Tag: music-making

September 11, 2015
In other news, I have also managed to pick up a nearly new Roland GR-S V-Guitar Space, at a bargain price. More toys for this boy.

I’ve had a GR-33 Guitar Synth for some years, which I use with my Godin Synth Access guitars. The GR-S has nothing like the features of the GR-33 – it essentially has 4 sound/affects: Crystal, which is a bell-like synth sound; Rich Modulation – an enhanced chorus effect; Slow Pad, a warm synth, with octave control; Brilliant Clean adds additional octaved strings (above and/or below) for a 12 or even 18 string effect. There is also a brilliant freeze function, which allows you to hold a pad on the synth, while continue to play on the guitar.

September 11, 2015
I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve been shopping again for toys.

I’m going through a fairly creative time at the moment, and have both been writing some new material and arranging other folk’s material. I’ve recently bought some new instruments that are challenging me (in a good way), and have been doing some music with others, in particular, my friend Annie.

July 13, 2015
[caption id="attachment_1992" align="alignright" width="300"] See link for more information and tickets[/caption]My friend Annie is organising a show this Friday, at Bishop Grosseteste University. I thought I would help get the word out.

The three Bishop Grosseteste University Community Choirs (Vocal Authority, Coop Choir and Treble Cliff) are joining together to bring an evening of upbeat, cheerful songs from musicals to The Venue!

November 27, 2014
A few weeks back, I spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon attending a Harmony Singing Workshop at Bishop Grosseteste University, in Lincoln. The workshop had been arranged by my friend Annie, and apart from her, her husband, Tim, and their daughter; it was going to be a roomful of strangers, so I admit to some nervousness. A big room too – something like 80+ people attended.

The workshop was given by Faith Watson, and she was brilliant, immediately putting us all at our ease.

November 17, 2014
Something like 8 years ago, I bought an AXL ThinAmp DSP10 – a portable battery-powered amplifier. At the time I was making a lot of use of my guitar-synth; which works, of course, if you can plug it into something. As most of the places I played (filk and non-filk) were predominantly acoustic venues, I thought this would do the trick.

Indeed it did, and for a couple of years, I loved it. While not a patch on my Trace Acoustic amp (naturally), it had the advantage that it was lighter than a laptop, didn’t need mains power, and didn’t look like an amp – which meant I didn’t get snooty looks from the true acoustic people. And it did have 10Watts, although I don’t ever think I played it at full volume.

September 12, 2014
Returning to my “cheapest” stick dulcimer, I had a surprise tonight. As long as I have played guitar I have used standard-style hard plastic picks, either in light or medium – although I sometimes use extra light on the 12-string.

When I got my first stick dulcimer, I didn’t like the sound with my standard picks; the sound was too clicky and harsh. After some reading, I took some advice and bought some extra-light nylon picks. These are much softer and flexible – they aren’t that brilliant with my guitars, but sound ace with the stick. I’ve been using them with the sticks ever since, and have just bought some more.

August 20, 2014
In January, I treated myself to a stick dulcimer from HiGuitarsUK.

A stick dulcimer, aka a Strum Stick or Strumstick, is a 3 stringed instrument, based on the mountain or Appalachian dulcimer, but made to be held and played like a guitar, rather than a lap instrument. They come in all different qualities and price ranges, but this was my birthday present to myself, so I went for a luthier-crafted high-end model, costing me 170 quid.

I’ve had a lot of pleasure out of it, and it’s turned into a minor obsession with me. So last week when I noticed a couple of other stick dulcimers on eBay, I decided to float a minimum bid. To my surprise, I got both.

So I am now the owner of 3 stick dulcimers, of varying quality. So I thought it would be a nice idea to compare them. These are the three instruments, from left to right: My birthday dulcimer from HiGuitarUK (£170); Smokey Mountain Dulcimer (£51); Strumstick by D G Clemson (£49).

August 10, 2014
I’ve had a Tenori-On for a couple of years, now: the cheap “Orange” one, made of plastic; not the metal framed “White” version.

After an initial period when I couldn’t put it down, I soon found myself disappointed that the volume of the device was too low for any kind of performance without additional amplification. There was also the fact that the Orange version could only be powered from a mains adapter, lacking the White’s battery compartment. (I believe this was purely to justify the price difference between the White and Orange – aside from the cosmetics and the lack of battery power, the two are identical in function and sound).

December 12, 2013
I’ve written about Justin Sandercoe before, who has several hundred excellent guitar tutorials up on Youtube. To my delight, he has now started a series of ukulele lessons as well. And by the looks of things, he can really play the uke, too. So if you want some hints on strumming technique etc, tune in.

June 13, 2013
I’d looked at this little beastie before, and managed to resist, but the price is now lower than ever, so I gave into temptation.

The Yamaha GL1 Guitalele is the size of a Tenor Ukulele, but has 6 strings. Commonly tuned to A, it is like playing a guitar on capo 5. It is not a sophisticated instrument, and nowhere near as finely made as my Tenor Uke. But it is cheap (57 quid, including case) and a bit of fun.

April 29, 2013
March 20, 2013
Sometimes it is nice to have a semi-random source of phrases to draw from when writing lyrics. I have been known to use magnetic poetry, and even wrote a song – Lodestone – to celebrate this method.

But today I found something new – using the voice note option of Google Keep. It actually isn’t too bad at transcribing, if I make sure I enunciate properly. But speaking in my normal tone, the most mundane sentences can be transformed into something that seems like out of Finnegan’s Wake. While most of it is nonsense, sometimes you see a phrase that is interesting, and that you can build something on.