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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.

TOP 5 THINGS TO AVOID WHEN BUYING YOUR FIRST GUITAR

 

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 www.guitarschool22.co.uk


THE ART OF GETTING GOOD AT MUSIC WITH STRUCTURED PRACTICE

 

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 www.guitarschool22.co.uk.


INTERVIEW: ADAM WALTON

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 guitarschool22.co.uk 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 guitarschool22.co.uk 

INTERVIEW: CERYS MATTHEWS

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 guitarschool22.co.uk 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 https://www.thegoodlifeexperience.co.uk/ 

Published May 20017 by guitarschool22.co.uk  

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