Blog

GET GRADED IN GUITAR WITH LCME

Go for it and get your grades with the prestigious London College of Music Exams (LCME).

 

 At Guitar School, we are all about getting good at music.  And whilst we would never put any of our students under pressure to take an exam, getting your graded guitar exams under your belt really will boost your confidence and give you the skills you need to get great at music.

 

We use LCME as our exam provider.  It is the prestigious London College of Music Exams (one of the world's most respected music exam boards) and certificated by the University of West London.  It organises internationally recognised exams in electric, rock, acoustic, jazz, classical and bass guitar (as well as countless other instruments), from total beginner to Diploma.  From Grade 1 onwards, graded and diploma exams are regulated by Ofqual, with UCAS points available for grades 6-8.

 

There are so many benefits associated with taking music exams with LCME.  And there are also so many different types of music exam that it can feel a bit daunting trying to understand what is what!  However, in general, you can take practical exams (playing an instrument) or theory exams (a written paper).

 

Not least will passing a music exam give you a big dollop of faith in your ability as a musician, but it will also give you a great benchmark with which to assess your own progression, ability and developing skill set.  Graded exams offer clear targets to which you can aspire.  There are two preliminary / introductory levels (Step 1 and Step 2), which are then followed by the 8 different grades, with grade 1 being the beginners’ starting point, and grade 8 being a very good level of achievement.  By the way, it takes an average of 10,000 hours of hard graft to get from beginner to grade 8 so it’s no minor accomplishment.  The Step 1 and Step 2 introductory levels act as prep tests, which are a fantastic preparation to entering a ‘real’ exam environment, and then of course you get the post-grade 8 diplomas for those who want to pursue music seriously.

 

Furthermore, graded exams are an invaluable way to get feedback from top musicians and music professionals, and provide a reliable and independent assessment to the standard your playing is at.  You will receive constructive comments on your technique, style, interpretation etc.  It is also a supportive and positive way for students to know how well they are progressing.  Plus, the process of preparing for the exam will help you to develop all aspects of your playing, to support guitar techniques, as well as knowledge of music theory.  And you will gain a useful and internationally recognised qualification at the end of it!

 

Thousands upon thousands of students, young and old, have worked their way through varying levels of LCM exams.  The exams have given countless students the confidence to continue with their studies, a belief in their own abilities that money can never buy, and a really cracking grounding for a handful of super talented guitarists to go on to bigger, better and pretty impressive musical escapades in their adult lives.

 

Admittedly, at Guitar School we are all about the benefits of learning a musical instrument.  However, there is no better feeling and endorsement of your skills and hard work when you receive that certificate which says ‘PASS’ 'MERIT' or 'DISTINCTION on it!

 

If you are interested in finding out more about guitar exams at the London College of Music Exams, or you would like further information on learning the guitar, piano, drums or ukulele please contact Guitar School on 01244 536888 today or visit us at www.guitarschool22.co.uk.

INTERVIEW: AYNSLEY LISTER

This week I had the pleasure of catching up with blues guitarist Aynsley Lister, and got the chance to ask a few questions ahead of his busy touring and recording schedule.

GS:     Aynsley, How old were you when you began to learn guitar and what was it that inspired you to choose the guitar as your main instrument? 

AL:    I got my first guitar for my 8th birthday after nagging parents for ages for one. I grew up in a musical house where my dad would always have the stereo on… most of it was guitar led blues and rock stuff.

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

AL:     Nope, self taught - learning to play by ear. My dad bought a new record player so I inherited his old one and I would sit in my bedroom with that and just work stuff out from the records I’d play.. slowing the record down and then finding the notes on the neck. I have a very basic knowledge of theory now but for the first 20 or so years of playing I had none at all. Nowadays I understand it to a very basic level mainly due to the workshops I run -  most of the students will ask me theory based questions so I try and be theoretically correct if I can.     

GS:     Do you play any other musical instruments?  

