Monthly Archives: March 2008

Earth Hour Unplugged with a Mad Family

My son was walking around the house saying ‘hippy…hip…eeze, hippies…hippies, you’re all hippies’, shaking his head in disgust and disapproval.  My daughter, became enlightened at about age three and fully understands compassion, caring for others and the world around us. 

My son was watching Joe Dirt, a ridiculous movie with an actor that had the best/worst mullet I’ve ever seen and the dilemma was it fiinshed at 8.30 wheras Earth Hour, or Hippy Hour as my son would call it started at 8.

One hour no electricity, no gizmos, no gadgets, lights out, a challenge to say the least.  My wife was clear that we need to do such a thing. I had a strong argument against it, so I thought, not that I didn’t care. I knew the ‘Truth’, the hidden truth and I started rambling on about free energy invented by Tesla and other patents owned by the power mongers.  At that point my daughter said, “Dad no conspiracy theories”.  I said, “they are not theories”. She said, “I don’t care, we are doing it anyway”. 

To fill you in I have always been cautious of the world around me, and was so mad and extreme at  certain times in my life that I never even picked flowers for 32 years because I didn’t want to hurt them.  Well not quite true, I had read a book by D T Suzuki on Zen, and he pointed out the difference between the Western mind and Eastern mind.  He said that in the West we pick the flower and put in a vase and say ‘how beautiful’ and in the East they watch it grow in the garden and let it live out its life there. He used an example of two famous poets, I think Yeates and Basho. 

Being an acoustic guitarist there was a simple solution, if need be I could play guitar for an hour, no amp required, no PA just the sweet sounds of an unplugged guitar.

The hour was getting closer, my wife starting running a bath and I was calling out to her that she would use more power running the hot water system than we would just leaving the lights and other gadgets on.  To no avail, she had her Self Development mp3’s on her ipod ready.  “Oh by the way, the ipod uses voltage that came from the computer that was plugged into a power point, you’re cheating”.  The door closed the candles were being lit.  The lights went out, my son and I  were running around the house looking for one of his Motoxcross mags.  It’s interesting how little light a candle puts out when you ar looking for an object.  He cheated twice, he flicked a light on and off, environmental sacrilege, but still didn’t find it.

I’m not sure what came over me but it only took about three minutes before I was sneaking around the house making ghost noises ‘woooo,  woooo,’ and scratching my finger nails down the doors create a creepy effect.  A voice came from the bathroom…quiet. The poltegeist had to retire.

 Oh no, my son opened the fridge door,  it was still on, quick turn it off, no we can’t, the food will thaw.  We pretended it never happened, he was hungry, he hadn’t eaten for 23 minutes and it was urgent.

Meanwhile my daughter was revving up her ipod for what I assumewd would be an hour of head bobbing and foot tapping in the dark. What I hadn’t realised was that she had set it up for me to listen to her favourite tunes.  She played me a couple of songs by Angus and Julia Stone, very acoustic, very nice and I made an agreement with her to teach her the tunes, there’s only a couple of chords but it’s nice material.  Another tune I liked was by Via Audio, it reminded me of Prefab Sprout and Everything but the Girl, very musical, sort of light Indie pop, but I liked their harmonies and they don’t rely on volume to create sound.  After a while my wife emerged from ‘deep space’, she said something that I couldn’t hear but I assumed it was ‘what are you doin’, right at the moment I was repeating the words of the song ‘ I’m wasted’, ‘I’m so wasted’…she wandered off up the hallway into the dark looking very puzzled.

It was almost time, an hour was up, we opened the curtains, I went onto the balcony to watch all the pretty lights come on, I was ready to shout “HAPPY ELECTRICITY” as the neighbourhood lit up, but alas, 9 o’clock went by and not a flicker; a few blue lights shining through the windows, the teles were on.

Just then it happened, my son picked up an acoustic guitar and starting playing the riff to Black Sabbath Iron Man, I hadn’t listened to it since 1973, well I may have but I would have probably filtered it out.. I couldn’t help myself,  I ran to the kitchen, picked up the broom turned it upside down to use as a mike stand, there I was channeling Ozzy Osbourne, “Has he lost his mind, can he see or is he blind, is he live or dead, has he thoughts within his head.”

I can’t wait for the next one.  Are other houses like mine?

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Filed under acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, acousticguitar, earth hour

More Than Just A Guitarist

When we are young musicians we often have our sites set on bright lights, touring, albums and all the other hoohaa that happens in the music industry.  But as we mature as musicians we start to see the other sides of music, the joy of playing, the challenge of playing different styles and the various other places where music is used in the world around us.  E.g. Commercially, in the Arts, short films and these days in multimedia projects. We don’t have to look too hard to find an application/use for music.

