Every member of a band or group plays a really important part.  However, there are a couple of key musicians who are almost entirely responsible for keeping everyone harmoniously on track and ensuring they stick to a metronomic rhythm.  This responsibility is often the reserve of the drummer.  Yet there are countless reasons and situations when a drummer might not be able to play – and of course it doesn’t do to rely on just one person, either.  So when it comes to maintaining a steady pulse throughout a piece of music, sticking to the right rhythm, and generally making certain every band or group member keeps in time then the bass guitarist has it sussed as a definite VIP. 


 So, what is the bass guitar?


The bass guitar is very similar in appearance and build to an electric guitar.  However, it has a longer neck and scale length, and normally four or six strings.  A four-string bass guitar is usually tuned the same as the double bass, which means it produces a low, deep and gutsy sound.


Quite often, audience members don’t know what a bass is and it’s also sadly overlooked and overshadowed by its contemporaries.  Yet despite its lack of popularity, it’s absolutely critical to any group or band.  In fact, it’s so critical that you’ll rarely ever see a group or band performing without a bass player.  Which naturally makes it one of the best instruments to learn if you’re looking to do something pretty serious with music; there is always a big demand for great bass players.


And why is a bass guitarist so important?


In music you have rhythm, harmony and melody.  They are the bread and butter of any musical piece and each plays a serious role.  Without rhythm, harmony or melody, you wouldn’t have music.


The rhythm is the pattern of regular or irregular pulses by the occurrence of strong and weak melodic and harmonic beats.  It’s the constant pulse or beat of the music – and the rhythmic foundation is just like a heartbeat.  Rhythm drives the music and keeps musicians playing together, like musicians!


The melody is made up of the words to a song or the main instrument in a piece of music.  The melody is what you’d hum along to or belt out in the shower!  It’s what sticks in your head.


The harmony is what makes the melody sound amazing – it’s the support act and can be described as notes that sound simultaneously and ‘harmoniously’.  Harmony is notes that are all played together.  And it’s the chords behind a piece of music or the accompaniment to a song.  And whilst you can have a melody without a harmony (think one-handed piano playing!), it sounds lonely, empty and pretty uninspiring.


That’s where the bass guitarist comes into his or her own! 


Any good music has a great rhythm, and it’s down to the bass guitarist to keep the rhythm steady and consistent.  The bass guitar is a bit like a metronome keeping everything ticking along as it should be in the background.


The bass guitarist is responsible for creating the harmony and the bass guitar produces all those incredible deep sounds which support the melody – either sung or played by a higher pitched instrument.


Sometimes a lone musician (generally a pianist or guitarist) produces the melody and harmony together.  However, for the purposes of a group or band, everyone has their own separate job to do in order to create the harmony collaboratively.  And the bass guitar plays a phenomenally powerful role in how we, the audience, hear harmonies.


To find out more about the opportunities available or for information on guitar lessons, contact Guitar School on 01244 536888 today or visit us at



 Becoming a good musician doesn’t happen overnight.  In fact, it takes years of hard graft and commitment even to get to an intermediate level.  And there are so many different facets of music learning that you need to take into consideration.  It’s not all just practical!  There’s music theory, sight reading, sight singing, practical musicianship (akin to a practical form of theory), as well as countless different styles and eras of music to understand and master too.  However, if you are serious about honing your musicianship skills and becoming a great artist then there are lots of things you can do to improve your overall skills set, and one of which is learning how to sight read.


What is sight reading?


 Just in case you are not sure what sight reading is, it is basically the act of taking an unknown piece of music and reading / playing it, without rehearsal, from start to finish.  You will never have seen the piece prior to it having been put in front of you, but whilst it might sound scary at first rest assured that with plenty of practice sight reading will become second nature.


Furthermore, it is important to note that sight reading is included in most Music Boards’ graded exams so not only is it an essential way to develop your skills as a musician, but it is also crucial to hone your sight reading ability if you want to score well in an exam.


How to become good at sight reading


 1.     Becoming skilled and experienced in the art of sight reading music can really help to speed up your ability to read music and learn pieces as it makes quick recall of the notes easier.  Whilst you don’t need to labour over every note it is important you aim to be as accurate as possible, whilst keeping in mind the overall tone of the piece, and the pulse and tempo (speed) too. 


2.     Sight reading not only involves reading and playing the notes, but you also need to take into consideration dynamics (loud and quiet) and articulation (such as legato phrases, staccato notes and accented notes etc.), as well as little nuances of detail such as a tenuto (a hold), pauses, tempo changes and any number of other musical directions, all of which can start to appear once you work towards the higher grades.


3.     Not only does regular sight reading practice help to improve your ability to read and play music, but you will find that learning about music theory will support you in your growing sight reading talent.  By improving your knowledge of music theory, in turn you will find it becomes easier to understand musical terms and details, as well as to see patterns within the music – all of which help to demystify the sight reading puzzle.


4.     When you are faced with a piece of music you have not seen before it’s important that you look closely at the time signature to establish a regular and even underlying pulse, the key signature to know which accidentals to include (plus, we would recommend scanning the music quickly to identify any changes in key signature), as well as rapidly establishing chords and chord patterns, and to be aware when those chords change.


5.     Many sight reading mistakes happen when a piece of music takes an unexpected turn, for example a key change, time signature change, or a deviation from the original rhythm pattern.  These sorts of twists and turns can throw an inexperienced sight reader off course, so hence why it is so important to commit time and effort to improving your sight reading skills.


6.     Whilst your preference may be towards instrumental rather than vocal, we would really, really recommend that you include sight singing in your music practice routine.  For many musicians, the act of singing a note rather than finding it on an instrument, is quicker and easier but no less an effective way to improve your sight reading ability.  So if you are finding it an ongoing battle improving your instrumental sight reading, then give yourself a bit of a break and try singing the notes instead.  Just give yourself the key note so you know you are in tune.  Once you feel more comfortable with sight singing then go back to your instrument.  Furthermore, sight singing also forms a part of many Music Boards’ exams so you will be doing yourself a massive favour by improving your skills here too!


