Category Archives: 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!
John.

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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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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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.

Enjoy!
John.


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I Can’t Dance

Although the title of this post may convince you otherwise, I’m not very self-aware.

I admit, even my closest friends who I’d class in the Worryingly-Obsessed category might hesitate before ever conceeding that I could ever be described – even for a second – as groovy.

Watch, children, as your humble scribe attempts to artfully flick a Metaphor Frisbee (made from 95% Humour) into the waiting grip of a Reciprocal Laugh-ee.
Instead, Mrs. Thatcher, the Irony Lady, has decreed that he throws a Simile Boomerang constructed purely from that rarest of Literary Metals, Depracation.

While we wait for the Simile Boomerang to complete it’s graceful arc, let me tell you about Genesis.

Yes, the Literal Truth, and Inerrant Word. Of Phil Collins.

I’ll try and hide my love-affair with sub-clauses – whoops, here’s one I should probably get rid of, it doesn’t seem to contribute anything to my argument – and get on with my argument.

Rekindled a dormant interest in Genesis today, while watching their new DVD “When In Rome”. Having had some friends see the reunion tour last year, I was very excited to have such a high-quality memento of the tour.

Also, my life at the moment seems to be revolving around Genesis alumni. The Wells Cathedral School Big Band, with whom I have the great pleasure of working, have just recorded a CD at Peter Gabriel’s beautiful Real World Studio – due for public consumption in July.
Also, for upcoming concerts, they’ve been working on a number of Phil Collins’ Big Band charts, including the ridiculous Los Endos Suite! Fairly challenging. Maybe not one for the ‘Slow-dance’ section of their gigs.

Anyway, always a pleasure to see Daryl Stuermer play guitar on this disc – superb tone and feel, as usual. I wish I could have been there!

Until next time – it’s nearly International Guitar Festival time, remember to sign up soon!

John.

P.S. Caught the frisbee. And, no, I really cannot dance.

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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.
Darling?!”

And so on.

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Filed under Guitar, music

The elusive search for the perfect Title.

Pardon my selfishness, people – you must have been waiting at your desks for quite an interminable period for this entry!

One of the great joys of a 1/2 term holiday (besides wearing something other than a suit, for a change) is the amount of time it allows to fritter away on the Internet.
So, as a result of my slack-jawed trawling, please check out the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQ7qK-L4Fx0

[People playing ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ may be interested to note that it’s the same Mr. Hewitt Jones who composed The Blue ‘Cello concerto for my brother, Peter Gregson – such is the exalted company I keep]

Please check out more of his videos on the site, he’s a truly superb and multi-faceted musician.

John.

P.S. Also, spent the day absorbing the new Planet X album, ‘Quantum’! Donati, Garsed, Holdsworth…a veritable treasure-trove of grand musicianship, and some of the most ridiculous metric modulation ideas this side of Gavin Harrison. Worth buying just to play my favourite party game, “Pin the tail on the Downbeat.”

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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…

JG.

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Filed under geek, Guitar, Lists, music

International Guitar Festival 2006

It’s been a truly hectic week down South, but I think I’ve just about recovered. Although my fingers are rueing the day I introduced them to Ab13#5.

I’ve been teaching ‘Jazz Fusion’ at the International Guitar Festival in Bath, with the truly superb Mr. Pete Callard. And what a time we all had.

The IGF has been a source of some of the most valuable musical education I’ve ever received, so it’s been fantastic to join the ranks of the educators, and impart much misinformation, with nary a hint of musical taste in evidence.

I’ve been fortunate now to meet some of the (in my opinion) greatest guitarists around today through this festival. Everyone bangs on about Satch this, Vai that, ad infinitum, but the wealth of talent and individuality present in the educational sphere is ridiculous.
I mean, look at some of the teachers on the course over the years: Guthrie Govan, Stuart Ryan, John Wheatcroft, and my main man Pete Callard. All top-line musicians (and these are just a microcosm of all the great people involved), who are on a level with any famous musician you could name. So, the chances I (and others) have had to meet these people and just marvel at their collective abilities have been invaluable.

Here’s a photo of our Jazz class [click for full-size]

Lovely people, with an excellent choice in teachers.

And the people writing on the whiteboard:

[again, click for full-size glory]

So, all in all, a great week.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you there next time!
John.

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

Just {One + n} More Thing(s)

A multi-pronged post, people.

Yes. That’s some linguistic finesse. I like that.

“People”.

Eat that, Hemingway.

——————

To re-cap (before John’s brain enema): post with prongs.