AL:    I play bass guitar too.

GS:    What is your go-to guitar tuning?

AL:    My guitar is tuned to Eb standard, I have a guitar that is set up in open G tuning for slide but again tuned down by half a step. 

GS:    What pedals does you current board have on it?

AL:    I’m not a massive pedal user to be honest - I do use ‘em but prefer to get as much of the sound out of the guitar and amp and then use pedals to just enhance what’s already there. My live pedalboard has a tuner, an octave, a tube screamer type boost and a clean boost. Sometimes I’ll add a mild overdrive pedal if I’m using a Fender type amp but if I’m using a Marshal type amp I’ll just use the natural overdrive that the amp gives and push it a little with the clean boost. The Tubescreamer pedal is just there for any extreme craziness but in general I don’t really use it much - just once or twice on the gig. 90% of the variations in tone I get are by just using the volume control on the guitar.

GS:     You post many pictures on social media of Fender amplifiers, do you have any idea of just how many amplifiers you own?    

AL:    I have around 10 amps at the minute, mostly old ones. I always had a soft spot for old Fenders, I suppose because all of my heroes played them back in the day and those are the tones I love. It’s taken a while but I’ve managed to find a really good sounding example of each amp I always wanted. Old amps can be quite variable - some sound bad, some sound good and then a select few just have that extra something that makes you want to play for hours. Live I’ve been known more to use Marshalls and I’ve got a couple of really nice 70s JMP models. They’re a lot more controllable volume wise and so they’ve probably been the core of my sound for the most part, plus I can literally plug into one without a single pedal and get all the sounds I need just by using the guitar volume control.

GS:    What is your favourite sounding Fender amplifier?  

AL:    Hmmm… changes from day to day haha. At the moment it’s a brown 2x10 Vibroverb combo. It’s actually a reissue one from the 90’s but it just has this lovely warmth to it. Other than that, for the past 18 months I’ve been using a 1966 Princeton Reverb on tours that just sounds killer. I run it into a bigger speaker cab for a fuller sound but it’s the raunchiest and loudest Princeton Reverb I ever tried!!

GS:     What guitar/amp combo would you recommend for the budding blues musician to obtain killer tone on a budget? 

AL:    Depends on what the exact budget is, but without getting into the high end stuff I think you could put together a killer sounding rig for a grand. This is a rig that I would be more than happy to take on a gig. I would have to say a Squire Strat for the guitar as they really are great guitars for the money and then something like a Fender Blues deluxe or similar. A nice warm valve amp, maybe adding one of the million overdrive pedals out there!! Overdrive pedals are very subjective and so it’s hard to recommend just one that would suit everybody but for me I would pick the Mad Professor Royal Blue Overdrive - a really natural amp like overdrive that responds really well to the use of the guitar volume.

GS:    If you had to choose just one amplifier to use for the rest of your career what would it be?

AL:    One of my Marshall JMP’s haha - it can just give me everything I need in one box. The Fenders are an obsession and a passion but when it comes down to it, my two Marshalls are really the ones I couldn't do without!

GS:    What is your favourite guitar pedal?

AL:    When I do fly-out shows, I never know what amp I’m gonna get. It’s usually a Fender Twin or something so I always take an overdrive pedal with me - the Mad Professor Royal Blue Overdrive ;-) It’s kind of like an amp in a box for me

GS:    Do you have any plans on releasing any new material this year?  

AL:    Hopefully yes, I’m gonna release a recording of some of my solo stuff. I’ve been doing solo gigs for years but the last recording available was done in 2001!! I thought it was about time to do a more recent recording so I’ve literally just come out of the studio. I went in for 3 days and recorded everything I know. Once I’ve sifted through it, there should hopefully be an album later this year. Other than that I’m writing when I can for another band album so hopefully I’ll be back recording again this year and then something should follow fairly soon after. Watch this space haha

GS:    How does the recording process start for you and do you record at home or is it always in the studio?

