Category Archives: music

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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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

CoffeeLoop presents MicroConcert

Evenin’ all,


I just want to alert you to a new concert put on by CoffeeLoop: a Twitter-based concept called MicroConcert.

It’s brought to you by the same team that did the adventurous SPEM and The Words on the Wall projects. If you’re free to watch the streaming concert tomorrow (March 19th) I highly recommend it.

More info available at my brother’s site.

Take care, and keep rockin’ in the free world.
John.

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Filed under music, promotion

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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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.

Enjoy!
John.


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

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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Filed under geek, humour, irreverence, music