Firstly, it was my birthday yesterday (I know, postal service isn’t what it used to be, we did send it a week ago, John, but those thieving gits will take anything not surgically attached to a Pinscher, yada-yada-yada), so I tried to celebrate in a manner befitting to the occasion.

Yes, there were drinks.

Yes, there was a cake.

Highlight?

a) Riotous boozing long into the wee small hours, culminating in much destruction of neighbouring BMWs?

OR

b) A quiet, but ultimately emotionally memorable evening with friends and family, culminating in a spiritual awakening and moral epiphany?

OR, comedy last option:

c) Transcribing and learning Frank Zappa xylophone parts?

If you have any prior experience of me, you’ll already have shut this blog window in disgust, and kicked your cat out of sheer frustration.

Learnt the parts, though.

ANYWAY.

—————–

I need to advertise a video blogger (who you’ll have heard of anyway, given his incredible ‘net status) whose profundity and lucidity (and humour) have made me giggle and pensively stroke my chin: www.zefrank.com . Genius.

It brings to mind the sort of biting intellectual satire brought to us by ‘gods-amongst-mortals’ such as Chris Morris (Brass Eye) and Bill Hicks, both of whom are yet to wear out their welcome in my heart.

Old age turns one quite poetic, dunnit.

——————

I’m a big reader of music journals/magazines and I place a lot of respect on the writers in them. Specialist journalism requires a huge amount of passion for the subject, especially given the naturally select nature of its readership.

So, I was distraught when one such article gave out potentially damaging advice. I won’t mention the publication, or the author (something to do with politics), but they haven’t printed my letter (e-mailed the day the publication came out, near the end of April) so I feel it necessary to point this out here.

William Brown, please seek other advice on your playing tension! The advice given was, in my estimation, lacklustre, and potentially damaging.

If your picking technique causes you pain in the elbow – that’s due to unhealthy strain ON the elbow during the playing process. It’s not, as the scribe felt fit to posit, a result of not playing some scales before a gig. Warming up is essential, but if there is a fault in your playing, YOU WILL STILL HURT YOURSELF.

Slow your playing down, and relax. Focus more on a wrist action (it’s tempting, when playing extreme metal as you do, to use the elbow for more aggression, but it really isn’t necessary), and on control, rather than tensing the muscles, setting them on ‘fast’.

My closing statement in this letter which will almost certainly never see the light of day (thank some unspecified deity for editors):

Shortcuts are not in the best interest of players with long-term aspirations.

Spleen vented.

———————

In closing, I though I’d give you all a treat. Although you can’t see me hopping on one foot singing through the assorted works of Verdi in a pleasing falsetto, I’m dedicating it to you. Yes, you.

But since you won’t believe me (why should you?), here’s something tangible:

http://www.johngregson.co.uk/july2006_johngregson_lesson.bmp

It’s a nice little mixolydian phrase in quintuplets, for any Shawn Lane fans out there. Notice the use of economy picking, on every crotchet/quarter note. Due to the (literally) odd note configuration, this means that every group of 5 has the same picking. Ah, not just a pretty face, this one.

Note, if you will, the bi-dextral addition at the end. I do the two tapped notes with my middle and ring-fingers. It sounds oh-so-like-a-keyboard. Sort of.

You may also wish to experiment with alternate note choices – fer instance, substituting either the G# or B with the b5, Bb, for a nice E9#11 implication.
Or, for the more rhythmically-perverse out there, you could create a pleasant 5-over-4 isorhythm by changing the subdivision to semiquavers/16ths. Or triplets, or septuplets, or…

Please post any variations or additions you come up with!

Well, that’s all from me.

Er, you can go now.

Stop wasting your time on the internet and do something useful.

I don’t know what. It’s YOUR life.

Tea needs to be made, televisions need to be watched, grass needs to be cut, fish to be fed (probably), Hollywood movies to be made, and so on.

I mean, I’m flattered that you’re still reading (“John, how could you know if I’m still reading? I mean, I’m in a camper van in Utah, and you’re all the way over in the United Kingdom of Scotland.” Well, my friend, you know that glowing light on your monitor? You know, the one that you thought indicated the power status? Yeah, it’s actually a camera. And that foray on the web last Saturday? I can assure you, that wasn’t “research”. You’re fooling no-one.)

Boy, Freud would enjoy this, wouldn’t he? (I hear he was big into his blogs)

Right. Time for some tea-mouth synergy.

JG.

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Filed under diatribe, Guitar, humour, music