Wednesday, 2 May 2012

New CAGED Guitar Phone App

Over the past few months I have been co-developing a phone app with Leafcutter Studios. The idea is that the app teaches the CAGED system for learning the guitar fretboard. If you've not heard of it, the CAGED system takes five basic chord shapes and orientates everything from there – it really does accelerate your learning; I was introduced to it by the legendary jazz guitarist Joe Pass way back at the beginning of the 1980s and it increased my knowledge of the fretboard almost instantly.

We've employed some games in the app that test your fretboard knowledge in a fun way and we've even included a facility to view the fretboard diagrams in a left-handed configuration!

The app is available for both Android and iPhone users and costs $1.99.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Jim Marshall: 1923-2012

I thought I'd write a short tribute on the passing of Jim Marshall from a purely personal point of view, recalling when it was that I switched over to using his amps and why.

Back in the 1980s I was playing in a pub band whose missions in life were simple: to have fun and to tackle some of the more demanding music that were favourites of the individual members. So our repertoire consisted of tunes by Tower Of Power, Steely Dan, Sting (in his jazzy first solo album days) as well as crowd pleasers like ZZ Top, Clapton and Stevie Wonder.

In any case, on this particular night we were playing at a pub in Sudbury, Suffolk and I had taken along my current 'rock' amp which was a transistor-powered Sessionette SG75 (Jan Akkerman had one too!) which I was very happy with as it provided just about everything I needed from a sweet clean sound to powerful overdrive via twin channels.

Meanwhile, back at the gig, the band steamed into 'Rosanna' by Toto. I had practised the solo up and was ready for launch after the keyboard solo in the middle of the song. At the appropriate moment, I hit the 'overdrive' footswitch and went for it. Trouble was, the dynamics had picked up to such an extent during the keyboard solo that my amp had nothing left and I doubt if anyone actually heard the solo I'd spent ages working on so diligently!

Needless to say I was pretty downcast by the whole affair and so the very next day I did the only thing I thought would solve the situation: I went out and bought a Marshall JCM800 50watt combo that stayed with me as my primary rock amp of choice until three years ago by which time my change to acoustic playing had relegated the amp to a lonely existence at the back of a cupboard.

As far as I know, it is now in Poland somewhere (because it was a Polish guy who bought it when I sold it on eBay) and doubtless still rocking loud and proud!

So thanks, Jim: you really helped me turn it up to eleven.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A New Guitar And The Headless Video!

It's always an exciting time when you receive a new guitar. Well, for me it is anyway; others may suggest I seek help – and fast. But I'm harmless...

So at the end of last year, I had the pleasure of unpacking a brand new hand built acoustic guitar. It's a Fylde Goodfellow – a stablemate for my other acoustic which is a Fylde Falstaff – and a lovely little instrument to play.

For the enthusiast, basically it's an 00 body size with a cedar top and sapele back and sides plus a Honduras mahogany neck with a rosewood board. The on-board electrics are a Headway FEQ system.

But enough about vital statistics, you want to hear what it sounds like, right? OK, but first I'll just tell the story of how we recorded this video... It's headless because essentially this was the feed from Camera 2; for some reason Camera 1's feed was too dark to use and so I thought that nobody would care if they couldn't see me gurning for the world, they'd be more interested in looking at the guitar. So we let it go through.

Sound-wise, what you're hearing is mainly the Headway pick-up with a little ambient 'room' from a Zoom H1 (which picked up a passing motorbike towards the end). The eq is flat and we added a little Lexicon reverb just to make everything a bit more sonically cosy.

So here's the Headless Guitarist playing a track from my first album 'Nocturnal' entitled 'Time Together'.

Monday, 13 February 2012

A Night At The Movies

I thought I'd share a few videos that I've hung up on You Tube recently... So if you'd like to settle yourself in the upper circle, let's dim the lights and get on with it.

The first features guitar legend, good friend and fellow Elixir String endorsee Martin Taylor and myself engaged in an impromptu jam at last year's London Acoustic Show. The story behind this one is that I'd just got off a train and been hurried into a very hot stuffy room (the windows were shut because of the filming and it was a surprisingly warm September day) and told to 'play something'. That's why I look a little hot and bothered!

Anyway, this is the result...

Our next presentation is from the same video shoot which finds me talking to Martin about the use of partial capos – a composing device to which I am particularly, erm, partial...

Speaking of partial capos and moving swiftly on, the next video was recorded at The Glee Club in Birmingham last year. The sound is not as good as I would like and it was very dark in the club, but the rawness and general low-light artiness kinda makes up for it... The piece I'm playing is entitled 'A Stranger's Tale' and you can just about make out a G7th capo over the four bass strings if you look really hard...

I played this gig with my fellow acoustic troubadour, the very excellent Ben Powell. One afternoon recently we engaged in a fit of trial and error with iMovie and produced a sample of the 'in the round' show we do together. Ben's playing his custom Patrick Eggle Saluda and I'm playing a Custom Fylde Falstaff. Oh and we're available for hire!

Finally, let's go back to where we started; the London Acoustic Show last year. Another feature of that (very busy) day was that I played a set on the Elixir Strings stand. The full performance was filmed (but I haven't as yet seen it) but here is a short extract filmed by my son Tim on his phone. It gives the flavour of the day, anyway!

So there you have it: the lights have come up and impatient-looking cinema staff are cleaning up all the spilled popcorn.

Thanks for watching!