Jason Becker Explains How He Writes Music Today and Discusses Biggest Challenges of Making ’Triumphant Hearts’ Album

Legendary guitar virtuoso Jason Becker, who lost most of his motor functions due to Lou Gehrig’s disease (or ALS), was interviewed by Guitar World recently to discuss his approach to songwriting and his career. At this moment, Becker communicates using a specialized system developed by his father, which also plays a crucial role in writing music today. When asked how he relays music in his mind when he’s unable to physically play, Becker replied:

“I do most of that in the composing part of the process. I use my communication system that my dad invented, which is quite fast. You can see me and my dad explaining it on YouTube. I simply explain what to do with each note.”

Jason Becker Communication - Vocal Eyes

“After making my computer tracks, it is just like regular producing. How we produce it depends on the track.”

In 2018, Jason Becker released an album titled “Triumphant Hearts” which featured an all-star lineup of guest guitar players contributing their parts. To explain his process, he shared this album and individual tracks as examples of how he writes music now and how he comes up with new stuff. He continued:

“In ‘Valley of Fire’ and both ‘River of Longing’ tracks, I wanted the players to do their own thing. In ‘Triumphant Heart’ and ‘Magic Woman,’ I wrote the parts but wanted Marty [Friedman] and Uli [Jon Roth] to play it like it was their own song.”

Jason Becker - Valley Of Fire (Official Music Video)

“Players like that don’t really need to be told what to do. Just give them the notes, and they do their magic.”

“My co-producer, Dan Alvarez, is a musical genius, so he usually hears what I am going for.”

Of course, the album had a lot of other guitar legends on it apart from Friedman and Roth. There were also Steve Vai, Steve Morse, Joe Bonamassa, Chris Broderick, Gus G, and many others.

Jason Becker - River of Longing (feat. Joe Satriani, Aleks Sever, Guthrie Govan, Steve Morse)

Despite not being able to play for a very long time now, Becker still built his musical foundations as a guitarist. So when asked whether he still thinks of music by envisioning movements on guitar, he replied positively and added:

“It is a little more simplified in my head since I haven’t played in almost three decades, but I figure out and write every instrument’s part by looking at the guitar’s neck.”

But with his limitations, Becker’s approach to coming up with new music has changed drastically. When asked whether these limitations made him “more educated as a composer,” he explained that it’s not that simple:

“Not more educated, but different. Playing and writing on guitar felt pretty free and easy, but most of my guitar playing was done when I was a teenager. As I grew up, my tastes got different and more varied.”

“I now compose for many different instruments. Since I can’t put my personality into the playing, I need to make every part interesting and passionate.”

He then explained how one of his songs from the “Triumphant Heats” album, “We Are One” featuring Steve Knight, was based on his old demos from back in the day when he was still playing guitar:

“In some instances, I use old recordings of myself playing guitar and write around that. ‘We Are One’ started with two unreleased demos I had recorded when I could still play. I wrote everything else around those demos.” 

Jason Becker - We Are One (feat. Steve Knight)

And then there was also stuff that he used for the Cacophony project that he did with Marty Friedman in the late 1980s:

“‘Once Upon a Melody’ started with a melody I played on the Cacophony ‘Go Off!’ album. I also added a four-track guitar recording of an idea I recorded during the ‘Go Off!’ time. It was an improvised thing that was going to go in the song Black Cat during the water breakdown.”

When asked how the process for his album “Triumphant Hearts” compared to his 1988 debut solo album “Perpetual Burn,” considering all the challenges today, he replied:

“Well, ‘Perpetual Burn’ was just a lot of fun. I was 18 and full of energy. After ‘Speed Metal Symphony’ [Cacophony album] came out, I was very happy, but I was so inspired by Marty, and I was getting a lot better at guitar and discovering my own style.”

Jason Becker - Once Upon A Melody (Triumphant Hearts)

“I wrote like crazy and sent everything to Mike Varney. He suggested Marty and I each do a solo album. Writing it took a few months. Then rehearsing with [drummer] Atma Anur, recording, and mixing it took about a month.”

Obviously, his latest record took a lot of time to complete. Using his method of communication, the process lasted for years. Nonetheless, Becker says that he had a blast doing it:

“‘Triumphant Hearts’ was completely different. It took years to complete. Writing it was fun, and a lot of the process was a blast.”

“The slowness got tedious, though. My great producer will tell you himself that he is even slower than I am [laughs]. He just wanted to do a great job for me, but I think he overdoes fixing things that don’t need fixing sometimes.”

Jason Becker - Classical Intro to Serrana

“It is just tough having ALS. It took a lot. I also must compose without relying on my guitar playing to make it interesting. I wrote lyrics and worked with a real orchestra for the first time. Being in charge of everything took a toll on my body.”

Despite taking a toll, Becker also said that the completion of the record felt like “a huge relief.” He added:

“I didn’t think it would ever happen for a while. There were so many obstacles. I wanted to celebrate, but I had so much more work to do, and my body was breaking down.”

Jason Becker - Triumphant Hearts (Album Trailer)

However, as he also adds, hardly anyone was interested in it:

“I hired a bunch of PR people who tried really hard to get TV shows interested, but not one was interested. Even the big guitar magazines didn’t seem to care much.”

“I was baffled. Did no one believe I made this incredible album with my fucking eyes? I see so many ‘inspirational’ stories everywhere. Was this not ‘inspirational’ enough? You say ‘subsequent success.’ I felt it was a total failure, and I fucked up my body for nothing.”

Gifted Guitarist Jason Becker Doesn't Let ALS Stop Him From Creating Music

“Of course, I don’t see it that way anymore. So many people loved it and were moved by the music. I am very happy it is out there. I just won’t work myself to death anymore. I have so many guitar demos that will be fun for people to hear.”

Photo: Paul Haggard


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.