Every week I welcome you into my world. I share my thoughts on a variety of subjects relating to performance, teaching and composing. From venues, to techniques to songs I find interesting. It’s all in my blog.
The modern wedding is very different to that of even a few years ago. I’ve been performing as a wedding musician for over ten years but I have seen a shift in the last few years. Couples are looking for much more creative control of their wedding music. Gone are the days where a band or musician can have a set repertoire list and the couple leave all to the band’s discretion. These days couples have a lot more knowledge of music and what they want. Maybe this is because of the emergence of Spotify or because weddings were becoming very similar musically.
After performing for eight years in a DJ live band – a blend of DJing and live music – I realised that this format was the way forward. So for a period of years I worked hard crafting my Djing skills so that I could offer clients both a musician and DJ for their wedding.
The modern wedding musician
So with my large acoustic knowledge and now growing DJ party music knowledge it was time to let clients know what they could expect at their wedding. The fact that I could offer a wide range of acoustic music for the wedding ceremony, reception drinks and dinner was not enough. But now I could take this to clients and offer them my Djing services for the party. I found once the musician and and DJ option was on the table clients were a lot more interested in my services. I think this is because of what I mentioned before, the idea that couples can completely bespoke their wedding music and it’s changed the game.
Before I was DJing at weddings I offered a duo and trio set up for the acoustic elements of a day. Often I would perform an instrumental jazz set with my saxophonist and a modern poppy acoustic vocal set with the added percussionist during reception and dinner. Going out as a musician and DJ, plus having a duo and trio option, couples were again having even greater ability to create a bespoke wedding. I was also finding couples asking my musicians to stick around for the DJ sets to jam along with the tracks – giving a DJ live feel to the party. Again this has been a new development to find it’s way into the wedding scene over the past few years. Giving the sense of a big party with a live element but with fewer musicians has giving couples a much more affordable wedding in regards to their music. I pride myself on offering the best deal I can for my clients and always try to stick within their budgets.
A couples first dance is always a magical moment and is something that will be remembered for the rest of the their lives. So you would think it would be an important decision, both what song is chosen and how it is performed. Some couples choose a song that is extremely special to them. They want the original song played by the original artist – just like when they first heard it. Other couples want to hear their first dance sung to them live to bring a completely intimate and one off moment for them. Traditionally this can pose a problem for a DJ – who can’t perform a live track – and a band – who can’t perform with the original artist. With myself being a musician and DJ, this has been a great advantage for couples. It has meant they can choose whichever option they want for their first dance. If they need an acoustic performance then I’ll grab my guitar, learn their song and perform it live. If they want the original artist version, I’ll make sure it’s queued on the decks before I DJ the rest of the party. It really has been a great option to add to my services.
The only thing I found that was missing from my services was the ability to provide a full wedding function band. If I was to truly offer a bespoke wedding service then I needed all options covered. And this meant I had to start putting together a function band option. After 2 years of work, the Cocktails and Dreams band was born. With my full live function band armed and ready I could now offer clients the widest set of musical options for their wedding. I can now offer couples the following options for music at their wedding – a solo guitarist/DJ, duo, trio and full live function band (up to 7 piece including sax and percussion).
Your Bespoke Wedding Musician and DJ
So the modern wedding is one of unique, individual moments, that have a mixture of live and DJ’ed music. I feel fortunate enough to have been able to have recognised this, develop new skills and offer a truly bespoke wedding to all couples. If you are looking for a musician and DJ at your wedding, or maybe something larger like a duo, trio or full band feel free to get in touch.
The past few months have been very busy for many reasons. Firstly I became a dad and that has been amazing, scary and time consuming all at the same time. It’s also coincided with the busiest time of the year for a musician performing at weddings and events. The summer is notorious for celebrating weddings and the British summer has not let us down.
On top of that I’ve been working hard putting together a music video, collection of audio and photos for my new function band – Cocktails & Dreams. There’s actually a lot of work that goes in to showing the general public what a function band does if they haven’t seen you live. It’s very difficult to capture the feel of a live performance when adrenalin is flying and everyone is high on life at a wedding. But we’ve done our best to put together some cool material for everyone.
It’s been a busy wedding season so far and I’ve been travelling about the UK which has been great. I even had a little wedding stop off in a small town called Trets in France. It has some beautiful picturesque views from the Vineyard venue I performed at. Granted I was insanely tired after very little sleep – tends to happen being a new dad – but it was still fun to adventure out of the UK.