AL:    I write at home in my home studio but here it really is just for demo’ing and putting things together. I use Logic and write everything first on my own then I send the musicians an MP3… they learn it and then we rehearse and head into the studio to record it properly.

GS:    Do you get involved with the mixing and mastering process on your tracks?

AL:    Definitely! I’m quite OCD when it comes to that part haha

GS:    You have a busy time of live shows ahead of you in the next few months, will you have time to run any of your popular guitar workshops this year?

AL:    We had 2 in January and we are planning 2 more for later this year - maybe August or September. We’re still to confirm dates and location etc but I think one will be a guitar workshop and one will be a songwriting workshop

GS:    Could you tell us what attendees can expect by attending one of your workshops? 

AL:    For the guitar workshop, students arrive at the venue on a Friday evening and eat dinner together and that's followed by an all night jam with my band. Saturday daytime is the teaching and learning part where I show various techniques and ideas, getting students to try things out with exercises etc. Saturday evening is more jamming and then Sunday runs much the same - tuition during the day ending with a jam. They’re really good fun weekends and the numbers are limited to 25 players per weekend. They’re non-judgemental and so many friendships have come about from people meeting at these get togethers. Everyone is really supportive no matter what level you’re at.

The venues we use are nice and comfortable with decent rooms and great food. Tuition wise I cover everything from rhythm, lead, groove, how to play in a band with others, guitar sound and set-up. Basically whatever people want to know I’ll cover. They're definitely popular, on the last one in January we have 8 guys who had flown in from Germany and Holland!     

GS:    Aynsley, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to guitarschool22.co.uk today. It’s been an honour talking with you. We wish you all the very best for the rest of 2019 and for the future!

Published March 2019 by guitarschool22.co.uk  

INTERVIEW: KRIS BARRAS

This week I had the pleasure of catching up with blues guitarist Kris Barras, as he took a break from studio sessions and live performances. I got the chance to ask a few questions ahead of his winter tour of the UK, and the release of his third solo album which is due out later this year.

GS:     Kris, I love your tone, would you mind telling us what guitar and amplifier you use and what’s on your pedal board? 

KB:    I use several different guitars, depending on the song. The main four are a Fender Telecaster USA Custom shop, Gibson ES 335, a PRS Baritone guitar and a custom made Seth Baccus Nautilus.  Amps/effects wise, I’ve been using a Kemper Profiler. It’s an amazing piece of kit.

GS:     What pedals would you recommend for a beginner to get as close to your tone as possible without breaking the bank? 

KB:     I’ve always been a fan of Wampler pedals and have used several different ones on the Divine and Dirty album. The Paisley Deluxe overdrive is personal fave.     

GS:     Who have been your main influences as a songwriter? and who got you into music as child? 

KB:    My Dad got me started on guitar when I was 6 years old. Gary Moore was my first real guitar hero though.

GS:    During your musical career you have taught guitar, had a column in Guitar Techniques magazine and made tuition videos for Lick Library. How has it been for you making the transition from teacher to performer?

KB:    Well I was a performer first and foremost as I did my first gig at the age of 9. I always enjoyed teaching but with my touring schedule now, I don’t get to do any lessons anymore.

GS:     You are currently working on your third solo album, how’s all that going?   

KB:    We’ve just finished recording it and I think it went well. I’m happy with the direction that we’re taking with this one. Lots of kick ass riffs and catchy choruses…well I think so at least ha ha.   

GS:    Do you have a title for the album and release date yet? 

KB:    No and no! Not yet anyway?

GS:     When you sit down to pen a new song, how does the creative process start for you?

KB:    Lots of different ways. Sometimes I write the main riff first of all, other times it will be a chorus melody or maybe even just lyrics. It’s good to mix up the methods to avoid ruts and keep things fresh.

GS:    You love a bit of slide....Do you have a particular tuning that you prefer to write your songs in? 