To find out more about buying the ideal guitar or for information on guitar lessons, contact Guitar School on 01244 536888 today or visit us at



The art of learning the guitar by getting a fit for purpose instrument


 Yes, it’s true that a workman should never blame his or her tools, but when it comes to musical instruments it really is crucial that you make an informed and constructive purchase – and you buy something which really is fit for purpose.  At Guitar School, we’ve lost count of the amount of times students have turned up to lessons with unplayable instruments which they have purchased via the internet, or even from toy shops!  Our tutors are then left with the unenviable task of having to tell the parent that the instrument is unsatisfactory (to say the least!).


Whilst we aren’t saying that you need to go out and spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds on a guitar (unless you have unlimited funds or plan to become a world famous musician, of course!), it is really important that you do your research and seek advice from professionals before committing to your purchase.  The team at Guitar School can offer you impartial advice on what to or not to buy, and here are our top 5 tips on what to avoid when buying your first guitar.


Top 5 Things to Avoid When Buying Your First Guitar


1.     Set your budget and avoid the temptation to spend a pittance in case it’s a five minute wonder!  Don’t be lured in to spending a very small amount of money on a guitar – or any musical instrument for that matter.  Whilst we certainly aren’t advocating you shell out loads on a beginner’s model, you really do need to ensure you get something which is up to the job otherwise frustration will set in and quitting is inevitable. 


People often buy guitars because of their colour or design.  And frighteningly, Sponge Bob was a big player several years ago.  Yes, we saw several!  They were nothing more than kids’ toys and for anyone wanting to learn even the basics they were complete rubbish and fit for the skip.  It's hard enough to get a note out of a good guitar as a beginner, because you have to work for the note as opposed to the piano, for instance, where you are guaranteed a note when you press it.  So go and talk to the professionals to seek some advice and ask for a list of recommended models so you can do your research and see what suits you and your budget best.  But all we would say is that it is a worthwhile investment and definitely false economy not getting the best you can afford.


2.     Think about what style of music you love and really want to play the most.  There are many different types of guitar and styles of playing, including classical, jazz, folk, metal, electric and rock.  So it’s no good buying a classical guitar if you are really set on becoming a hard core rocker!  Work out your objectives and this will help you greatly in your selection.


3.     And this leads us on to electric or acoustic.  So by way of an explanation, electric is as the name suggests and it’s a pumped up version which will let you rock on and turn up the volume.  However, an acoustic is ideal if you want to strum along to your favourite tunes or venture into the world of classical and jazz guitar.  It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that an acoustic guitar is often cheaper than electric.  That’s because with an electric guitar you have all the other paraphernalia which goes with it, such as amps, cables and power supplies.


4.     Many musical instruments can get better with age, so why not look at the second hand market.  You might be able to snap up a bargain and find a much better make and model of guitar than if you were purchasing brand new.  However, we would recommend doing your research first and asking a professional for their opinion.  And you should factor in the cost of any possible remedial work too.  Alternatively, if you have a musical friend or relative, why not ask if you can try their guitar and even borrow it for a short while to see if you enjoy it and how you get on with it.


5.     Size matters!  Electric guitars are smaller than acoustic guitars, but they weigh in at anywhere between 5 and 7kg, which for children especially is quite a tall order to manage.  Children generally should be a little older before they attempt an electric guitar.  Guitars do come in different sizes, and shapes, and half size acoustic guitars are available for children from as young as 5 years of age.  But again, it’s important you seek professional advice as factors such as the player’s height and age need to be taken into consideration.


To find out more about buying the ideal guitar or for information on guitar lessons, contact Guitar School on 01244 536888 today or visit us at



There’s nothing more impressive than a skilled and competent musician.  Whether it’s on the stage, at a festival or simply at home, playing a musical instrument is not only a total joy, but it’s an incredible accomplishment too.  However, you won’t get good at music overnight.  Did you know it takes at least 10,000 hours of hard graft to go from an absolute beginner to a grade 8 musician?  That’s a lot of work!


Learning a musical instrument is undoubtedly a discipline.  It times time, patience, concentration and dedication to get good at music.  Plus, becoming a good musician is so much more than just reading and playing the notes.  It’s about interpreting what the composer is trying to tell you through his / her music.  It’s about things such as dynamics (so playing loud, quiet etc) and articulation (the tiny nuances of detail such as staccato notes, legato phrases, accents etc). It’s about adopting and developing your own unique playing style – which is something examiners love to see.  And it’s about understanding how making simple and often minute changes to your hand shaping (for piano, keyboard, guitar) or embouchure (for wind instruments) can transform the sound you are trying to achieve.


So, how do you get from an absolute beginner to a grade 8 musician?  Well, practice, practice and, guess what, more practice.  But it’s often not the hours you put in that count the most.  It’s more the quality of the practice you commit.


It’s one thing going for a weekly music lesson, but listening to what your teacher is telling you and putting it into practice at home is crucial if you want to see progress.  Structured practicing is essential if you want to develop your knowledge, ability and style.  But how do you go about practicing in a structured way – especially when demands of life are trying to distract you?  Here are our top tips on getting good at music with structured practice:


1.     Get into a routine.  The most important thing you can do is to get into a routine.  So start by thinking of the most suitable time each and every day, and make a note in your diary so you are more likely to stick to it.  At the lower grade levels about 30 to 40 minutes is ample.  However, as you inch closer to the advanced grades (so grades 6, 7 and 8) then this naturally needs to increase to around 1.5 to 2 hours every day.  Yep, that’s what we mean when we say it’s a commitment!


2.     Now you have your daily practice diarised, make every minute count and manage your practice time effectively.  Don’t always start at the beginning of a piece of music – if there’s a tricky section and it’s halfway through then start there and go over it until you feel you are improving.  Also, avoid the temptation to just practice your favourite pieces – challenge yourself by learning new ones in different keys or with different time signatures that push you beyond your comfort zone.


3.     Scales, arpeggios, broken chords, chromatic scales, contrary motion, diminished sevenths, dominant sevenths… they are all a really necessary evil.  They divide opinion as some students love them and others hate them.  Whatever your views, they are absolutely essential and need to form a big part of your daily practice.  And again, start with the difficult ones first rather than heading to C major time and time again.


4.     Sight reading forms a part of every graded music exam and doing plenty at home is a guaranteed way to get good at music.  Practice your sight reading daily – you can either buy a graded sight reading book or why not download some music you enjoy playing and challenge yourself to sight read different sections of it.  Also, flash cards are a great way to improve quick recognition of where notes sit in both the treble and bass clefs.


