25.3.15

Back to the Touch Guitar


I have been getting really excited about playing the touch guitar in my bad over the last few months. After owning the thing for many years I began to feel that I was finally using it. Noodling in kitchen recordings is fine but playing with real live musicians is the best.

Then the prospect of gigging came up and things changed. Our first gigs are likely to be small scale support slots with little room to move. As well as this we’ll probably be a little nervous, despite our confidence in the songs we’ve written. So, the sensible thing to do is keep the equipment simple. Having two instruments, which require different amp settings and are tuned differently, seemed to be asking for trouble. I toyed with the idea of playing everything on the touch guitar but that was when I had to admit I‘m just not up to speed enough. So, to make things easier, I re-learnt all my parts on the bass.

That solved the problem as far as the band was concerned but I couldn’t help wanting to find a way to get better at the touch guitar, so that, when the time was right, I could play it with as much confidence as a bass. So I did what I’ve never done with an instrument before. I asked for help.

Markus Reuter, someone who helped me when I was looking at getting my touch guitar many years ago, is arguably one of (if not the) best touch guitarists in the world. He’s also a composer of note, a member of several groups that I admire and the man who redesigned the touch guitar and started the Touch Guitar Circle. I’ve known (in an internetty way) Markus for years and so he seemed like the perfect person to help.

One Skype call with sixty minutes of advice, ideas and tuition later I felt ready to clean the slate and approach this fabulous instrument in a fresh way. I now have a new outlook, a set of exercises and a lot of work to do, and that’s just what I needed.

10.3.15

What's up

It’s been a highly mixed year already. I’ve had two spontaneous breaks away from the nightmares of our house, my musical life is moving up a gear and I survived another birthday.
 
Alongside this my mum has been unwell and has been spending the week in a ‘care unit’. Not an old people’s home, not a hospital. Technically it’s a rehabilitation place, although there doesn’t seem to be much rehab going on, possibly because mum doesn’t need much. By the time you read this she should be home again. That’s a mixed blessing. I imagine she’ll miss the company at the rehab place, but will be glad to be in her own space.
 
There are some things coming up which I hope to write about here though.
 
 
I also owe you, gentle reader, an update on my 50 at 50 list. That’s coming soon. Expect some excuses.

24.2.15

RPM Challenge - an embarrassing update

The plan to make an album in February was going really well. Lyrics written, music for two of the tracks complete and I even managed to maintain the feeling that I could finish it.
But then my family and I were offered a chance to cat/house sit in Penzance. We love Cornwall and all needed a break from the hassles of daily life (the ongoing fight with Sovereign Housing and the neighbours, for example). So, after celebrating my mum’s 89th birthday various family members piled into the car and headed south-west.

That was lovely of course but it took a week out of my recording schedule, such as it was. I now have, by my reckoning, one evening to record seven songs.

And as is always the way with these things, having a week away from the technology has opened up all kinds of new ideas. We’ll see where this leads.

23.2.15

Soundscaping

Some live soundscaping gigs coming up. I'm working on the least amount of gear possible (aside from amps). This is one idea.

9.2.15

RPM 2015

A few years ago I took part in the RPM challenge. This means you have February to write and record and album of original material. I completed it and made it available on my Bandcamp page but it was, predictably, rushed and a bit rubbish.

A few years later I tried again and cut the results down to an EP, which was less rubbish although (as far as I can tell) completely unloved.
This year I'm having another go. I have written nine lyrics, which is a shock. They are nowhere near as good, deep or meaningful as the ones I hear in the other bands I play in, but they are finished and waiting for music.

The last song now has a piano part. It is shaky and badly played but it does the job. I decided that I would much rather get these songs out of my system, no matter how rough they sound, than have them adding to my pile of half finished projects.

Hopefully I will have something to show for this in the next 19 days.

23.1.15

Cricket

Cricket

It's been a long, long time since I have had any active involvement with cricket. I played at school and enjoyed it far more than football or rugby. In those sports I would be a grudging addition to a team and would spend almost all my time running around the field, avoiding the ball and thinking up ways to avoid the dreaded post match shower. A teacher once berated me for not getting covered in mud like all the others. He insisted I had to shower with the others anyway but I snuck off and went to the library. It wasn't that I was anti-social, I was just fed up with being forced to do something I did not enjoy.

At our school you were not taught the rules of any sports as you were supposed to know these already. If you asked a question you got ignored. This meant you instantly did not fit in which meant when teams were being picked you were always in the last two. No one would pass to you and no one would discuss tactics with you. After a few weeks of this I gave up and subverted the games as much as I could in the hope they would just give up on me completely and let me do what I really wanted. In those days that meant, read in the library, make movies with the school's cine camera or hang out in the music block, trying out the instruments.

But cricket was different. I knew the rules, just, and I liked the pace of the games. My bowling was execrable but my batting was pretty good, so I could just about manage to feel part of the game. As a fielder I was a dreadful waste of space, having seen someone get a high velocity ball in the face. I went as far out as I could.

School did nothing for my love of sport. Once I was out though I slowly began to appreciate playing squash, fencing and tennis. My mum was, and is, a huge rugby and tennis fan so I had someone Who could pass that excitement on to me. It just took a while to shake off the bad feelings school helped set up.

Last year I was watching a video for a Neil Cowley Trio tune which features a cricket match. The appeal of the game returned and, frankly, all that shitty schools stuff was a long time ago. So now I have something new to enjoy.

13.1.15

Piano (part two)

The piano has arrived and I am in love.


I am working my way, slowly, through a set of exercises and painfully highlighting my shortcomings on the instrument. But, I am having huge amounts of fun and can sit there working out chords and melodies all night. Let's see where this goes.