A few years ago I worked on a project, it ended up I had one evening to compose, record, edit and complete one such piece of music.  As I own the copyright on the piece I have decided to post the piece of music here.

Basically I am a guitarist foremost but like many musicians these days it is possible to use technology to create and complete a whole project in a small studio environment.  On the recording I played all parts, excluding the use of a drum machine, and I wil state I am not a keyboard player but my knowledge of chords through studying music, enables me to play what is required to have a complete piece of music.

Like most musicians I recorded the drum track first and built the song from there.  it was followed by the guitar part which is reasonably minimalistic.  Throughout the piece I double the guitar part with a harmony on keyboard to fatten up the sound of the guitar.  

As I play multiple styles of music, it has enabled me to work on some fascinating projects over the years.  No flashing lights and big PA’s here,  just a love of music and a challenge to meet an outcome.  It was commissioned for a small Arts film.

 It is very laid back and sort of chilly.  It’s called Walk Ins

 To hear it click on the link, it’s about 4 MB. http://www.the-acoustic-guitar.com/downloads/walk_ins.mp3

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Filed under acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, acousticguitar, art, MUSIC

Solo Acoustic Guitar Playing – Dropped D Blues Folk Jazz

Playing solo guitar is not only one of the most enjoyable ways of playing the guitar but as anyone that has played guitar for a while would know, it is probably the most demanding.  The reason being is that there is nowhere to hide.  The guitar player needs to play something that holds together from the beginning to the end, keeps the interest of the listener, stays in time and needs to manage to play a combination of moving parts such as chords, melodies and counter melodies similtaneously.  The classical guitarists manage to do this quite well and now have a massive repertoire of material to choose from.  But most others need to make it up themselves or create arrangements of songs.

In 1983 I was living in the hills and listening to a lot of acoustic instrumental guitarists and I wrote a number of songs.  At that time I was experimenting a lot with open-tuned guitars.   One tune I wrote was with a simple Dropped bottom D, the Bass E string tuned down a whole tone. A few years ago I decided to do I recording of the tune.  The original idea was to have a second guitar part improvising over the mid section  But I felt because this guitar blog/site is about guitar education I’d upload the song without the over dub, warts and all. 

The tune is a very reflective piece, I’d been travelling around Asia for quite some time and needed to settle in a place where there was a lot of trees e.g. forrest, a stream and plenty of clean air. I played it on a guitar I built myself and it was recorded direct via a Dana Bourgeous internal pickup system. 

 Here is the link to it http://www.the-acoustic-guitar.com/downloads/dropped_D_folk_jazz_blues.mp3

It’s an MP3 file almost 4 MB. You’ll need a reasonably fast Internet connection to download it quickly.

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Filed under acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, acousticguitar, learning guitar, MUSIC, open tuning

Playing Solo Guitar, Busking on the Street, Keeping Time

I always like seeing buskers on the street, a city or town is missing so much if they don’t allow busking.  Buskers add a pulse to a town.  They are often raw, but you’ll find an honesty in the rawness, and we are getting it in real-time, it’s not overproduced; and yes maybe a little off the mark with its musicality at times but guitar players need a platform that is in a public place to express themselves while they are developing their craft.

 What you’ll notice if you look carefully at street musicians if they are soloists, they may or may not have the ability to keep time.  As a rule, I prefer music to be in time, but as a soloist it is possible to take liberties with the beat; you can’t do this when playing with other musicians, it’s the glue that holds it together.  What I have also noticed is that if a guitarist is self taught and rarely played with other musicians they could easily fall into the trap of not knowing how to play in time at all.  This in the long term will work against them. As you mature as a musician, you find yourself wanting to work with other musicians that will enhance your sound.

 What I recommend is if you have been working alone for a long time, it’s a good idea to get hold of some sort of drum machine, ‘musical sounding’ audio files for the computer, assuming you are computer literate or some type of backing tracks and work with them for a while, these can help you develop a natural rhythm. 

Every now and then, I get the opportunity to work with different people, some have tremendous voices or with  other great skills but often it’s their timing that lets them down.  Your timing should get to the point where you can stop playing for a few bars and then automatically come in on time at the precise place. 

Guitarists often doodle around a bit and waste time. Be focused, set your self a plan of what to work on and then do t.

 Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you are having a few difficulties with timing and we can look at a way of sorting it.

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Filed under acoustic, Acoustic Guitar, acousticguitar, Busking, learning guitar, MUSIC