KB:    I’ve dabbled in open tannings but I actually do most of my slide stuff in Standard tuning or drop D. My standard tuning is down a half step though, I’m tuned to Eb. So my drop tuning becomes Drop Db.

GS:    Last year you become the new frontman for USA super-group, Supersonic Blues Machine. How is that role working out for you?

KB:    Yeah it’s been an amazing experience. I was always a fan of the band so to get to become their frontman is awesome. We’ve got lots of plans for this year coming together.

GS:    What can fans expect from the Kris Barras Band in 2019 in terms of live shows?

KB:    We have a 20 date UK tour in Feb/March then we have a lot of stuff in Europe for the most of the year.     

GS:    Kris, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to guitarschool22.co.uk today. It’s been an honour talking with you. We wish you all the very best for the rest of 2019 and for the future!

ROCK YOUR WAY INTO A BANGIN' NEW HOBBY!

On Sunday January 27th the Guitar School will be hosting its very first, ever, Rock Band Workshop. So if you, a friend or family member is a budding young musician, then you’ll be pleased to hear this is a fantastic opportunity for you, or them, to form a brand new band and to gain some pretty impressive musical skills and knowledge – as well as experiencing first-hand what it’s like to play with band members and other musicians.

The workshop will be held at our Chester studios from 12PM to 3PM. It is open to children aged 6-10 years in the following instruments and disciplines:

Guitar
Piano
Bass
Keyboards
Drums
Ukulele
Singing

As part of the workshops, students will find out how to play their instrument/s with other musicians. It’s not as easy as it sounds; you’ve got to concentrate on keeping in time and key, and not to lose focus on what you’re playing. Furthermore, we will be concentrating on teaching other skills too, such as rhythm and improvisation – which are crucial to developing a strong musical style – as well as the techniques involved in pulling together some popular songs with your fellow band members. It’s School of Rock Live!

Rocking your way to being a great musician…

It might sound a bit dramatic, but at Guitar School it’s our mission to get our students feeling truly inspired to work hard and to be the very best that they can. There’s no doubt that learning a musical instrument is an amazing achievement, and so many students have the talent to do really well. But sadly there aren’t always the opportunities for them to explore music in all its glory and that can lead to boredom setting in. That’s why we often encourage our students to do fun things with their music beyond the lesson environment – and it’s why we have taken the decision to run our first ever Rock Band Workshop. Plus, as teachers, it’s exciting for us too as we uncover so much young talent.

Learning a musical instrument is undoubtedly a discipline. It takes time, patience, concentration and dedication to get good at music. So that’s why we feel it’s really important for young students to reap the rewards of their hard work and efforts. They’re smashing the practice at home, but often they don’t tend to have an audience to play for, or fellow musicians to play with.

Sometimes students can get a little disheartened if they can’t see a purpose to their practice or perhaps they don’t feel as though they are able to achieve things along the way. Yes, of course, practice makes perfect and with learning any musical instrument it’s the only way to get good at it. Practice, practice, practice and yes, more practice! But what about the fun stuff too!

So we are shouting out to all young, budding musicians and rock stars! Come and join us at the Guitar School’s Rock Band Workshop on Sunday January 27th and discover how to be a band member. You’ll learn loads of great new skills and techniques – and above all else, you’ll have plenty of fun in the process.

To find out more about the 2019 Guitar School Rock Band Workshop or for information on learning the guitar, contact Guitar School on 01244 536888 today or visit us at www.guitarschool22.co.uk.

INTERVIEW: BRIDGET MERMIKIDES

 

This week I had the pleasure of catching up with classical guitarist and Guitar Techniques columnist Bridget Mermikedes. I have followed Bridget's work for many years and am a huge fan of her transcriptions, professionalism and dedication. It was an honour to discuss her pieces, classical guitar playing and her guitar retreat holidays. Here’s what we talked about -  

 

GS:     How long have you been playing guitar?   