5.     Not only do you need to be patient in terms of long-term learning, but you also need to slow down and be patient when playing pieces.  Don’t rush just because you want to get your practice done as this forms bad habits.  Instead, take your time and do a small section rather than whizzing through the whole piece and making mistakes.


6.     Never stop challenging yourself and always strive to achieve your goals.  So play for fun as well as for your exams as you’ll feel as though you are getting further, quicker.  And make sure you throw in a mix of classical music, jazz, contemporary, pop, rock… anything and everything!  Being a diverse musician and playing a wide array of styles will help you to develop at a more rapid rate.


7.     And finally, play in public.  From pianos in pubs and hotel receptions, to busking on the street with your guitar.  Any opportunity to showcase your talent counts as structured practice as, let’s face it, there’s no such thing as bad practice after all.  But it is worth bearing in mind that there’s good practice, and great practice.  And great practice is structured and well thought out.


To find out more about getting good at music or taking up an instrument, contact Guitar School on 01244 536888 today or visit us at


This week I had the pleasure of catching up with singer, songwriter, frontman from Welsh indie band The Immediate and BBC broadcaster Adam Walton to discuss music, bands and of course guitars.

GS:     How did growing up in North Wales affect your musical influences?

AW:     Being geographically removed meant that those of us who loved music had to make more of an effort to experience it and hear interesting things. This is all supposition on my behalf, of course, but I imagined that people who grew up in Manchester had easy and ready access to the music that was emanating from the city at the point when music was becoming very important to me (late 80’s).

We’d have to go on coaches and minibuses to see the bands we wanted to check out. Woofer— from Crocodile Records at the indoor market in Mold—would sort out the tickets and the transport, and we’d go off to Liverpool or Manchester to see The Primitives, The Bunnymen, The Stone Roses, whoever was touring at the time that we wanted to see. So we had to make an effort to check something out. We couldn’t take music, live music, especially—for granted.

Also, being from the countryside meant—I imagine, because I have no other real frame of reference—that there was no social pressure to like cool stuff. I really loved U2 when I was little. Boy sounds great regardless of their tax avoidance strategies.

I relied on friends sharing compilation tapes, or records (for me to tape) Geraint who ran our youth club in Nannerch let me borrow lots of his records (I may—accidentally—still have a couple?) Rich Holland who was a local journalist and writer, a few years older than me, would make the most fantastic, wide-ranging compilation tapes (definitely a long-term influence on my music philosophy); Gary—the Chicagoan who ran Back Alley Music in Mold, when it was a record shop, would turn me on to things. And my dad: his old rock ’n’ roll 7”s, Dylan albums, and his hi fi and tape recorder - where I’d make my own compilations or try to play along with whatever it was that Robbie Robertson was playing—were the key influences.

GS:     Do you have any Welsh bands that have been a particular influence on you?

AW:    Not really. Not back when I was a kid, anyway, because I wasn’t really aware of the nationality of the bands I was listening to, probably because there was only The Alarm who had any real profile, or success. I remember staying up late to watch them live from (I think) the Montreux Festival, on ITV. They came on and looked ridiculous, like Shetland ponies dressed as cowboys who’d been told what punk was by a practical joker.

When I was in my first bands—very early 90’s—much of what we tried to do was as a reaction against what other local bands were doing. That’s a sort of an influence, isn’t it?

Girohead sounded like a photocopy of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin; Baby Milkplant sounded like The Farm, and Wonderland were as close as we had to Bryan Adams. I’ve no idea what we sounded like, but we weren’t good enough to nail sounding like someone else, like our mates were, so we probably sounded bad, but interesting.

I started doing radio shows, properly in 1993 and my band finally gave up the ghost in 1997. I’ve been massively inspired by a huge amount of the Welsh music I’ve listened to and played since then, but as I wasn’t making music until very recently I hadn’t noticed the influence that those bands were having on me. I think I’m very much inspired by the excellence and
commitment of bands like Joy Formidable and Future of the Left, but you wouldn’t hear any particular musical influence, from them, I don’t think.  

GS:     Was becoming a radio DJ something you always wanted to do or was it more something you fell into?  

AW:    Something I fell into. I was drunk in Kings Wine Bar in Mold (now Y Delyn) and someone pointed out that a man at the bar worked for the local radio station, so I went up and hectored him about how shit the station (Radio Clwyd) was because it didn’t play any of the local bands. And they offered me a job. I’m still there.

GS:    The first song you played on the radio was Indian Rope by the Charlatans. What made you choose this track above all others?

AW:    I had just bought it, on 12”, from Crocodile Records in the indoor market in Mold. I must have liked it a lot because I was on the dole and didn’t have much money to spend on music. It wasn’t anything more than that, then: liking it, at the time… which is how things still work, now.

GS:     Your radio show Revolution was instrumental in breaking some fantastic bands such as Gorky’s Zicotic Mynki, Catatonia, Stereophonics and 60ft Dolls. How involved were you in discovering the bands you featured?

AW:     I don’t think radio presenters should get a credit for ‘discovering’ a band. By the time I hear them, and certainly  by the time they’re good enough to be played on the radio, they’ve done all the discovering themselves. I used to hoot with laughter when Zane Lowe would claim to have discovered something that I knew, full well, had been handed to him by a radio plugger. I wonder if he annoys his next door neighbours by claiming he’s discovered them every time they open their front doors?

We radio / media people are sent lots of music. We (should) listen to it and then play what we like. It’s not difficult, and it’s certainly not anything we deserve extra brownie points for.

GS:     Is discovering new talent an important part of your career? What is it about it that you enjoy?

AW:    Playing the best new sounds that come my way is what I enjoy the most. It’s never felt like a career. It’s just sharing a joy and a curiosity about new music. And a passionate belief in infinite potential and the absolute joy of creativity.  

GS:     You have also been busy with your three piece indie band The Immediate this year with the release of your EP. How well do you think it has been recieved by the industry?

