Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Trading down

Sunday, February 12th, 2017 | Family & Parenting, Music

One of the remarkable abilities of babies is to force you to throw everything that you have ever loved. This happened several times before Venla was once, again after she was born, and now more time. With each iteration, you think there is nothing more you could possibly do without. But there is. You have to keep getting rid of more and more stuff.

In general, I think this is therapeutic. However, it is not like we now have less stuff. It just means we have different stuff.

One of the latest victims is my guitar amplifier. I had a beautiful Vox AC15VR with a value pre-amp. Unfortunately, it had nowhere to live.

I have had to sell it and replace it with a small Orange Crush 20. It does look cool, but it does not sound as good. It does, however, fit in my apartment.

The moral of the story? Buy an amp large enough that it itself can become a piece of furniture you can store things on.

SAL July 2016

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 | Humanism, Music, Video

The July event of Sunday Assembly Leeds was on the theme of Yorkshire (it being Yorkshire Day the following day). Our speaker for the month, Mary from City of Sanctuary, spoke about the efforts to make Leeds a more inclusive and more welcoming place. The cake selection was also excellent, having had much left overs from the Humanist picnic the day before.

The Assembly Line performed as usual, just as a three piece this month. This left me as the only guitarist, but it could have sounded a bit worse.

The Housemartins – Happy Hour

Kaiser Chiefs – I Predict A Riot

Chorus pedal

Saturday, April 16th, 2016 | Music

chorus-pedal

I was given some vouchers for Christmas and earlier this month I finally got round to spending them. My latest edition is a chorus pedal. I was originally looking at the Arion analogue chorus. However at around £200, I wasn’t that in love with it, so I gave the Boss Super Chorus and Boss Chorus Ensemble a go.

It was a tough choice between the two. In the end, I settled on the CE-5 because it seemed to have a slightly warmer sound than the CH-1. It could have between the way I had it set up, or it could have been pure placebo, but even after extensive fiddling with the knobs I got a better sound out of the Ensemble.

I am hoping that it will be useful in creating even more atmosphere for the band. It produces a similar effect to the delay. I already have a Carbon Caby on my board, so it doesn’t add a huge range of extra options. However, in time I think I will learn how to get a nice subtle effect out of it that bulks up our sound. Or, if not, at least my Smiths covers will sound better.

pedal-board

I also played around with a wah, which is the other pedal originally included in my pedal board master plan. It was fun, but I am not going to worry about that for now: the board is also getting pretty crowded!

Songwriting: Step by Step

Friday, February 19th, 2016 | Books, Music

Songwriting: Step by Step is a 2012 book by Aaron Cheney. It is short. It comes in at about 100 pages and I bashed through the book in about an hour. I paid £2.29 for the Kindle edition, which seems fair.

It does take you through step-by-step, but the steps are not covered in that much detail. I think I picked up more from the casual references to terms and techniques than I did from the main focus of the material. A lot of the text covers writing the lyrics. This is not something I am too concerned about. I have a lot of learn here, but I have written lyrics for many years, it was always adding the tune that I struggled with. This section was covered in far less detail.

I also spotted a grammar mistake. “Everyone” instead of “every one”. In a perverse way it made me feel good that I am not the only person putting books out there with imperfect grammar.

Would I recommend it? Probably not. If you are buying a book on songwriting, my guess is that you probably want to dedicate some time to it. If so, you will want a book that goes into more detail than this does.

Songwriting-step-by-step

Piano: six months on

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016 | Music, Thoughts

piano

Six months ago I bought myself a piano and began taking lessons. It was hard to fit in: I had to give up my guitar lessons and when my singing teacher left I did not pursue another. I am not moaning like some rick stuck-up kid, but it was a good reminder for me that you can only do so much and need to allocate your time accordingly.

Now that I have spent six months with it, it seems like a good time to reflect on my progress so far.

I am still practising every day. You have to, if you want to achieve mastery (or even basic competency) of an instrument. I am finding it about as difficult to motive myself as I did with guitar. It’s a struggle to sit down ever day, but I do get it done.

I am finding it easier than guitar. With guitar, I literally could not play anything for the first six months. After that, I finally got one basic song down. Getting the muscle memory to make those chord shapes takes ages. With piano, I was playing a song in my first lesson. It was very simple song, but I was playing it. I can also see myself making progress, whereas often with guitar it feels like I am not getting any better. This has all be done with around twenty minutes practice a day. With guitar, I was usually doing an hour.

