Category Archives: Guitar

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!


Filed under gigs, Guitar, music, tuition

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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Filed under blatant hero-worship, geek, gigs, Guitar, music

Lesson for February

Good day all,

I’ve had a number (>1) of e-mails asking me about a lick wot I played on my MySpace page. The track, What Used To Be, was recorded mid-2004 as a reaction to me needing to flex my shred muscles. Hence the lick at the end of the recording.

I’ve decided, because I had time while waiting for the kettle this morning, to tab those 2 bars. Partly because I thought some guitarists may be curious to see how I played things 5 years ago, and mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to post about.

Well, here it is:

Here’s a link to a much prettier PDF of said lick – free for use as lesson material as long as my name isn’t removed from the file!

Go on, get your fret-hand tapping chops in order with this!

P.S. Gear used, if I remember correctly, was a Music Man Petrucci signature 6-string (2002 model) into my old Line 6 POD (original 1999 version).

P.P.S. John Gregson and all musical affiliates ask you to enjoy this lick responsibly. Please exercise good taste when playing guitar. No, really, honest.

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Filed under Guitar, lesson, music

Normal? Normal?!

I really can’t stop listening to Ron Thal’s albums right now.

Over the weekend, I actually had Normal and Abnormal on repeat for about 5 hours straight – I love these albums.

How did this happen? One minute I was working on some Jim Hall transcription, and then…this…

I suppose it goes back to Chinese Democracy (I can’t believe I’m writing about that album in the PAST TENSE!), which re-piqued [I’m sure it’s a word, stop judging me] me interest in Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal and his wacky fret-free, thimble-full output.

Anyway, if you’ve his earlier albums (such as the wonderful Hands and 9.11) you’ll know his perverse, technically mindblowing left-field playing.
But with Normal and Abnormal, which I only bought last month (the shame, it burns!), his command of melody and humour really come to the fore.
Plus, after transcribing his solo in ‘Turn Around’, I feel that my fret-hand tapping chops will never be the same again. That Ron has a clean technique.

But, listen to a track like ‘Simple Days’ and hear his control and taste, both on guitar and in composition. Masterful.

A wonderful introduction to a much valued talent on our instrument – Mr. Thal, I salute you!

Now, where’s me thimble?

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Filed under blatant hero-worship, Guitar, music

New Term – New Inspirations

I’m aware that the title may conjure images of some sort of Deepak Chopra-esque LifeCoach blog.

I will never, EVER, do anything as morally reprehensible as that.

Unless it becomes profitable.

So, until then, let me fill you in on some things.

Firstly, the International Guitar Festival was a huge success this year. Week 1, I had the great pleasure of working with the ridiculously skilled guitarist Dario Cortese – an absolute joy of a week! Please check out his work in Guitar Techniques magazine, and his MySpace rendition of Brent Mason’s ‘Hot Wired’. Dario has now got me completely obsessed with transcribing Brad Paisley songs – so if any of you see me even less than usual, that’s probably why.

Week 2 was the inauguration of the Rock Camp initiative, for which I thoroughly enjoyed leading the Extreme Rock course. Big kudos go to all in the class – they thoroughly RAWKED in the Student Concert, a great testament to the work they put in over the week.

It was, as usual, lovely to meet new musicians, and catch up with old friends – jamming the hours away in the Student Union. Always fun.

And the daily ‘Thrill Is Gone’ jams with a certain Martin Goulding will go down in the annals of infamy…

Meanwhile, just starting a new working term – always a good excuse to polish the playing chops.
I’ve found this video of Gavin Harrison particularly inspiring. For those who don’t know Gavin – he’s a drummer responsible for advancing the rhythmic pedagogy into the stratosphere. His development of multi-dimensional Rhythmic Illusions have to be heard and seen to be believed, and his work with (amongst others) Porcupine Tree, 05Ric and King Crimson constantly drive me to woodshed my own playing.

I’ve embedded a video of him playing an 05Ric composition that demonstrates his sheer musicality while playing ‘odd’ music, in addition to highlighting his beautifully smooth technical prowess.


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Filed under blatant hero-worship, Guitar, music, tuition

Site Overhaul!

While preparing for the International Guitar Festival, I came to an awful realisation: if I do my job correctly (i.e. ‘inspire the next generation of guitar virtuosi’), then people will want to visit my website.

Now, my website hasn’t been updated for nigh-on 2 years.


How negligent of me – I forgot to check that you were sitting down first. Or at least had a willing friend or family member standing behind you.

Anyway – if you’re around at the IGF this year, do pop in and say ‘hi’ – I’m teaching the Level 4 ‘Extreme Rock’ course in the ‘Rock Camp’, 4-8 August.
So, not just lots of notes, but all extremely LOUD notes, too.
See you there!


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Carl Verheyen visits Wells

So, THIS is what it takes to update my site.
In case anyone was wondering what I’ve been busying myself with – my delightful employer, Wells Cathedral Music School, was blest with a visit from my favourite muso, Mr. Carl Verheyen and his band!

Anyone who knows anything about me and my guitar playing will realise how important this was, and how much I’ve been looking forward to it. Carl visited for THREE days with his stunning band (Walfredo Reyes Jr. on kit and Dave Marotta on bass), to give workshops with the specialist musicians, 1st a session on improvisation with the Jazz Combo, then a full Big Band session, where Carl led the band in a stonking rendition of Gordon Goodwin’s The Jazz Police.

Private lessons the next morning to some very fortunate students, and then the Mother of all gigs that night. Suffice to say, our 500-year-old Concert Hall has never seen so much rock in one room.