AW:    I still have 200 copies—at least—of our comeback album (still technically a debut album) in my bedroom, so - despite the fact that I think it’s a good album - it hasn’t gone great, from an industry point of view. Which is absolutely fine. This band gives Richard, Duncan, and me a way to make a noise and enjoy ourselves massively. It’s one of the most precious things in my life. Now I’ve learnt that the industry isn’t much interested in what a bunch of past-it 40-somethings from Mold are doing, I can enjoy it all the more.

We’re in the studio, currently, making a new EP. The songs are a lot less poppy than they were on Manbuoy. One of them genuinely unsettles me. I think it will be the best thing we’ve done, and I’m more or less certain it will sell far fewer copies.  

GS:     When making a record, how involved in the production side of things are you when working on a new record? Do you get involved in the mixing and mastering process? 

AW:    All of it. Every aspect because it’s fun. Production—when you’re self—releasing and have a very limited budget is just about decisions, especially when you’re a three—piece. Do we want to make something that we can replicate live, between the three of us, or do we want to layer things and focus on the recording, first and foremost, and then compromise a little to be able to perform those songs live?

Our current philosophy is much closer to the former. There will be minimal overdubs on our new recordings… mostly just double tracks of the guitars to make things sound bigger, when they need to sound bigger.

When you record like that the performance (that you record) is the most important part of the process. If you record it wrong, if there are fumbles / dropped beats / missed notes, everyone can hear them. Hopefully the performances are good and that will mean that the mix should be simple, just a case of knitting things together so they sound cohesive and exciting.

It helps - massively - that we record with an excellent engineer in an excellent room. Russ Hayes (Orange Sound Studio in Penmaenmawr) has great ears and a really positive, can-do philosophy that makes recording with him an absolute pleasure. Highly recommended!

GS:    Moving on to guitars, how old were you when you began learning?

AW:    I went to Glan Llyn when I was in my first year of secondary school. One of the kids in our year, Graham Devine, took his classical guitar and played it one day. The utterly beautiful sound that he made changed my life, completely. He’s a world famous classical guitarist, now. He’s incredible.

GS:    Do you have a favourite guitar and amp combo? 

AW:    Fender Strat + Vox AC 15. I’ve tried a few things over the last 30 years, but this is the combination I like the most, that gives me 'my sound'. My relatively cheap Mexican Fender Strat has just the right amount of bite in the pickups for me. And I love the AC 15. It works so well with a three-piece, because it has power and presence, so that it cuts through the bass and the drums, but doesn’t obscure them.   

GS:    What made you choose guitar as your chosen instrument?

AW:    I didn’t really have a choice! It’s what I heard that moved me. I did try clarinet (I was awful) and flute (I loved the flute). I also play a bit of keyboards.

GS:    Are you a self—taught musician or have you had lessons? 

AW:    When I started out, I was learning classical guitar with one of Wales’ finest teachers: Sarah Jones. I stopped those lessons after a year, or so, because I wanted to sound like The Edge and Link Wray. I was self—taught from then on, but started classical guitar again 3 years ago under the excellent tutelage of Jonathan Richards (Colwyn Bay). He’s not ‘just’ a teacher, he’s also a composer and a concert performer. I had to stop those lessons, too, to be able to afford rehearsals etc. When the band reformed, but what I learnt from Jonathan—and from the pieces he encouraged me to play—has been massively inspirational.  

GS:     What advice would you give to young musicians wanting to get their music heard on radio?

AW:    Be good. Be yourselves. Be your own worst critics.

GS:    Adam, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to today. It’s been really interesting talking with you. We wish you all the very best for the rest of 2018 and for the future!

Published January 2018 by 


This week I had the honour of catching up with singer, songwriter, author and broadcaster Cerys Matthews to discuss her solo career, Catatonia, Radio 6 and “The Good Life Experience”.

GS:     With the recent success of Welsh Language Music Day reaching over 3 million people, firstly I'd like to ask if there are any up and coming artists you think have the potential to become the next big thing from Wales?

CM:     I don’t like to discern between old or new, and right now, I can’t get enough of Llio Rhydderch, who’s been around a while, but isn’t widely known enough in my mind…she is a triple harp player, such an intuitive player, it’s like listening to Miles Davis or someone of that musicality.

GS:     When writing new material yourself, do you have a go-to instrument when you begin the creative process?

CM:    I have a Martin triple 0 acoustic guitar that's been my workhorse both for writing and touring for many years. Neil Young gifted it to me when we signed to his Vapor Records label in the 90s. It responds well, it doesn’t make a fuss, it’s small and so easy to handle, and it’s beautifully warm sounding.     

GS:     Do you have a favourite guitar?, One you can’t leave home without? 

CM:    I have a vintage 'The Gibson’ which they think is from 1931 (The Gibson is what's printed in handwriting style on the head stock), so light you can hardly believe it. But so old, and so fragile, that it stays at home with me where I can look after it.

GS:    Do you play any other instruments besides guitar?

CM:    I’m like a jack of all and master of none; I started collecting recorders when I was 5, then went on to flute, then finally settled with oboe. I make noises with harmonicas, and play the piano, but it’s guitar I return to again and again.  

GS:     Have you had any music tuition or are you a self taught musician?

CM:     I started my obsession when a recorder was put in my hand at school when I was 5. It snowballed from there, collecting all sorts of recorders, treble, bass tenor, fife and sopranino, then taught myself guitar, started trying to write songs, and then started having a few piano lessons. I didn’t study music in secondary school, but went off to Spain at 18 to learn more about Flamenco and by then had also started collecting records from musicians I loved. Mississippi John Hurt, Snooks Eaglin, Dylan etc as well as song books from around the globe to learn traditional songs from all over.    

GS:     Did you always want to be a musician or did you ever have any other career aspirations?

CM:    I always wanted to be a musician, didn’t always think it might happen.  

GS:     It’s been a few years since you last recorded and released an album, are you planning on releasing any new material during 2017?

CM:    I’ll release an album at some point in the future, it’s percolating at the moment. Until then, I so enjoy sharing my love of music on my Sunday show I programme each week for BBC 6 Music and the BBC World Service show I host. It's a total joy for me to choose an entire 3 hour show each week. It feels quite creative so it keeps me totally happy musically speaking, and a world away from the pressures and time sacrifices of touring.   

GS:     The bulk of your solo material has been released via Rainbow City Recordings, could you tell us a little more about the label?

