Category Archives: Guitar

Back in the office!

We’re off to a very good start with this new production of “She Loves Me”, so here’s a quick look at my view in the band:

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Jazz Study Tips

What ho,

Seeing as I’m away from home for an extended period of time with the “Love Story” band, I’ve had to be quite creative with my practice as I only have a finite amount of space & time available to me.

As my show work involves playing the same notes, reading from the same score, 8 shows a week, I’m always aware of the danger of my sight-reading ability atrophying as the weeks go by. Also, as I’m playing purely acoustic-based music, there’s the narrowing focus on stylistic playing that often requires a bit of expanding, just for maintaining my own interest.

So I decided to base a lot of work around Charlie Parker’s Omnibook, an epic tome of be-bop scribblings. My reason for packing this book was two-fold:

1) It’s a marvellous resource as a compendium of Parker’s soloing approach over a large number of standards.

2) The chromatic nature of his soloing makes it superb as a sight-reading text.

As I’m not a be-bopper at heart, I haven’t been as well-versed in Parker’s playing as much as some of my colleagues – something I’m trying to remedy. Besides standards like Au Privav, Anthropology, Ornithology & Donna Lee (which I know fairly well), I’m treating the transcriptions as sight-reading studies.

As I get more comfortable just reading through the book at different tempi, and in a variety of positions (and horizontal & vertical approaches), the patterns & lines cease to be sight-reading studies, and are gradually becoming internalised. I’m noticing, even after only a few days of this, that listening to the original recordings, I’m beginning to ‘decode’ the lines. For someone interested in developing their inner ear for jazz, I’d say this is a hugely useful approach.

Having this sort of time to dedicate to something like this is a tremendous luxury, and hopefully I’m making the most of it. A most satisfying endeavour, indeed!

The always-marvellous chap that is Mike Outram has compiled a Spotify playlist of all of the solos transcribed in the Omnibook – well worth checking out with the book to hand. Many thanks to him for sparing the time to do this.

If you have any thoughts or other tips, do let me know. In the meantime, listen for the changes, and try to keep up!

John.

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“Welcome back, my friends…

…to the show that never ends”, chorus a legion of prog fans around the world.

Yes, it’s that time of year where I plug my latest adventures in the pit – June sees me in the guitar chair for the premiere of Howard Goodall’s musical setting of the classic story/film “Love Story” at the prestigious Chichester Festival.

It’s a lovely score, for strings, piano & guitar (doubling classical & 12-string) – a wonderful and rare blend of lyrical & evocative writing, with some real finger-twisting ensemble moments. Marvellous!

Details for the show can be assimilated here: http://www.cft.org.uk/cft-productions_details.asp?pid=371

Come on down and revel in the sunshine and musical derring-do!

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This part of the World is a Stage.

It’s not very often you get to stand on a Glastonbury stage, throwing shapes and generally rocking out with a loud guitar in your hands.
Well, certainly not very often for me. But then I’m sort of the Niles Crane of the jazz fusion world, so that’s probably to be expected.

But here we are, on the stage, just done the soundcheck for the gig tonight – a fundraising, roofraising, hellraising rock extravaganza – hosted in the beautiful grounds of Wells Cathedral School (I know, I felt weird just typing that).

It’s all very picturesque here, glorious weather, and the stage is bona-fide Glastonbury stock.

What’s bizarre is that I was originally playing bass with this band – but due to some unfortunate illness problems with the lead guitarist late last night, some hasty rejigging has occurred, instruments swapped, new members recruited yadda-yadda-yadda, and now I’m playing lead guitar. With someone else’s rig, on a whole set of tunes (no charts) that I didn’t know the guitar parts to.

Anyway, so far, so rock’n’roll. Nothing new here. Soundcheck went well, all are in good spirits, tech folk are sunny and a delight to work with, AND we have a dry-ice machine.

So, I’m thoroughly looking forward to making some glorious noise tonight in front of the >1,000 people who’ve bought tickets. After a fussy trip down from London, I was admittedly expecting the worst (as those lovely people following me on Twitter will know all too well!).

But this could be a right good event.

To downsize Jon Bon Jovi’s epic pronouncement, I’ll see just over 1,000 faces, and I’ll rock at least 2/3rds of them.

UPDATE: The gig was a resounding success, the audience response was incredible (final attendance count was over 1300) – so huge thanks and over-enthusiastic hugs to all who worked, played, supported and cheered. And people who bought me drinks afterwards, you’re on the fast-track to sainthood.

