I think I’ve done a bit of everything this year, playing festivals with a rock band, working as a producer for a folk musician, session work for an electronic music album and a few other things.
I pretty much offer unlimited support outside of lessons for anyone who is considering pursuing music as a career or for anyone who wants to take their hobby out of the house and into the local music scene. I don’t really market my musical projects very much so none of this stuff will look super glamorous but all of the projects included in this blog were paid jobs, received positive reviews and most importantly were very fulfilling creative projects. So if any of this looks like something you’d like to get into then feel free to ask me for any advice.
In April I joined a band called Square WIld. I really got dropped in at the deep end here.
I was replacing someone who had been in the band for about 4 years. The band had won Prog Magazine’s Best Unsigned Band award in 2022 and so had a full feature written about them this year. (Issue 138 if you’re interested)
They included me in the photoshoot and mentioned in the article that I was about to start playing with them. I then had about 6 weeks and 2 rehearsals to learn the set. The songs are harder than anything I ever had to play during my music degree or any gigs I’ve done since then. My first gig with them was the semi final of a competition. We went on to win the semi final and the whole competition. I then found myself playing the Bloodstock festival a few months later to 2000+ people and met a few musicians that I’d been a fan of for a long time.
A couple of years ago during lockdown I recorded a solo EP. It was really just a personal project at first. I sort of just had some sounds in my head that I wanted to turn into finished songs. A few of my friends talked me into playing the material live.
In March we booked a small venue and played the whole EP from start to finish (+ few new songs and some covers)
Once I’ve finished learning the rest of the Square WIld back catalog I’ll revisit this project.
My job on this one was pretty much just to show up and play guitar. The album is mostly the work of Chris Massey. He’s originally a DJ/Producer but has branched out into all sorts of creative projects over the years in music and film.
It was a really interesting job because I’ve not really worked with an electronic pop producer before and also we recorded my guitar parts quite early on in the process. So I had no idea what the finished songs would sound like. Chris would show me a beat, a few synth parts or a bass line ect, then I’d come up with some guitar parts and he'd record them and pick the bits that he needed. Then a few months later, I heard the whole thing finished on vinyl. There were singers on the record with me that I’d not met and the rough ideas I’d heard a few months back were full, perfectly balanced sounds,
Shelli Le Fay: Genre Folk/Acoustic singer-songwriter
My Role: Producer
Shelli has played in many bands as a violinist, singer and guitarist and is now starting to record her solo music. My role in this was mostly to handle the tech stuff, tracking editing, mixing etc but the most interesting part for me was having her describe sounds to me and then figuring out ways to make those sounds with instruments and software.
Those Music Guys Podcast
Me and my friend have done this podcast for a few years on and off. The new thing this year was that another podcast host, Mark Cooper, asked us to collaborate. His show is way more established than ours so this was a fun new experience. He booked a venue in Liverpool and we did a live episode with an audience Q and A. We made some new connections through this so we have some interesting guests booked in for 2024
December 2023 Topic
It’s nearly Christmas so here's some info on some of the items I get asked about most in lessons and at gigs. (I’m no way near famous enough to be sponsored by any of these companies so this is all stuff I actually use) In general I’l have tried a few similar products over the years and eventually settled on these. I’ve put links to the product pages and a rough estimate of the prices. I usually ask Rick if he can get something for me and if not I just find it online.
These things just plug in where your normal cable usually goes. Then you plug your headphones into and your phone too if you want to. These cost around £30 to £40 but the sound quality is pretty impressive.
I use mine before gigs. Sometimes there’s hours between sound check and performance so I’ll find a corner somewhere or just go to my tent if it’s a festival and run through the set. It means I can be fully warmed up for the gig and I can leave all my other equipment setup and just use my guitar, headphones and some backing tracks I keep on my phone.
A few companies make these, I have the Blackstar one but the Vox ones also looks good, and I’ve bought one as a gift for someone else. I recommend putting your phone in flight mode when using it to avoid interference but in general it’s super simple to use.
This is that guitar tab and notation software that I use in lessons. Let me know if you’re planning on getting this as I can add you to an education program that means you’ll get it for half price. (full price is around £60, one off payment, no contract)
Once you buy the software, the full tabs, scores and MIDI files for millions of songs are available for free.
Simple but handy. Phone apps are actually really good for tuning but if you’re in a room that has background noise then a clip on tuner works better because it picks up the vibrations directly through the wood. Clip om tunes are around £10 to £15. All the brands I’ve tried have been fine but I like the D'addario and Snark ones best.
These are around £100 and they make live music so much easier. The old ones used to have interference problems but these ones are great. They have 4 channels so if you and your band mates can have the same type without any problems
These vary in price a lot so I’ve included a few links.
I have one that’s around £80 at home and one that’s £700 in my teaching room at A4. I bought one, my friend has one that was around £40 and works fine.
Basically these are used to record sound into your computer, you can plug guitar straight into these or plug microphones into them. If you’re getting into home recording then this is the first thing you’ll need.
Color Coded Velcro Cable ties!
Self explanatory really. These things are simple but very useful. Not sure which brand I have as they’re all pretty similar.
Here are a few tips for anyone who is preparing for a graded exam.
Make sure you have read through the whole book so you know what you’re up against. As well as performing the songs, there are lots of technique exercises and listening tests that might catch you out if you are not properly prepared.
Make sure you are listening to the songs on a regular basis. You will learn much faster if you do this. Listen to the graded versions and listen to the original versions so you really understand what the song is supposed to sound like. I also recommend listening to similar songs to the ones you are learning particularly songs by the same guitarists.
Have a practice schedule. This could be anywhere between 30 minutes and 3 hours a day depending on what your goals are. Make sure you include a bit of everything in your
Know why you’re practicing. If your only goal is to get a certificate with your name on it then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll learn the exam material properly. The students who get the highest grades are constantly looking forward to picking up their guitars weather they have an exam coming up or not. This is because they have a clear picture in their head of how they want to sound when they are playing their guitar.