 

BM:    I have been playing the guitar now for 44 years.     

 

GS:     Did you ever have lessons or are you a self taught musician?

 

BM:    I began Cello lessons at the age of 6 (my whole family are musicians) and I started playing the guitar - self taught, at age 8 my mother eventually found a teacher for me, and my classical guitar lessons began when I was 14.

 

GS:    What was the very first thing you learned to play on the guitar?  

 

BM:    Three chords: A, D and E and the song 'Kum ba Yah’. I was taught this by another kid in school, I thought it was amazing!         

 

GS:     When teaching guitar today to the absolute beginner, what piece do you choose to start them off with?    

 

BM:    I don’t start with a piece for a beginner, I start with basic technique and simple sight reading.     

 

GS:    How long have you been providing the classical guitar feature in Guitar Techniques magazine and how did you become a columnist?

 

BM:    In 2004 I won a Blues Guitar competition advertised in Total Guitar magazine. The prize was 6 weeks study (electric guitar) at Los Angeles Guitar Academy. When I returned, the editors of Guitar Techniques magazine asked me to contribute some lessons and I did a total of 13 electric guitar columns starting in 2005. After that I did a few classical guitar columns and a DVD. My long standing classical series started in January 2010 has been in every issue since.

 

GS:    In a recent issue you transcribed Alman by British composer Robert Johnson. How long would a piece like that take you to do?  

 

BM:    Alman didn’t take long to notate (maybe an hour) because it was not an arrangement. It’s the arrangements that are time consuming.     

 

GS:     I have recently discovered you provide holiday workshops. What can students expect from their time spent with you?    

 

BM:    I only do one guitar holiday. It's in the summer with Helicon Arts. I teach technique, solos and ensembles and we have a concert on the last night.

 

GS:    Would this environment suit a beginner or is it aimed more at intermediate - advanced guitarists?  

 

BM:    It’s for intermediate to advanced players.

 

GS:    For your recordings, do you enter a music studio to record your pieces or is it done at home?

 

BM:    At home

 

GS:    What music software do you use to record and do you mix and master your tracks yourself?

 

BM:    We (my husband and I) have a home studio and use Logic. We produce it ourselves.   

 

GS:    Bridget, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to guitarschool22.co.uk today. It’s been an honour talking with you. We wish you all the very best for the rest of 2018 and for the future!

Published November 2018 by guitarschool22.co.uk 

OVER 300 GOT GOOD AT MUSIC AT THE GOOD LIFE EXPERIENCE

 

At Guitar School we make it our mission to get people inspired to learn the guitar or ukulele.  There’s no doubt that learning a musical instrument is an amazing achievement!  And regardless of age and ability, we passionately believe everyone should have the chance to try playing an instrument to see what it’s all about. 

 

As we were preparing for this year’s Good Life Experience in Hawarden, near Chester, we knew there was a pretty high demand for people wanting to learn new musical skills.  But we were super surprised when over 300 budding musicians came to see us recently at our little pop up tuition studio!

 

To say it was a roaring success is a bit of an understatement.  In fact, it was astonishing!  Pardon us for blowing our own trumpet (and yes, you’ll have to excuse the pun), but the 3 day festival which ran from Friday 14th September to Sunday 16th September 2018 was our best yet.

 

So, what did Guitar School do?

 

We created a really fab little pop up tuition studio where new, budding, existing, and experienced musicians were able to come and see us, chat to us, quiz us, and generally ask us everything about learning an instrument or developing their technique.  We were able to teach new skills, including reading notation, as well as helping people to play their favourite songs, discover essential techniques, and explore the RGT@LCM guitar syllabuses.

 

We offered free trial lessons, too, to spread the music love and encourage potential musicians to get started.  Plus, we held a mini clinic where experienced players who have years of knowledge could come to us for tips and hints.  It’s really important for musicians of all standards to have occasional lessons to prevent bad habits forming, to learn new techniques, and to improve playing style.