CM:    It’s become ‘Marvels of the Universe’ by now, but I set it up so that I could record and release music when I wanted to.  It worked out wonderfully, I wish I'd done it years ago, and encourage other artists to do so.  I also release other peoples music now too e.g. Ghazalaw - a Welsh Indian project weaving Ghazals and old Welsh verse .   

GS:     How involved in the production side of things are you when working on a new record? Do you get involved in the mixing and mastering process? 

CM:    I’m totally involved from start to finish, and have done so since the beginning, including Catatonia time too. I love the process, coming up with the structure for the songs, arrangements, hook lines, and instrumentation, as well of course as writing the chord pattern, main melodies and lyrics and finally the sound of the mix and master, order of songs and presentation.

GS:    With all the current reunion tours featuring bands from the 90’s, do you see Catatonia ever reforming for a tour or possible new album in the future?

CM:    No

GS:    What have been the highlights for you during your musical career to date?

CM:    Meeting fellow musicians, music fans and record label folk: Mulatu Astatke, Herb Alpert, Allen Toussaint, Jac Holzman, Jack Bruce, James Burton...singing with Larry Adler, Tom Jones and David Honeyboy Edwards...also add singing with a brass band in New Orleans...

GS:    You have collaborated with many artists in the past including Sir Tom Jones and Space, Do you have an artist you would love to collaborate with in the future?

CM:    Christy Moore.   

GS:    You have many talents from singing, guitarist, author, broadcaster, to festival organiser. Is there a particular role you enjoy the most?

CM:    Programming radio, and playing this great music, all era all genres, all languages, to a like-minded curious and intelligent, if hungover ;) audience live each Sunday (10am-1pm) has got to rate as one of the best jobs in the world.

GS:    How do you balance your time between your professional career and your family life?

CM:    The same as most working women, I get it done, and am glad that I have the right to choose.   

GS:     Since 2014, yourself, Steve Abbott, Charlie Gladstone and Caroline Gladstone have been involved in creating the ever growing popular outdoor festival ‘The Good Life Experience’. How did it all start? 

CM:    We wanted a festival where the punter wasn’t just a way of milking money. Away from corporate pressures, we wanted to create a place where people could come and get new ideas, feel inspired, try their hand at new things, skills, craft beer, pit cooking, abseiling down trees, coracle racing, whatever floated their boats really.  It’s all hand picked stuff across a range of interests: books, food, great outdoors, exploring, science, wild swimming, music of course, cider making, honey whiskey, all sorts of crafts and free vintage fair rides. We wanted to make it a deal as we saw festivals were so expensive, and not always perfectly programmed nor particularly interesting in experiences you can try, skills learnt and memories made.    

GS:    What is your vision for the festival in the future?

CM:    More fires, more music, more beer, more books, more philosophy, more pot cooking, more tree climbing, more debate, more coracle races and more hoe downs…


GS:    Cerys, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to today. It’s been an honour and it has been really interesting to hear how you shape and mould your songs. We wish you all the very best for the rest of 2017 and for the future!


This years 'Good Life Experience' festival will be held on September 15th, 16th and 17th 2017 in Hawarden Flintshire, just 8 minutes drive from Chester. For your tickets visit 

Published May 20017 by  


Following Oasis singer/songwriter and lead guitarist Noel Gallagher for over two decades, I have always taken an interest in the instruments and technical gear he is using. Today, Noel's pedal board is extensive, with his current rig costing in excess of £6000. However, back in the 1990's it was a different story. In this article I unveil the guitars, effects and amplifiers Noel used to create that huge stadium rock tone that inspired a generation and explain how to achieve his sound on a budget.

This Mancunian Brit Pop legend has always looked his most comfortable on stage. Cast your mind back to Main Road, Manchester in 1996, minus a laminated walking map you'd be forgiven for thinking Noel was about to join a ramblers society. He enters the stage wearing a navy blue and olive green Berghaus cagoule with matching green cargo pants. He seems elated and wastes no time in raising the expectation level as he greets the crowd before reaching for his custom made Union Jack hollow body guitar, the Epiphone Sheraton. This now famous guitar had always intrigued me with its Sheraton headstock and its Riviera bridge, something I searched for in guitar shops up and down the country for years to no avail.

In the early days Noel always seemed to sport a hollow body guitar. The first ever live footage I saw was the 1994 show at Southend Cliffs Pavilion, where he played a wine red Epiphone Casino. The Casino was ever present at those early shows, and it was always Epiphone guitars Noel was playing. He used to boast they were every bit as good as the more expensive Gibson models.  These days, however, it's rare you'll see him with an Epiphone guitar in his hands.

It's his early 90's tone I am focusing on here. In the Definitely Maybe years, Noel’s pedal board consisted of these three, now iconic guitar pedals: a Vox V847 Wah, a Boss DD-3 Delay pedal and the mighty Ibanez TS-9.

The VOX V874 is based on the specifications of the original pedal developed by VOX in the '60’s.  The V874 Wah-Wah offers guitarists the same legendary tone with the addition of AC power capability and a buffered input jack for preserving the unprocessed guitar tone when the pedal is not engaged. The pedal’s inductor has undergone a redesign to be closer in specification to the original VOX wah inductors, for improved dynamics and tone.

The BOSS DD-3 is a compact delay pedal with superb sound quality and features. It provides 3 delay time modes, and a delay time control for quick adjustment of exact delay time between 12.5ms - 800ms. The pedal also has a hold function that repeats delay sound indefinitely for
interesting effects

The IBANEZ TS-9 Tube Screamer is a reissue that's just like the original in so many ways. Same housing, same famous seasick-green paint, and the same crankin' overdrive that made the original one of the all-time classic pedals. Guitar Player called it the best.  Plug it in.  Crank it up.  You'll hear what all the fuss is about.

The amplifiers Noel used in this specific era of his career were predominantly Marshall. The JCM and Bluesbreaker range always stood proudly on stage behind the musician as he bellowed out those huge anthems. Whilst these valve amplifiers can be expensive to buy and costly to maintain, we recommend the more affordable Marshall MG range. You can pick up a Marshall MG15 combo for around £90, perfect for the bedroom musician. If you need something with a little more volume in the practice room, Marshall also provide these amplifiers in a 30, 50 and 100 watt model. The VOX V874 pedals are still available at the time of writing this article, and are on sale at around £80 - £90.  The Boss DD-3 has been discontinued by the company. Fear not though, as Boss always re-brand their range adding new features to their products along the way. Today’s current model is the Boss DD-7, retailing at around £135. The Ibanez TS-9 is still available from all good guitar stores and is currently selling for around £130.    

