besides taking some pictures at the factory, I was also happy to shoot a little trio on their Tuesday afternoon walk at Lake Lucerne. They seemed to be very relaxed, but still very focused - which I liked a lot about them.

Back to business: From the first moment I checked out Vovox, it was clear to me that these cables would be an integral part of my equiment and sound from this point on. The quality I treasure most about these cables is that I feel connected to my guitar and amplifier in a way that I had never experienced before with any kind of other sound conductors. It is a pure joy to hear how the different registers of my instrument are clearly projected in the sound of the amplifier and how warm my guitar sounds while using this equipment.

Jürg is a true innovator, always searching for new things to find. The new project with Brooklyn artist Walrus Ghost will be entirely recorded with Vovox, also using one of their mind blowing new mics, built by Jürg's new spin-off brand Myrinx

Video Workshop for Gitarre & Bass Magazine

When I was a teenager, I started taking guitar lessons with the local teacher outside of Munich. I got into music and the guitar pretty quickly and at the same time began to read every issue of Gitarre & Bass magazine from the first to the very last page. I soaked it all up and was so fascinated about every aspect of playing the guitar that I knew that I wanted to be a professional musician.

Fifteen years later the folks over at Gitarre & Bass in Cologne featured my album Fernweh and did an artist portrait about me in their April 2015 issue. They also invited me to do a video-workshop at their in-house studio. I was really proud to give insight into my career and the musical issues I deal with. We talked about my history as a musician, about the equipment I use to get the tone I search for and about some tricks to be able to learn jazz improvisation on the guitar. It was great fun to meet Lothar Trampert and Dieter Roesberg, check out the entire magazine facilities and of course talk about a lot of very interesting stuff. Definitely a day to remember for me!



As a musician, I'm constantly trying to push the limits of my guitar playing. What I look for is equipment that I can truly trust, which in return, makes me feel more confident and therefore helps me discover new territories in music. When I tried out and played Ben Monder's two Ibanez Artstar guitars a few years ago, I immediately knew, my search for a new guitar had ended!

After approaching Ibanez in Germany, I managed to become an official endorser for the company and have been happily playing their instruments for the past three years. I am more than proud to represent and advertise for Ibanez, especially when thinking about the great traditions and reputation this company has built over the last eighty years. Prior to embarking on a recent tour in Finland, Ibanez sent me a new AS-200 guitar that took me about 5 seconds to fell in love with. I felt immediately at home with the instrument and decided to take it to Finland. It was amazing how good it sounded in different rooms and settings. Another visit to Ibanez is planned for this summer and I couldn't be more excited to check out the latest developments at the guitarists candy store.

I will keep you posted! Also, stay tuned for official workshops and clinics which I will be announcing as soon as possible.


Great response to Fernweh & more tour dates

Recording, mixing and producing a new record is always an entire journey in itself. When I wrote the music for Fernweh, I had a specific feeling about the specifics the record should convey to the listener. I was proud of the way the band played my music and how the final results sounded. The liner notes, written by one of the most prominent american jazz journalists, Bill Milkowski, made a huge contribution to the success of the latest album.

Newspapers, magazines and blogs throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the US were full of praise for the music on Fernweh. They liked the „almost telepatic interplay of Reto Suhner and Max Frankl“, the „warm and rich sound“ of the entire band and the guitar playing of Max Frankl, that „withdraws itself from every possible categorization“.

There are more tour dats for Fernweh coming up for 2015/2016. The next gigs will be a live radio recording in Hertogen-bosch/NL and a little tour in Germany in November 2015. Additional concerts and events will be announced as soon as they are booked.