 

And finally, we took a whole range of instruments with us, which festival-goers were more than welcome to try out and explore, as well as a selection of Blackstar amplifiers, t shirts, mugs, books and guitar accessories such as capos, tuners, instrument leads etc. 

 

Music is amazing!

 

It’s true that being a musician isn’t for everyone, but until you have the chance to try then you’ll never know.  Music is incredible; it gives so much joy to those playing it and so much pleasure to those listening to it.  Plus, it’s proven that being a musician keeps your brain active and healthy, and learning a new instrument as an adult could even help to guard against the onset of dementia. 

 

For those of you not in the know, what is the Good Life Experience Festival?

 

 The fabulous Good Life Experience Festival happens every year.  It is a weekend of discovery, adventure, music, great food, literature, workshops, inspirational ideas and the great outdoors.  It was founded in 2014 by Cerys Matthews, Steve Abbott, and Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, and has gone from strength to strength.  Within just 4 years it is now considered one of Flintshire’s most prominent and popular festivals.

 

Every year, there’s a huge line up of famous musicians and groups, writers and chefs ready to share their amazing talents.  Plus, there are loads of interesting talks on everything from campfires to books.  And, of course, no great festival would be complete without vintage crafts, an ale tent and tree climbing – to name but a mere few of the activities on offer!

 

To find out more about the 2019 Good Life Experience Festival in Hawarden or for information on learning the guitar, contact Guitar School on 01244 536888 today or visit us at www.guitarschool22.co.uk.

THE BEST GUITARS ON THE MARKET FOR BEGINNERS OF ALL AGES

 

So your kids, or perhaps even you, have decided you want to learn how to play the guitar.  That’s amazing news and a great start.  However, without actually getting hold of a guitar, you’re not going to get very far with your newfound ambition to be the next world famous rock star!

 

But where do you start?  Given that there are literally hundreds of thousands of guitar makers around the world, and even more types of guitar to purchase, it goes without saying that it’s an absolute minefield even for the most skilled of musicians.   And for guitar newcomers, finding, choosing and purchasing the right type of guitar for your needs can understandably be very overwhelming – and expensive if you get it wrong.  Plus, making the right decision can, in many cases, mean the difference between students continuing to learn happily and giving up.  Choosing the wrong type of instrument really can hinder a student’s chances of learning successfully.

 

Every make and model of guitar differs significantly, which is one of the reasons it’s so important you make an informed decision when purchasing your first guitar.  You need to select a guitar which is right for your body size, shape and musical tastes.  Where guitars are concerned, one size definitely does not fit all!

 

Obviously, we would suggest doing lots of research and, of course, the team at Guitar School can help you through the maze.  However, intuition also plays a large part in the guitar you will ultimately select.  Liking it, the way it feels, the way it plays and sounds, and its ease to use are all essential points to take into consideration.

 

These days, almost every budget instrument is made in China. Whilst they are often cheap and cheerful, the upside is that it means you won't have to spend hundreds of pounds to find out later that you would rather learn how to play the piano or drums!  It’s also worth pointing out that ‘toy’ type guitars are an absolute ‘no-no’.  We’ve lost count of the amount of times new students have rocked up to their first lesson proudly brandishing a famous children’s cartoon character branded guitar their parents have purchased via the internet, or even from a toy shop.  Our tutors are then left with the unenviable task of having to tell the parent that the instrument is unsatisfactory (which, quite frankly, is putting mildly!).

 

So let’s take a look at our top picks.  Here is a list of Guitar School’s favourite guitars for younger and older beginners – which won’t break the bank!