As Noel’s playing matured, so did his sound, and by 1995 things were starting to change. Drummer Tony McCarroll had been replaced by Alan White for the (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? sessions. In 1997 the band’s third album release  Be Here Now became the fastest-selling album in UK chart history. It saw thousands of people camping outside record shops up and down the country, with the hope of being the first to get their hands on the album. The creative process at this time seemed to be changing for Noel too, as he started to experiment with different amplifiers and pedals. With this his pedal board started to grow. Twenty years on, his current rig for the highly anticipated 2017 High Flying Birds release has been custom made by Gig Rig. Noel’s new album is due out towards the end of 2017. With rival brother Liam releasing his debut album As You Were later this year, it promises to be a very busy year for the Gallagher brothers and a very interesting one for the fans too.


April 2017

Mixolydian Masterclass: Play Like BB King, Slash, Joe Pass and many more...

Over the coming months I will be offering all of our intermediate and advanced students the opportunity to work on a Mixolydian masterclass. This will feature 10 individual thought provoking lessons. Together we will explore the works of iconic guitarists, these being; BB King, Slash, Brent Mason, Joe Pass, Junior Marvin, Tony Rice, Ry Cooder and Brian Setzer. Covering a variety of genres including Blues, Rock, Jazz and Rockabilly. These lessons will be arranged to improve your knowledge of music theory, the use of the Mixolydian model scale and improve playing techniques such as speed, fret board accuracy, string bending, vibrato, hammer ons and pull offs.

In part one, exercise one, we look at a blues style rhythm using the famous wha wha pedal made by Jim Dunlop. If you don’t own one of these pedals don’t worry, it is still possible to complete the exercise without one. To accompany the blues style rhythm achieved in exercise one, exercise two will follow on to focus on the lead guitar style of the mighty blues legend BB King. King had a unique playing style that has been well documented over the years. Further exercises in the other genres and artists will then follow.

I hope you all enjoy this series and grow fond of a genre you may never of thought you’d have liked in the past. 



November 2016


Recently I caught up with award winning singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and author Catherine Anne Davies aka The Anchoress. To discuss her debut album, 'Confessions of A Romance Novelist', working with Paul Draper and the future.

GS: Being a multi-instrumentalist, firstly I'd like to ask which instrument you first started playing and what age you were when you began writing your own music?

CAD: The first instrument that I started playing was the flute, which I took to studying quite seriously from about the age of 8. I ended up playing in orchestras until I picked up my sister's guitar around the age of 14 and almost immediately started writing songs at the same time. Teaching myself to play different instruments and writing have always gone hand in hand really. 

GS: Do you have a go-to instrument when you begin to write a song?

CAD: It depends what phase I am going through. There can be months when I only write on the piano. There were years when I only wrote on the guitar, too. At the moment I'm actually writing a fair bit in the studio which is an entirely different process altogether, where the song might emerge from more electronic elements, loops, etc. 

GS: Do you have a favourite guitar, one you can’t leave home without?

CAD: I've been on the road for nearly the past 2 years with the beautiful Gibson J165. Because it's a small body acoustic it's been the perfect touring guitar. Very comfortable to play, compact, but tonally as hefty as the J200. 

GS: Have you had any music tuition or are you completely self-taught on all instruments?

CAD: I could read music before I could read and I had "proper" lessons for about 7 years on the flute, including music theory. I'm entirely self-taught on the guitar and piano though. I think once you've picked up one instrument, it's fairy easy to transfer that knowledge onto another one though. 

GS: Which artists have been inspirational to you becoming a musician?

CAD: My biggest inspirations are probably those that have seized complete authorial and artistic control: Kate Bush, David Bowie, Prince. There's a common thread that runs through all of my favourite albums and that's about the singular vision and total control the artists had in releasing their creative visions. That's been very important to me throughout the process of making my album: something I probably would not have been able to retain in a major label system.

GS: Your album Confessions of A Romance Novelist was released in January 2016, and has been voted one of ‘The Best of The Year So Far’ by HMV. It also has received great reviews from MOJO, GQ, Prog, The Sunday Times, and TheObserver. Are you happy with the way the album has beenreceived up to now?

CAD: To be honest I tend to avoid reading reviews. It's impossible to avoid completely and it's great, of course, when people "get" what you've been aiming for. But for me, the thing I enjoy is being in the studio and making records.

GS: The album was co-produced by yourself and PaulDraper formally of Mansun. How did you two meet andbegin working together?

CAD: We first met after Paul emailed me after hearing some of my home recordings. We recorded a couple of my songs but for various reasons it didn't pan out at the time. We kept in touch and eventually started working on what would become the album a few years ago. It's turned into a great ongoing creative partnership: I've just co-written half of his solo album with him and we are busy working away on finishing ‘Spooky Action’ before I start up on the next Anchoress record.

GS: Where was the album recorded, mixed, and mastered?

CAD: The album was recorded at (the now defunct) Sofa Sound in Acton, Stanley House, and my old flat in Blackheath. It was mixed by Cenzo Townshend at Decoy Studios and P. Dub at The Loft and mastered by Jon Astley at Close To The Edge.

GS: I’ve seen you many times online editing drums and various other instrument tracks using Pro Tools. Where did you learn how to use the program and do you use any other DAW?

CAD: I started out using a multitrack and eventually shifted over to Logic before graduating onto Pro Tools. I learnt how to use it from a mixture of teaching myself and learning "on the job" in the studio. I still sometimes shift back over to Logic if the track feels like it needs writing a little more in the box but I tend to use Pro Tools in the main now.

GS: The arrangements on the album are very well worked, how many different instruments did you play on the record?

CAD: I think I lost count after a while... I certainly raided my collection of eBay acquisitions during the making of the album. As well as the usual suspects of piano, guitar, etc. There's also some flute, omnichord, accordion, and glockenspiel on there.