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New video

Just a quick update, to say I’ve uploaded a new, improvised solo onto my YouTube channel.

Equipment used: Fender Deluxe Tele retro-fitted with EMG T-pickups, into a Zendrive pedal, into the clean channel of a Peavey Valveking.

Please enjoy, and steal all the licks – that’s what they’re there for!

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International Guitar Festival 2009

Firstly, welcome to my latest website/blog amalgam. It makes slightly more sense to parse the number of domains needed in my professional life, and this seems to be the most logical conclusion!

So, without further ado, on with the blog…

This year’s IGF is without a doubt the best one one I’ve been involved with thus far.  An incredible array of wonderful musicians, inspirational teachers, and a multitude of enthusiastic participants. All willing to chat gear, technique, and musical recommendations; and of course jam and banter in equal measure.

2009 brought us such luminaries as ace drummer Stanton Moore (with the incredible Wil Bernard on guitar) performing and teaching; workshops from Rob Harris and the Jamiroquai rhythm section; a face-melting concert from old IGF-hand Guthrie Govan & The Fellowship; and gigs from the IGF teachers, including John Wheatcroft’s gypsy jazz evening.

So, a pretty packed week, even without factoring in my teaching requirements!

This year, my Extreme Rock class (\m/) performed a diverse range of metal tracks – we learnt Motorcycle Driver by Joe Satriani (from ‘The Extremist’), Killers by Iron Maiden, and a Zakk Wylde-meets-guitar-orchestra arrangement of HillBillie Jean, by John Jay Smith Michael Jackson, as arranged by me in a caffeine-abetted marathon the week before.

My class did a sterling job at the Student Concert on Friday, so well done guys! Seamus, Michael 1, Will, Josh, Theo, Jack 1, Jack 2, Michael 2 and Alessandro – you all rock, and your great performance in the gig is testament to the hard work you put in over the week.

Thank you!

Post-concert, of course, came the farewell jam session, and I had a rather good time with Jonny Scaramanga, Hugh Richardson & Martyn James, with a chest-thumpingly intense rendition of Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love (according to Jonny, it was played ‘with unprecedented bodaciousness’). Of course, we took extended solos, and I even added the 9th into the A minor pentatonic, just to show that I play jazz…

Oh yes, and I played it on my latest acquisition – a new, un-modded Squier Strat. Yup.

So, all in all, a great week! Thanks to everyone who helped – all my old friends, and new ones from the week – your great company and hard work made it a week to remember!

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The signatures are legion, for they are many.

I think it’s about time I update with something about music – just for a change. The whole accomodationism vs. science education debate on the blogosphere is leaving me pretty worn out (incidentally, I must register here my fervent hope that Jerry Coyne uses my term to describe the accomodationists – The ‘Pew Atheists’, a ho ho ho), plus I’m playing in West Side Story at the moment, and that’s just killer.

So – in the spirit of light-heartedness, dear reader, I present to you the largest number of signature items on a gig. That I’ve done, at least.

Here, for a Music Faculty staff concert, is my rig – try and spot all the signature items:

Get ’em all?
OK, following the signal chain, R-L:
Boss Chromatic Tuner; Dunlop Zakk Wylde Wah; Xotic Andy Timmons BB Pre-amp; Digitech Hardwire Valve Distortion; MXR EVH Van Halen Phaser.

So, the tuner and the distortion aren’t really pulling their weight – FOR SHAME.
In my defence, though, the tuner’s needed because every audience deserves a guitarist who’s in tune.
And the distortion? It just kicks arse. Seriously great sound, I may scrawl my own moniker on it with a Sharpie if I have an idle moment…

Next up:

Yes, it’s a replica of Eric Johnson’s favourite Dunlop Jazz III pick.
I can’t even excuse the purchase of this, and needless to say it doesn’t form the bulk of my chat-up material.

OH HAI what’s that on my Parker Fly?

I just think those Satriani straps are funky. The new Metheny ones are really tempting, too…

And finally:

My oldest guitar, a lovely 1st-edition Ernie Ball/Musicman John Petrucci signature model.

So there we have it, a little trawl through some of my gear. And this is only the stuff I use to play RAWK – we haven’t even touched on the big band jazz stuff, or my country equipment, or the stage show rigs, or…

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