Equipment

•May 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I have had a few questions with regard to what I use in various scenarios.

 

Let’s start with my teaching set up.

I use a PC running  Scuffham Amps. I have a Steinberg UR22 interface to allow me to plug the guitar into the PC.

The UR22 and the PC both run out to a mixer and a power amp. This allows me to control the backing tracks and the guitar independently.

Scuffham, in case you didn’t follow the link is a software program that simulates some of the most iconic amps available.  It allows me to recreate fairly accurate guitar tones without the need of a real amp in the lesson environment. This is due to space and volume.

 

On to my live set ups.

Currently I play in 2 basic electric setups. These are Rock based and the other is Disco based.

The rock set up is a Fractal AX8 running into 2 RCF Active Monitors.

The fractal is an amp modelling multi FX unit. It supplies me with every amp and effect I could ever dream of and the ability to switch amps at the tap of a switch. Tonally it reacts just like a real amp and to my ear sounds every bit as good as the real thing.

I plug the AX8 stereo into the 2 Active monitors, and also run it stereo to the desk from the XLR outputs. This allows me to adjust my backline volume without affecting the signal levels going to the desk. This comes in handy on numerous occasions and makes me very engineer friendly.  On the AX8 I also have 2 expressions attached, one to use as a Wah pedal and the other is my utility pedal. I use it to control volume, gain, pitch, mix, all sorts of variables.

Guitar wise I use 2 Suhr GG models. These are tuned to Eb.

 

Disco band : The Fractal remains, but no backline amplification. Instead I use a personal mixer and Shure In Ear Monitors.  This band has no amplification on stage. I much prefer this set up for 2 reasons, firstly I have less to carry and secondly, as I use IEM’s I control the volume into my ears and leave these gigs without the joy of ear hissing.

This band is tuned to concert pitch and I use a different guitar as a result.  In this instance I use a PRS Custom 24.  It seems to fit tonally better.

 

I hope that answers the questions with regard to the setups I use.

Another of my Heroes

•April 28, 2017 • 1 Comment

It’s not secret that Gary Moore is a huge hero of mine.

Who else gets this kind of adulation from me?

Francis Dunnery.

Now some may indeed be saying Who? Others may have had to endure my gushing and waxing lyrical in lessons and are now rolling their eyes again.

Francis is simply one of the most talented individuals these shores have produced in a long time. Bare in mind these shores produce THE most talented individuals. We have The Beatles and Led Zeppelin to start with.

I first encountered Frankie when I was about 16 and he appeared on Ch4 show called Twang Bang Kerrang about guitars. He was in the studio recording guitars for the It Bites track Once around the world. Something about what he played just caught my attention.  I acquired the album and the album preceding that, Big Lad in the Windmill.  Teenage me played those tapes to death.  I couldn’t play any of it, but the sound and the feel entered by osmosis.  I managed to see It Bites play a few times live with Francis and they were fantastic gigs. I was most taken with the clarity of the live sound. Not loud for louds sake, but clear and precise.

Next time Francis popped up on my radar I was working at Guitar Village. His manager at the time was local to us and was arranging instruments and such for a session he was doing at a local studio for his solo album, Fearless.  So one day he wanders in to the shop, up to the counter and says “Can I speak to Geoff, Kevin said to come in, I’m Francis”   My reply being .. “yes I know I have a 6ft poster of you on my wall ” .  He stayed for about 1 hr and I asked a ridiculous number of nerdy questions. He graciously answered and showed me a few licks.  FRANCIS DUNNERY IN FRONT OF ME SHOWING ME STUFFF OOOMMMFFFGGGGGG!!!!

Anyway, back to the important stuff. Why should you be interested in him?

With It Bites, Francis was initially seen as a phenomenal guitarist with a distinctive singing voice. Not many singers sing with their regional accents.  It Bites were/are a British prog band with heavy pop leanings. More importantly  they wrote excellent songs.

Francis goes solo. The guitar playing became less “flash” but the songs remained.  Having everything this man has done, I can tell you, that what we have here is a PROPER songwriter. The real deal, someone who can sit in there with Chris Difford, Justin Currie, et al, as some of the best and most crafted song writers these shores have.

He also acted as a sideman for a couple of other notable musicians, Lauryn Hill, Ian Brown, Santana, Steve Hackett, and a little known fella called Robert Plant. ROBERT PLANT.. FFS is there a bigger gig to get???

The solo albums continued, and being a progressive musician, he progressed. Not content to make the same album twice, it changes everytime. Acoustic, Electric, Electronic, re workings. Just when you think you know what he’s doing, you don’t. He’s ahead of you, don’t try to guess what he’ll do. Just understand that the songs will be memorable and the musicianship will be top notch, and for me that is what ticks my boxes for a musician.  Some bands make the same album over and over , because if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. However, if you already have a album that sounds a certain way, well just listen to that, you don’t need another one a bit like it.