Some of the highlights over the past couple of months have been performing at Andy Murray’s hotel, Cromlix, in Dunblane with The Function Band. I’d had very little sleep up until that wedding but we drove for 10 hours in a double decker tour bus with bunk beds. So I actually slept there and back. The wedding was also beautiful but the memory is sleep at this moment.
I also enjoyed performing at the Arts Club in Dover street. It’s a pretty cool place with a basement club. I think the couple were a little surprised to hear their Jewish Israeli dancing music performed at 11.30 in the evening but they certainly went for it. And the highlight for that wedding was our acoustic set where all the guests during their dinner got onto the dance floor, surrounded us and sang along to every song we performed. What a buzz.
So I’ve continued performing various themed videos for my YouTube channel. This includes Masters of solo, masters of the riff, Guitar tip of the week, Acoustic cover challenge and Short solos for a year. All of these playlists feature me demonstrating the various things I do on the guitar. As I was once called Sheldon ‘The Encyclopedia’ Conrich because of my song knowledge. I wanted to demonstrate this both on a soloing level and on a riff based level. So I’ve been performing some of my favourite riffs and solos which I hope you are enjoying. It’s been a lot of fun recording them and hopefully I’ll reach maybe 100 videos for those two playlists in the years to come.
I continue to give free guitar tips to budding guitarists trying to improve their guitar skills. Obviously as a guitar teacher, you’re only getting a scratching of the surface in each video. So if you want to reallllly learn, then do come and have some guitar lessons with me. But in the meantime enjoy the guitar tips each week.
I’ve also embarked on a journey to improve my soloing ability and general ability around the guitar. So this will be an ongoing project to record solos every week for a year. The aim is by the end of the year my soloing will have transformed from the first to the last video. Let’s see.
New Function Band
As mentioned Cocktails & Dreams are a new function band I’ve put together with some great musicians. We’re all about having fun and enjoying ourselves at the events we perform at. We do play a lot of party songs for people to dance to on the dance floor, but I’ve also introduced my DJing skills to the set up. So in between live band sets, couples will continue to be entertained with me Djing their favourite songs. So it’s been great to finally get this new function band on the road and start performing at events. We do have a regular venue we play at each month called the Ranelagh. Should you want to see the band then feel free to come down and check us out.
That’s all folks
So that’s really it for the moment but I’ll write another update blog in probably another few months when I get five minutes to myself. In the meantime, have a great rest of your week.
In my last blog post I talked about all the projects I am excited to be involved in and will be part of over the course of 2017. It’s been a month or so since I last posted and a lot has happened since then. So this blog is really to share with you what’s been going on in my world and to invite you to become vocal and interactive in the content I’m sharing. I’ve been creating and sharing YouTube videos and performing at some great weddings.
New YouTube Videos – Song Intros
I started this little game to test myself on what I could play and to test you lot on your musical knowledge. The concept has been to play the intros to various famous and obscure songs and for you to guess them. But really what has come out of it has been a lot of fun performing some of my favourite songs. And I’ve now been given a nickname by my fellow musicians ‘The encyclopedia’ which I’m taking as a compliment. I’ve recorded all of these intros and turned them into YouTube videos for you to watch. My encyclopedic knowledge of music was tested at a recent function when I was asked to jam along to some songs the guests were singing without any pre warning of the songs or keys. I love these sorts of challenges. It’s part of the reason I love being a musician – testing my skills and musical ability every day.
New YouTube Videos – Famous Guitar Solos
This next project I’ve been sharing with you is based on famous acoustic and electric solos. I don’t think up until this point anyone has really seen what my soloing ability is like and who has influenced it. So before I start to perform my own solos I wanted to record a load of solos that have made me the lead guitarist I am today. There have been over twenty solos recorded so far, so watch out for these over the coming weeks. But I seriously love this stuff. And if you have any suggestions for me, let me know. I aim to add more YouTube videos over the next month so just keep checking out the playlist.
New YouTube Videos – Guitar Tips of the Week
As well as being a gigging musician for weddings and events I am also a guitar and piano teacher. I was talking to my wife and she mentioned that people might be interested in short simple tips that will dramatically improve their guitar playing. I thought, ok this could be fun. So I’ve started recording and posting a bunch of guitar tip YouTube videos for those of you who want to improve your guitar playing. Eventually this playlist will cover anything from simple chord changes and strumming to advanced soloing techniques and theory knowledge. I guess in some way this playlist will be my legacy for my children to watch when I’m old and grey!