GS: Earlier you mentioned you had co-written some tracks for the forthcoming Paul Draper album. Did you contribute to Paul’s debut single ‘Feeling My Heart Run Slow’?

CAD: I've written 7 tracks for Paul's solo project and also been assisting with the engineering of the record as well as playing synths, piano, and additional vocals.

GS: You are currently on a run of live shows that has seen you play The Focus Wales Festival in Wrexham to the Great Escape Festival in Brighton where you headlined the BBC Introducing stage. How did that feel?

CAD: We had a great run of live shows over the summer, culminating in playing the Bowers & Wilkins stage at Womad which was an incredible experience. It was quite a challenge to try and bring the album to life with a 5 piece band but it was really memorable to travel around the UK meeting so many people who've enjoyed the album. I'll be playing one final show this winter at Kings Place in London on December 17th before drawing a line under the Confessions album.

GS: When not performing as a solo artist you have been spending time playing keyboards touring with Simple Minds. How did that happen?

CAD: I play live keys and guitars with Simple Minds, as well as contributing vocals. The whole thing came about after collaborating with Jim Kerr for the Dark Flowers project. The producer Paul Statham was the connecting figure for the Dark Flowers project, which I co-wrote 4 songs for (and was also where I first met Jim from Simple Minds).

GS: You have already begun writing the follow up to ‘Confessions’ and have even chosen producer Bernard Butler of Suede, what made you choose Bernard for the next record?

CAD: I've actually been working with Bernard sporadically over the past few years while I was making Confessions, so chronologically speaking what we've been doing is already fairly developed in terms of being recorded. However, what we've been recording together will probably not be a followup to Confessions so much as a tangential offshoot but it's still a work in progress at the moment, so it's impossible to say definitively. I don't really like to pin things down until they're finished. The next Anchoress album is something I've already begun recording though, alongside continuing to write for and work on Paul's solo album. All these things are being juggled simultaneously and one will pop to the surface before the others!

GS: When can we expect to hear something from the new record?

CAD: I'll probably play a couple of new songs at the show in December. Sometimes it's really helpful to developing an arrangement to bring the songs to life in a live setting before committing them to record.

GS: Do you think it is essential for an artist to be signed to a major label to make their way in the music industry these days or do you think it can be done on a smaller label or even independently?

CAD: My manager works with an artist signed to a major and the sense I get from him is that it is no easier, apart from the perspective of having bigger budgets to spend on marketing. With an independent or small label you just have to be more creative with the ways in which you can grow your audience, and develop the patience to let it happen more organically.

GS: Catherine thank you so much for taking the time to talk to today. It’s been an honour and has been really interesting to hear how you shape and mould your songs. We wish you all the very best for the rest of 2016 and for the future!

INTERVIEW: Billy Bibby (Former Catfish and the Bottlemen)

This week I sat down with founding member and former lead guitarist of Catfish and the Bottlemen, Billy Bibby to discuss the past, present and the future. Uncovering Bibby’s guitar rig, we find out how he creates that explosive sound that rips the roof off venues wherever he plays. Fresh off the back of his first UK tour with his new band ‘The Wry Smiles’, Bibby is as excited as ever for what the future holds for him as he looks forward and continues his journey within the music industry.

Billy, How are you feeling after just completing your first ever UK tour with your new band The Wry Smiles?

I'm feeling great after the first UK tour with my boys. I obviously had a few questions that I wanted answering but I knew soon that we had something good going on and the tour went from strength to strength. Overall I just wanted to enjoy it, be professional and try start building up a good fan base. I think we did that, and I'm excited for the next one that we have already started planning before the last one finished.

How different is it to now be the frontman of your own band?

It is different as you have to in a way be the captain like you would if you were captain of the football team and lead everyone else by example, and try and make sure that you have that presence to make the crowd feel comfortable when your up there on stage. Not many frontmen hide away from the action and I think it's important that you don't do that if you can. That's the main difference. Being in the spotlight and trying to deal with that pressure. I think I'm doing OK. Ha.

What were your particular highlights from the show’s you have just completed?

Manchester and Chester were very busy which was brilliant seeing people singing the songs already. All the gigs were great though and although it wasn't exactly a great moment a highlight was definitely breaking down and whilst waiting for the AA a stranger took us in and we had a beer and watched the rugby whilst waitin’. We really appreciated that cos it was fucking cold!!

You have played in venue’s all over the world, do you prefer a large venue or the smaller intermate ones?

To me it doesn't really matter about small or large venue. It's atmosphere and character that makes a good venue. If a crowd are enjoying themselves and the sound is good then that makes the venue. We played a tiny little place in Edinburgh called sneaky Pete's and it was a great gig as the atmosphere was great so that makes it for me. The crowd make the venue what it is. Don't get me wrong it's a great feeling going on a big stage and hearing your music how you'd never normally hear it as its on such a big scale but in general I love a venue on experiences I've had there be it big or small.

Is there a particular venue on the circuit that is a favourite for you to play?

 I think for the amount of great times I've had there it has to be Telfords Warehouse in Chester, Always get looked after, Always a good crowd, Always a good gig, So I’d have to say there.

 You recently released your debut EP ‘Bide Your Time’, it‘s been well recieved on Radio X and BBC Radio Wales as well as many other stations. How long did it take you to write and record the four tracks?

I wrote the tracks fairly quickly. Before I even had a band, I learnt and recorded most parts for the demo versions. So when the band came in they added little bits of their own twist to the songs and we recorded them over a few months, but only a six days overall of that was in the studio spread out over the couple of months so it didn't take long at all really. I'm not a prolific writer, but I try and make sure each song has been thought through carefully and executed properly so that it has a genuine impression on people as the public aren’t stupid. They can see through a song that's been rushed or isn't heartfelt so I try and make each one real.
‘Waiting For You’ and ‘Don’t Fall’ are particular favourites of mine, Where do you pull the inspiration for your songwriting from?

Glad you like them. Ermmm all sorts of experiences, not necessarily one experience to one song it can be things put together and fortunately being on the road for near enough 9 years has made for a lot of experiences so there's a lot to write about. If I'm struggling I don't force it. I shelf it and come back to it later. I never have a problem writing a catchy song, I just sometimes have to work on the lyrics. That's the hard part. But I know when it's right, so I just have to get to that moment.