This said, I’m sure you now just want to hear if it is for you. Maybe give all these a try , because as I said, he changes so you might just find what you like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many many more tunes to enjoy.

 

You need to visit either :

https://francisdunnery.bandcamp.com/

https://www.francisdunnery.com/

Amazon

And last but by no means least

http://www.progzilla.com/shows/the-francis-dunnery-radio-show/

 

Listen to his radio show/ podcast.

 

I haven’t even touched on his psychological work and Astrology.

 

Enjoy.

Bands you may or may not know about

•April 25, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Here are some bands that I think are worthy of a listen. Not all the same. possibly not to everyone’s taste, but I think offer something worth having a listen to.

 

 

A superb band with amazing vocal harmonies.  The entire album has a Queen/Sweet/ELO kind of vibe.

 

 

 

Two from this band, as these show the kind of diversity within the album

 

 

 

 

 

The lord of Floydesque prog.

 

 

 

I Love Francis more than I can describe.   This country has produced awesome musicians and Francis is by far one of the most over looked.

Singer/ Songwriter, Insane guitarist, Astrologer, Mentor and general all round funny good egg.

 

Allan.  No ONE .. NO ONE gets even close.

 

 

How good???  Very.

 

 

Huge in the 80’s/90’s  and still going, still relevant and with 2 immense singers these days.  Fantastic live.

 

 

Improvising

•February 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A question that has arisen repeatedly in lessons has been ” how do I improvise?”
Well there is a huge question. Due to the nature of improvisation you could in theory just do anything you like and technically that is improvising.
The dictionary defines it as, “produce or make (something) from whatever is available.

Let’s keep that in mind. You are only able to improvise with the resources available to you. If you know all the scales, chords, arpeggios, well you can improvise more expansively than if you just know  A minor pentatonic. Let’s put it another way, if you need to repair something and you have all the tools and materials available you may  repair and improve the item, but if all you have is a roll of gaffa tape, well you will repair it and it may work absolutely fine for a very long time.  Both are legitimate, it just depends what you want.  Back to music, think of it as an off the top of your head composition.  A first draft perhaps.

We need a scenario for this improvising to take place.  The safest for most guitar players, is a tried and tested 12 bar Blues, good old i iv v.  In this instance I am talking all minor chords.

We shall do it in the key of A minor just to keep everything simple.

I throw you in the deep end and tell you to improvise over this 12 bar blues. What are you going to do?

Here is a mental check list of things you might like to make sure you are aware of before you wade in.

  • Do you know the chord progression?
  • What chords are present?
  • How many bars of each chord?
  • Can you play those chords?

I’m going to give you a clue that you wouldn’t get in an exam or live situation. You can use the A minor pentatonic scale here. It fits the chord progression and well it might be the only scale you know. Ref: the definition of improvising, using what is available. If that is all you got, well that’s all you are going to be able to use.

The chord progression is

A min | A min | A min | A min |

D min | D min | A min | A min |

E min | D min | A min | A min ||

 

Not wanting to bog you down in theory, so I will just say that you can use the A minor Pentatonic. I would rather focus on getting you some licks and phrases and getting you playing.

Licks? How am I going to get licks?  This is where learning other songs is vitally important.  If you think of music as just a language, a method of communicating. In English you learn to speak, you learn to read, you take the words that you pick up in these scenarios and then use them in the context you need them.  Observe small children. They start with ” mum” or ” dad” and with a short while of having words said to them and being encouraged to repeat them back, they are expanding their vocabulary.  Interesting to note that often if the parents have accents, they pick them up too.  Same thing happens with music, you will pick up the ” accents” of the music you listen to.   The more expansive your vocabulary the better you can express yourself. However bare in mind a child that can only say ” Mum” and point can get the same desired outcome as an adult who can ask ” could you possibly when you have time , bring me over my freshly made and squeezed fully organic orange juice in the glass receptacle” . One is also less annoying that the other.  Translate that across to guitar, Steve Vai, will improvise one way and Billy Joe Armstrong another. Both get the job done.

Back to what are you going to play?  Well you may well know a few simple lead licks by now? Try them.  They made need a bit of alteration to fit.  Much like the Gaffa tape, you will need to get the correct lengths you need.

The relationship with language is an important one to remember.  When trying to phrase licks it is important to remember how you phrase words. The emphasis you put on certain letters or syllables. The infliction up or down. These can all add to extra meaning from the words.

In order to demonstrate this there is an accompanying video, as something are hard to effectively demonstrate through writing alone.

 

 

 

 

The biggest stumbling block

•October 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I have a large number of students coming to me on a regular basis all with various issues they need addressing to help them progress their guitar playing. A large percentage of the time I can fix it or at least begin to fix it with the simplest of questions.

” Do you know every note on every string and fret, by name?”  The answer is usually a bluffed “Yes” followed by a quick drilling to discover the real answer was “No” or at least not as well as I need to.