Weddings weddings weddings
It’s been a busy month or so with both weddings and events. I was fortunate enough to provide live music at Nick and Laura’s wedding which was a lot of fun. I’ve also performed a classic acoustic set at the Millennium Mayfair Hotel, gigged at the O2 with the Cocktails and Dreams band and most recently headed to Leeds to perform with the Function Band. Playing at weddings and functions is what I love to do so I’m very fortunate to be able to do it so regularly.
So what’s coming next? Well I’m a performing musician both as a singing guitarist and DJ and with other musical set ups. So next up for you, I’ll be recording a playlist of cover songs I would usually play at events so you get a sense of what I do every week. You may have to wait a few weeks before this starts to materialise but I’m up for it and I hope you’re keen on watching it too. I’m also sharing a load of photos and videos on my instagram account. If you haven’t seen them then check them out. Do you have any suggestions of new YouTube videos I could post? Get in touch.
So that’s it for this month’s blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed watching and listening to me play and I look forward to updating you all over the next few months about other things going on in my world. But for now, ciao.
P.s. If you have any questions, enquiries or just want to chat feel free to contact me.
Over the course of the next year I’ll be putting more time into new musical projects and developing older ones. I’ve been very fortunate to have had some great fun over the years with various artists, bands and teaching set ups. For me this year feels different. There is something in my playing and general understanding of music that has evolved over the past few years. And this development has brought me here, to my starting place in music. To many of you that may seem strange. I’ve been learning an instrument of some sort since the age of 7. But the way I see it, you build up a musical identity over years and years of practise and listening.
Listening is really the key element here. When you first start out you listen to music in a particular way for particular things. But as you become more exposed to new ideas, rhythms, influences you start to listen for these in all forms of music. And invariably this takes you on a whirlwind musical journey that really is never ending. I feel I was wiping my feet on the matt before the start of the ‘yellow big musical road’ and I’m taking my first steps on it this year.
So to my musical projects of 2017..
The Jazz Duo
I plan to put more time into developing my instrumental jazz duo. I feel we’re at the very start of something interesting. Whilst we have performed a lot over the years pulling out jazz standards arranged for acoustic guitar and saxophone, we’ll be looking to freshen up our sound, look and performance levels.
‘Che Bello’ is my first attempt at learning and mastering traditional and modern Italian songs. There’s a lot of jazz, soul and pop in the Italian genres. So it’s been fun doing this with Alice Edun’s cracking vocals. So watch this space over 2017.
Chord Melody Guitar
One of my core passions is guitar chord melody. This involves adapting and performing instrumental versions on my guitar of songs I like. It takes a fair bit of chord and melody knowledge to be under your fingers before you can just let go and see your own style emerge. This has been a big transition for me and I’m excited to arrange and record a load of material that will go on my YouTube Playlist.
It’s been quite a year of learning and improving. And something I’ve really spent time on this year is DJing. This really has been born out of trying to make lives easier for clients at events who want the mix of acoustic music and DJing. As my DJing experience and catalogue has grown I’ve been able to offer clients more and more and save them time and stress looking for separate musical entities. So I look forward to DJing a lot more in 2017.
Guess The Intro
Guess the intro is just a fun little game I’ve been playing for the past few months. I’ll record literally the intro of a song and you the public must guess what I’m trying to play. Some songs are obscure and some quite current. So it’s been a good learning experience for me. I’ve had to test my musical knowledge and I look forward to posting new videos of this every week.
Cocktails and Dreams Band
This is really a small side project I’ve been involved with for the past year. A 5 – 6 piece function band, this musical project really allows me to play around with party pop tunes and keep in touch with what the kids are listening to these days. As a serious musician you can sometimes go long periods without listening to the modern pop charts. So bands like Cocktails and Dreams keep me fresh on the scene.
The Function Band
As always and ever present I’ll be performing with The Function Band over the coming months at weddings, corporate events, private parties, Bar Mitzvahs and many more. This musical project has been part of my staple music diet for the past ten years and I feel very lucky to be involved with the DRE team.
So there you have it, my 2017. And to add to that I have a little mini me on the way, yipeee. See you at an event real soon.
Over recent years I have taught a number of students with ADHD on both guitar and piano. The condition has a relatively new label in the medical world. So I’m sure I’ve taught many more students with ADHD but it is only in recent years that parents and schools have brought my attention to it.
In this blog I would like to feature a student I’ve been teaching for around a year. He suffers with diagnosed ADHD and learns the keyboard. I will discuss common observations I have noticed over this period and some of the solutions I have found to helping him learn better.
Teaching Student E the keyboard
Over the past year student E has been learning the keyboard with me. I was initially approached by a local school to take on the student as a way of helping him focus. The idea was that playing an instrument would introduce a weekly routine and a pattern to aid his ADHD. They originally asked me to teach him guitar but for a particular reason unrelated to his ADHD this was not possible, so we decided to move to the keyboard.