Many, many thanks are due to all my colleagues at Wells, especially Paul Denegri for the invaluable drive and help to make this all possible, and a big “we’re not worthy” grovel to Carl, Dave and Walfredo for just giving the greatest booster shot of inspiration to one of the luckiest schools around. You guys ROCK – and the drink in the pub after the gig will go down as one of the greatest, funniest social events of my life.

John and Carl Verheyen in The Fountain Inn, Wells

left to right: Walfredo Reyes, Jr.; Paul Denegri; Carl Verheyen; John Gregson; Dave Marotta

Carl, mid-workshop, with my Parker Fly!

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Filed under blatant hero-worship, Guitar, music, tuition

As the Waveform collapses…

The above: enigmatic labelling? Or blatant attention-hijacking for passing quantum physicists?

Now rattling around Scotland after a hectic year in Wells, I’ve found my wanton amounts of spare time FILLED TO THE RAFTERS with the delights of a new Boss Loop Station pedal.
Seriously, they could market this baby as TimeTravel-in-a-box. You start fiddling in the morning, and before you know it, it’s “News at 10”.

I’m a tad sceptical of the annual influx of NAMM-paraded gadgets flowing out of the guitar industry, but it’s really refreshing to find a toy that REALLY sparks creativity, rather than just another damn signature on the same old box (does anyone else remember when Marshall used to boast that they never gave artist endorsements?).

Anyway, if your playing is in a bit of a rut, and you just need to have more FUN when practicing, try looking out some new equipment.

“Sorry, darling, I KNOW we need a new transmission, but this John fellow – oh, you remember? The bloke from the Internet – he says I HAVE to buy new equipment – hey, HE said it, not me! – so, I mean – we’ve been OVER THIS, it’s not a question of WANT – I was TOLD to buy this Eventide Harmoniser.

And so on.

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Filed under Guitar, music

You know what’d go well with this? Rocks.

And what more of a title could you ask for?

Following a period of intense jazz study [an odyssey, one might hesitantly posit], I’ve been joyfully expanding my musical horizons. This may, in fact, be single-handedly responsible for keeping my branch of Fopp solvent.

So, A LOT of CD’s have been whirred and assimilated this past week. It’s always a pleasure to find new artists who can reinvigorate your musical tastebuds, and this has been no exception.

Let’s see what I’ve been banging my head to:

Bartok’s 6 String Quartets

Superb, just superb. It’s easy, with compositions of this nature, to view them through purely academic lenses. But so many textual nuances get sidestepped if you follow the musicological route. Poor old Shostakovitch seems to suffer the same plight. I mean, forget the analysis – this music is rich.
Plus, the recording I have of this [The Emerson Quartet] is top notch.

The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly – Kate Rusby

As someone who really isn’t ‘up’ on the UK folk scene (although I’ve gigged with Vin Garbutt!), it’s nice to reconnect with what’s going on in these parts. Gorgeous music, wonderfully played. It makes me glad I don’t just shred!

Stupid Dream – Porcupine Tree

If you’ve been confused and/or a little intimidated by the sheer breadth of Porc Tree’s back catalogue, I’m here to help.

No, really.

This one’s been on steady rotation – ‘Stupid Dream’ is an excellent cross-over from their roots of ambient-prog-electronica, into a slightly more classic-prog-meets-metal theme that really took over with ‘In Absentia’. The songs, the singing, the playing – they’re all first class. Eccentricity has become hummable!

Erotic Cakes – Guthrie Govan

“Mmmmm…erotic cakes.” echoes every nerd around the world when they hear the title of this CD. Maybe. I mean, how would I know?

Come on…13 years in the making?! We’ve waited, and it’s finally here. It was, admittedly, getting to the stage where I would feel perfectly justified fashioning a rudimentary entry device (say, a brick), and using said article to ‘requisition’ the master tapes from Mr. Govan’s abode.

But I’m too patient for that. So I waited, and hummed ’80s cop show theme tunes to myself in the meantime.

Lots of notes, and a ridiculous sense of humour. Perfect – from the hilarity of ‘Rhode Island Shred’, to the truly insane solo in ‘Fives’, topped with the beautiful tribute ‘Eric’.

OK, not ‘new’ albums, but 2 which I listened to for the first time in a few years:
Rust In Peace – Megadeth

YES. Thrash’s masterstroke. A friend and I agreed recently that thrash guitar just stopped, really, after this. I mean, the bands got more technical, more political, or just damn louder, but Mustaine’s boys had it ALL.

The sophistication of the guitar solos alone make this essential listening.

Dr. Feelgood – Motley Crue

I just LOVE rock ‘n’ roll. While Van Halen served up ‘spring break’ rock with a wink, the Crue were blinking the whole time. Now, THAT’s rockin’.

And finally, my favourite album of the recent present?

Embrace The Storm – Stream of Passion

Born out of Ayreon and Elfonia, this album just does it for me. Arjen Lucassen’s textures and unconventional melodies, coupled with Marcela Bovio’s beautiful voice, just have to be good. And there are some great guitar solos, reminiscent of Michael Lee Firkins actually (with, however, an annoying tendency to step into Hammett-esque ‘obsessive compulsive wah-wah disorder’ mode).

And I know we’ll never hear songs like ‘Out In The Real World’ on the radio, which is just a huge shame. And I’m still shivering thinking about ‘Wherever You Are’…deep.
This is the classier, unpretentious side of Prog-metal. Thoroughly recommended.

So much music. So little time. Thankfully there’s really not much on the telly.

Mind you, Love Island…pretty compelling viewing…


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Filed under geek, Guitar, Lists, music