 

Palma PL12 1/2 size acoustic guitar £45.99 - for ages 4-7

Palma PL34 3/4 size acoustic guitar £49.99 - for ages 7-12

Palma PL44 full size acoustic guitar £64.99 - for ages 12 and above

Encore ENC120 1/2 size acoustic guitar pack £69.99 - for ages 4-7

Encore ENC340 3/4 size guitar pack £69.99 - for ages 7-12

Encore ENC44 full size acoustic guitar pack £99.99 - for ages 12 and above

Encore E375 Blaster series 3/4 size electric guitar £119.99 - for ages 7-12

Encore E6 Blaster series full size electric guitar £119.99 - for ages 12 and above

Encore EWP-100 full size acoustic guitar £99.99 - for ages 12 onwards

Falcon FG100 full size acoustic guitar £69.99 - for ages 12 onwards

 

Furthermore, we would like to point out that all brand new guitars bought from Guitar School come with a free set up and service, which means you will save over £30.  This is great news as it means the whole process, from start to finish, is almost entirely free of stress – and you are certain to get exactly the right sort of model which is set up, ready and raring for action!

 

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 www.guitarschool22.co.uk.

GET GOOD AT MUSIC AT THE GOOD LIFE EXPERIENCE FESTIVAL

 

If you’ve always wanted to find out what it’s like to learn the guitar or ukulele, then why not come along and meet the Guitar School team at the fabulous Good Life Experience Festival.  We’ll be in Hawarden from Friday 14th September to Sunday 16th September with a great pop up tuition studio, so you can chat to us, quiz us, ask us everything you want to know about learning an instrument – and even have a free trial lesson, too.

 

Furthermore, we will be on hand to offer free lessons to experienced players.   Even if you’ve been playing for years, it’s really important to have occasional lessons to prevent bad habits forming, to learn new techniques, and to improve your style.

 

Our cracking little pop up studio won’t just be for the benefit of free trial lessons either.  We will have a whole range of instruments with us, which you’re more than welcome to try out and explore, as well as a selection of Blackstar amplifiers, t shirts, mugs, books and guitar accessories such as capos, tuners, instrument leads etc.  Plus, our experts will be on hand and willing to help with any questions or queries you may have.  So there’s something for every guitar or ukulele loving musician – regardless of skills, knowledge, age and experience.

 

Find out if music is for you…

 

Learning a musical instrument is amazing!  Regardless of your age and ability, at Guitar School we passionately believe everyone should have the chance to try playing an instrument to see what it’s all about.  So that’s why we’re offering free trial lessons at the Good Life Experience Festival.  But of course it goes without saying the demand is high, so you’ll need to make sure you come and find us quickly as it’s on a first come, first served basis only!

 

It’s true that being a musician isn’t for everyone, but until you have the chance to try then you’ll never know.  Music is incredible; it gives so much joy to those playing it and so much pleasure to those listening to it.  Plus, it’s proven that being a musician keeps your brain active and healthy, and learning a new instrument as an adult could even help to guard against the onset of dementia.

 

For those of you not in the know, what is the Good Life Experience Festival?

 

The fabulous Good Life Experience Festival is a weekend of discovery, adventure, music, great food, literature, workshops, inspirational ideas and the great outdoors.  It was founded in 2014 by Cerys Matthews, Steve Abbott, and Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, and has gone from strength to strength.  Within just 4 years it is now considered one of Flintshire’s most prominent and popular festivals.

 

There’s a huge line up of famous musicians and groups, writers and chefs ready to share their amazing talents.  Plus, there are loads of interesting talks on everything from campfires to books.  And, of course, no great festival would be complete without vintage crafts, an ale tent and tree climbing – to name but a mere few of the activities on offer!

 

To find out more about the Good Life Experience Festival in Hawarden or for information on our free trial guitar lessons, contact Guitar School on 01244 536888 today or visit us at www.guitarschool22.co.uk.

MEET THE UNSUNG HERO.....REASONS WHY THE BASS GUITARIST IS CRUCIAL

 

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 www.guitarschool22.co.uk.

GET GREAT AT MUSIC, WHY IT"S SO IMPORTANT YOU LEARN TO SIGHT READ

 

 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 www.guitarschool22.co.uk.

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