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.
Learning to play an instrument can be one of the best decisions a child can make. Parents often ask me for advice on how to get the most out of music lessons. If you’re working a busy job and your kids have loads of homework then it can be hard to find time to sit down and help them with their practice. There’s so many distractions for kids now as well. I’m not even 30 yet and I feel really old seeing children engrossed in smartphones, tablets etc. When I first picked up a guitar, CD players were the hight of technology. Kids still do get excited by the idea of starting a band and playing gigs or making youtube videos, but many kids freely admit that they struggle to motivate themselves to practice consistently. This usually results in parents feeling like they have to nag the kids to practice. Like any good teacher, I think a bit of gentle nagging can often be a good thing, but how great would it be if your child started voluntarily putting down their electronic gadgets and picked up their guitar to practice?
Here’s the first step to take towards making that happen. It might seem simple but it’s something that is often overlooked by parents, students and teachers.
Find out which music they love the most. One of the first questions I ask a new student, weather they're 5 years old or 80 years old (yes I have taught an 80 year old before!) is ask them what their favourite music is.
Which student do you think will learn faster, the student who says “I don’t know” or the the student who starts listing all their favourite songs, favourite musicians, favourite bands, favourite albums and favourite genres?
Neither of my parents are musicians but I certainly grew up listening to music. One of my earliest memories is dancing round the living room with my brother and my sisters, listening to my Dad’s cassettes. After a few months of this we all began to develop different tastes in music and we would argue a bit about what song to put on next.
Of course I don’t want to cause any extra sibling arguments in your home, but for a child to be motivated to practice an instrument, it is essential that they start to discover which music they are truly passionate about. Once they’ve found the songs they like they’ll want to listen to them again and again. This will help so much with their sense of rhythm and pitch and at the same time they will start to build up a picture in their head of the kind of musician they want to be. That’s when they start to realize that a musical instrument has much more to offer them than their electronic gadgets.
In the next blog I’ll be explaining a few ways to help your kids discover music and a few tricks to motivate them to practice but here’s a good place to start.
Try asking them to name their 10 favorite songs. If they can’t then don’t worry, their favorite ones are out there somewhere and we just need to find them. Start by introducing them to your favorite songs or seeing if you can find their favourite radio station. If you find one or two songs they like then try using youtube and spotfly to suggest more.
If they already can name 10 songs then try finding different versions of those songs on youtube. For most songs it’s easy to find a video of someone playing a simplified version on a guitar or keyboard in their bedroom.