Where did you record the EP and who produced, mixed and mastered the tracks?

The EP was recorded in penmaenmawr with Russ Hayes who did the early catfish EPs with us. He also mixed and mastered it. Russ is an extremely talented producer who is also probably the best musician I've ever met too. He can literally play everything. I'm very lucky to be able to call on Russ to help do the EP and future singles and records with him and he hasn't quite got the recognition he deserves with it yet.

Do you see the other band members contributing to the writing in the future or will you continue to craft the songs alone?

I think they are more than capable as two of the lads already have songwriting experience so it's a possibility in the future yes.

With vinyl and cassettes coming back into fashion massively at the moment, do you have any plans for a vinyl or even a cassette release this year?

 I'd like to do a vinyl release on either the next single or one after so that's also a definite possibility yes. Even though it's not financially the best move for the band at this moment in time I think it's important to think about the fans and what they want, and like you said they are becoming more and more popular now so it makes sense to do it.

Growing up, who most inspired you to pick up the guitar and write your own songs?

Early on it was strange because I didn't know any modern bands really. Elvis Presley, and my first guitar hero was Hank Marvin from the shadows.

Which artist would you most like to collaborate with and why?

I'd have to say Noel Gallagher springs to mind because he's one person I love and think he's achieved the highest level of success in the game, so to do something with him I think we'd create a masterpiece together. If I was wanting to maybe take a slightly different approach on a song I'd maybe go for Eminem. To me he is untouchable in his lyrics and even though the music is very different it'd be interesting to work with someone that meticulous and audacious.

At the last gig I attended I noticed you’d changed your electric guitar, is there a particular reason for changing from the white Fender Stratocaster you used whilst in your old band Catfish and the Bottlemen or did you just fancy a change?

 New era, new weapon. Plus I just love the sound of the semi hollow electric with the humbucker pickups in it so I've got a farida electric like a kind of Sheraton style, and I actually bought a Sheraton 2 like a red wine colour. Lovely guitars and sound great with the new stuff. And my epiphone ej200 acoustic with that big bass tone. For a cheaper guitar it makes a great noise in a live environment, but I prefer my Taylor 110ce for recording the acoustic. Can't beat the natural tone from that guitar.

What about your amplifier, are you still using Fender or has that changed too?

 I have changed that too. I found an ampeg reverbrocket which I love. The tone on both is clean and distortion is the best I've ever experienced, and one of my favourite guitar players sounds is Matt Followills from Kings of Leon so I now have his Amp and a Sheraton 2 which he also uses so I'm copying him haha.

Nice amp! What year is it and where did you find one of those?

 It's a 90s reissue, But still hard to find, on eBay it was

What originally made you choose the white Fender Startocaster as your main guitar when you startedout? Was it for it’s look or it’s tone?

 I basically bought it cos i liked the look of it at the time. I was only 18 so it was more about the looks back then than the sound!! I still have that guitar though. We've had some good times together

The thing that I myself, and I’m guessing every other guitarist want’s to know, is how you create that huge explosive sound you’ve got going on, talk me through your pedal board?

Eerrmm it's a tough one really. I don’t have any particular secret for getting that sound I just crank up the gain, put a touch more bass on than one might usually and on the pedals. I use an ibanez tube screamer which is also pretty much full on, also a holy grail which I control with my foot to turn levels up and down as the songs in progress and a cheap behringer reverb pedal also. It's got this space reverb that I love and it just makes the whole sound thicker and meatier. Plus in catfish I had a boss phaser pedal and a boss octave pedal and that's all really. Nothing too major

Do you use the Ibanez TS9 or TS808?

 It's a TS9 mate and its a reissue I presume.

Is there a particular pedal you couldn’t live without?

 Either the tube screamer or holy grail, Them two are my faves.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

 When we signed our first record contract with communion was a brilliant highlight as our hard work was starting to becoming recognised and that makes it all worth while. Actually, being able to set up my own band and tour with new lads, and with the help of a handful of people, pull off a great first UK tour was also a major highlight in my career. It brought a lot of satisfaction, and more importantly I've been happy since it started.

We discussed the possibility of a vinyl release later in the year which I’m sure will make all your the fans very happy but what other ambitions do you have for the new band for the rest of 2016 and the future?

 It's simple really, just book in more tours and hopefully release a new single in the next month and a new EP at the back end of the year. Just got to try and repeat and keep plugging away so that next year we'll have done a lot of the ground work and we can build on from that

How do you stay grounded?

 I guess everyone's different, but I've just been brought up well, and have respect for everyone, no matter how successful one may get. Everyone is an equal, so I remember that and try to just be who I am and will never change that.

Who in your opinion is the all time guitar legend?

Overall I'd have to say Mark Knopfler. He's a melodic guitarist but with great skill as well and an unusual style. For me he's the man.

And what advice would you have for a young aspiring musician that is just starting out, or even just learning to play guitar?

Advice..... I would just say stick with it, and when shit starts to get serious, whether you be a solo artists or in a band just remember why you got into it. Because you enjoy it and it makes you happy. The day that stops is the day you might as well pack in it. That's the advice I'd give any young musicians bands etc.

It seems the importance of signing a record deal is becoming less and less these days with there being so many ways for an artist to distribute and promote their music online. Are you planning on signing to a record label at this point or will you continue to release your songs independently for the time being?

That's a tough question to answer because yes, these days you can release your own music and put some reasonable force behind it without the help from a label, but I wouldn't say it's definitely the way to go. A great example of a band doing it that way and doing it successfully are The Sherlock's. They have a good fan base now around the UK and have agents and management etc helping them but they seem to be doing a lot of it themselves. A label can help give you more exposure but it can also take away some of your freedom to make decisions quickly and without the opinions of loads of different people. So for now I'm happy doing it independently but that doesn't mean to say I wouldn't sign to a label.

Finally, how does it feel to have been awarded a gold disc for your contribution towards Catfish and the Bottlemen's debut album 'The Balcony'?

It's a great feeling. I'm proud of it and it shows recognition for something achieved. But I don't want it to stop. I want even more with this band and I will get it.

Billy thank you so much for talking to today. It’s been an honour and has been really interesting to hear how you shape and mould your tone. We wish you all the very best for the rest of 2016 and for the future!

Photography by Desh Kapur


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