I can’t read music yet. I know how to, but in the heat of the moment I am lost. I have to start counting up the bars using FACE or ACEG. Interesting though, I need the music in front of me, and to keep my eyes on it, to be able to play the music.

I feel like I am building muscle memory, rather than learning. I can nail a piece, but as soon as I make a mistake or lose my place, it takes my ages to find it again. I am hoping this will disappear over time. As the songs her more challenging, it should push me to sight read more and more.

Always break it down. If you are struggling, break it down into a small section. Once you have this down, build it back up again. Slowly. Use the metronome to help yourself keep the beat. It is annoying, but useful.

Having a teacher is really valuable. Not only do they instruct and help you correct your mistakes, but they also reinforce the stuff you already know. I know I should break it down and use the metronome, but often I do not because I don’t like doing it. Having these concepts constantly reinforced is useful on its own.

Fuzz face pedal

Friday, January 8th, 2016 | Music

fuzz-face

When playing guitar, I am often confused Jimi Hendrix (I think). However, if anyone did not think that before they surely will now that my family bought me a Fuzz Face pedal for Christmas.

It is a fairly standard size for a stomp box and the audio jacks come out at 45 degree angles from the back. This I quite like because it keeps them out of the way of the boxes where the cables come straight out of the sides.

It has two controls, volume and fuzz. The fuzz boosts the signal so you need to balance this with the volume level, depending on how much higher you want to go.

The Assembly Line, November 2015

Sunday, December 6th, 2015 | Music, Video

At November’s Sunday Assembly Leeds we did two songs, Echo Beach and Stuck in the Middle With You. I also did a solo cover of Closing Time, but my camera died before we got to that. The camera was using a huge aperture, so half the band are out of focus.

Echo Beach

Stuck in the Middle With You

The Assembly Line July 2015

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 | Humanism, Music

For the July 2015 Sunday Assembly Leeds we performed two songs. They sounds really good on the day though listening back, I’m less convinced.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

Weather With You

The Assembly Line June 2015

Monday, July 6th, 2015 | Humanism, Music

The Assembly Line is our new name for the in-house Sunday Assembly Leeds band. Our June event was on the theme of technology so we had some very vaguely related technology songs.

The Beatles – Drive My Car

This went pretty well, until the end, where I lost it. Listen out for Rich shredding the lead guitar.

Oasis – She’s Electric

Notable for my short guitar solo after the first chorus. It didn’t feel great at the time but on listening back it actually sounds pretty good.

R.E.M. – Man on the Moon

This also features a short guitar solo for myself. I also spent my Christmas vouchers on an analogue delay pedal which I used throughout the song, regardless of whether it was justifiable or not.

An evening with Mark Knopfler

Monday, June 1st, 2015 | Music, Reviews

Mark Knopfler is an amazing guitarist and it was his work shredding the licks in Dire Straits that inspired me to pick up the guitar. So I was quite excited when he announced he would be touring with his band, including a stop in Sheffield.

We were in Nottingham in the morning, and I had training, so we had to drive all the way back to Leeds and then drive right back down the M1 to the gig that evening. We did get lucky though – I assumed there would be a support band on, so I didn’t set off until 6:40. Turns out he did start at 7:30, but due to sheer luck we got straight down the motorway and into the car park, ending up right next to the entrance and got in just as the lights went down.

Critics might say that the two hours and fifteen minutes they played for was fifteen minutes short of The Who. Lazy even. But I was pretty happy with the length!

He played Sultans of Wing, Romeo & Juliet, Telegraph Road and So Far Away, as well as a load of new stuff. He actually has more new stuff that I have actually listened to, as I only recognised one or two of his solo tunes even though I thought I had listened to most of it. His new stuff is so-so. It’s good, but it’s little guitar riffs, and doesn’t show off his skills as much as when he does a full song like Sultans or Telegraph Road.

I have never seen someone change guitars as much a Mark. It’s odd because in Guitar Stories he said he got the Pentair made because he didn’t want the hassle of switching between his Strat and his Les Paul. Yet in the gig he switched guitars every song, and in many songs, in the middle of the song as well!

mark-knopfler-1 mark-knopfler-2 mark-knopfler-3 mark-knopfler-4