A

A#

B

C

C#

D

D#

E

F

F#

G

G#

The above table is what you need.  These are the 12 notes that make up music. I have omitted the enharmonic version i.e Ab instead of G#, this is just to simplify things to begin with.

The exercise.

 

Pick a string. This will be your string of the day. This is the string you are going to be working on. Don’t worry about the others for this day’s practice.

Set aside 2-3 minutes.  You are going to practice finding specific notes on your string.

Take the above grid, print it out turn them into flash cards.

Select one at random, Now you need to find that note on your string. Some will be easier than others. See how many you can get done in the allotted time. If you can get all 12 done, you are well on the way to knowing where the notes are all located.

Once this is done, this can be extended to select a flashcard, then find that note on all the different strings as quickly as possible.

The Ninja level to this is set a metronome and then play all the selected note in time in all positions on all strings.

By this point you will know your notes.

 

 

A Question : An Answer

•June 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I attended a masterclass recently and one of the audience asked a question of the Master giving the class. I found the question quite telling of an attitude that can prevail through all sorts.
So here is a less sugar coated answer than the person who was asked  gave, as clearly they don’t wish to upset the person who paid to see them.

The question was essentially, They played guitar and they felt they could never attain the levels of the player in question due to their lack of theory knowledge. How could they get round it.

Here’s the truth, you get back what you put in. If you don’t want to study the theory that is fine, but don’t then get upset if you don’t progress to the level you want because you lack that essential building block.
This is not the first time I’ve encountered this. It was happened a number of times in lessons. Students having a desire to attain a higher level of playing, finesse and understanding, but the idea of having to actually have to do some work is off putting and they just settle for where they are. Alas there is no quick fix. There are no “hacks”. You cannot access a set of cheat codes. I remember a top guitarist telling me a long time ago, ” you could take up golf, stand at the first tee, hit the ball and there is a chance you will catch it sweetly and it may well go in the hole. You get a hole in one. You have achieve the ultimate in golf. Now someone hands you a guitar, there is no way you are going to bluff your way through a Joe Pass piece” You have to work at it.

Theory isn’t difficult, Some people will tell you it is, but it’s not, you just need to work at it logically and apply the information. You need a good teacher, someone who can simplify and explain clearly what it is you need to know in a step by step manner.

You need to do the work though, you cannot expect a teacher to impart information by osmosis.
As a wise man once said, ” It’s never crowded on the extra mile”.
The difference between the guy asking the question and the Master giving the class was, the Master had gone the extra mile and continued to.
You want to get good, you have to work at it. The rewards are worth the effort.

Education, education, education.

•September 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This morning on the bbc news there was a chap being interviewed about music education in schools. I,of course, took an interest. What was he going to say about one of my pet peeves?
I’m not a fan of how music is taught in schools. Short instrumental lessons to a rigid format for those that take instrumental lessons, and an hour plus of shaking maracas and learning about where violinists sit for those that don’t. So for starters the times are completely squiffy. Anyone who has lessons in the school peripatetic environment and has then gone on to play in adult life, I take my hat off too, as you have triumphed over adversity. I have taught in this environment and how anyone gets anything done is a miracle. My own experience, was to be given a list of children ,quite often in pairs of very mixed ability, A cupboard to work in, and expected to help them through their musical education on 20 mins a week. This may sound familiar to fellow teachers and students alike. This is no way to teach anyone.
I teach privately, I have done for nearly 25 years. Without being big headed, I know what I’m doing,I get results. The government introduced an idea that all kids should learn an instrument, I partially agree. I think more should, I don’t think it is for all, some are maybe of a different bent and they is fine, I don’t particularly want to learn other languages, so I don’t. It’s my choice.
What learning an instrument does is as the chap on the bbc said, it instills confidence, perseverance. You cannot down load an app and master it instantly. You have to practice, there is no quick fix to playing the guitar. I am of course dismissing guitar hero and such completely put of hand as they are not playing a guitar to my mind.

The chap is running an initiative that if you have an used acoustic instrument at home you can donate at an oxfam shop and they will get it into the schools for kids to use. I think it is great, a little short sighted as I think a lot of kids would like to play electric guitars and keyboards as they are deemed cooler, but he was of the classical persuasion and I’m sure disapproves of electricity. The opportunity to try instruments is great though, I totally support it. If you get a chance http://www.jamesrhodes.tv is the place to find out more.

From my own perspective can I just say I receive a good number of thank you’s from parents for teaching their children, getting them grades that allow them to get better uni places. Helping ghe he child have more confidence in themselves, which spreads in to other areas of their lives, and mostly importantly the ability to play an instrument that brings them and others joy. This is very rewarding and is why I have stuck at teaching privately as that is the environment that actually gets it done.

So anyway come and book lessons with me now …. Just kidding, although you can if you want.

 
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