The keyboard is very different to the piano and especially to children with ADHD. There are many buttons on a keyboard which can be very distracting. Each button can change the sound of an instrument being played. And if the child finds a particular sound they like it can distract them from the learning. So be aware that this may be an issue from very early on if the child learns keyboard. A simple solution is to cover up these various buttons with a piece of paper and over time the student will understand not to touch the buttons.
Learning an instrument requires a few key components for any student to flourish. The first is that there needs to be an inner desire to want to learn the instrument and a general interest in listening to music. I would say without these two in place you really can’t teach a student an instrument. If the student does have these two components, the next one is a good attention span. Often learning an instrument requires understanding concepts or ideas and it will take a lot of focus for these to sink in. The last component to learning an instrument is a strong will to practise and repeat something which may sound awful at first.
With student E we could tick the first two boxes quite easily. I would go further to say that he actually had an interest in writing songs or at least coming up with simple melodies of his own. However his attention span and willingness to practise regularly has proved a real stumbling block.
In Lessons Observations
I noticed that student E had a lot of difficulty with basic reading and writing skills. I’m not an expert so I can’t say for certain this is common with all students with ADHD but it was very noticeable with student E. This meant that reading music posed a problem. Part of reading notes requires a kind of photographic or picture memory which student E is fine with. However connecting letters to these pictures has proved very tricky. As an alternative I have devised a more organic approach to his learning process. I’ve managed to teach him the names of the white and black notes on the keys because he has a strong visual recall. He actually really likes to draw and so I decided we would write letters rather than notes as a way to reference melodies. From here we have been able to write and develop simple melodies using both the white and black keys. We’ve covered both single octave ideas and double octave melodies. I feel the note reading may have to be introduced at a later stage once he understands pitch, note distances and note names better.
Something else I’ve noticed in lessons is that if we focus on something too long – a melody or song – his attention will wane. He will ask about playing a different game or even suggest new games to play. This is fine for non instrument based learning but as mentioned the key to learning an instrument is repetition. So this is where the ADHD proves to be the biggest hurdle. While he can only focus for short periods of time on one idea (melody, hand technique, scale, song etc) we will find progress slow.
Lesson Length for students with ADHD
Teaching a student who has difficulty focusing and holding their attention means that the lesson length is important. From my experience in general kids tend to have shorter attention spans anyway so my usual hour lessons are reduced to 30 minutes. I would say that with student E this 30 minute lesson length was basically the threshold point. Anything longer than that and I would’ve lost him, so I made sure we packed as much varying exercises as possible in a 30 minute time frame.
Solutions for teaching keyboard to Student E
I will go as far as to say that ADHD is certainly something that makes learning an instrument more difficult. However it is not impossible. With the development of great music apps to aid learning, these seem to have been a real revelation in helping student E improve. These apps are able to use interactive and fun animated games that deal with separate music ideas. Anything from melody, rhythm, technique, reading notes and more can be found in the app store.
As mentioned before a large problem is the constant need to switch focus regularly. So it’s important to decide on three games per lesson which you know will be cycled throughout the lesson length. Even if you get five minutes of one and move to the next app, you can then come back to the previous one later and it will feel fresh to the student. If you are really clever you can find three apps which essentially teach the same thing but in a slightly different way. By swapping between these apps you’ll end up teaching the student without them realising it’s the same concept. If the student isn’t interested in what you’re trying to teach them then move on. Don’t be fixed on one lesson idea or piece of music. If it’s not working then move on.
Some good app recommendations are My note games, Rhythm Cat and Note Teach Free. Just to say I tried Yousician but for a student with ADHD there is a lot going on and it’s very busy. It can be very intimidating for them and as much as the app has a lot to offer I wouldn’t recommend it to students with ADHD.
For teachers it’s really important you maintain patience throughout the lesson. Never get angry with your student – in general – but especially with a student with ADHD. The more relaxed they are the easier they are to teach and the longer their attention span lasts. You will need to constantly find ways to keep their attention on the task in front of them. Just keep persisting and if they aren’t interested in the thing you’ve asked them to do, move on. They will get quite agitated if you persist on something they don’t like and they’re attention will be everywhere except on the music.
Keep lesson lengths short (max 30 minutes)
Keep the content varied (multiple exercises)
Keep lessons fun (fill them with games)
Keep the student relaxed (Reassure and praise the student when they do the smallest thing correct)
Focus on note letters and writing at first rather than reading sheet music
Give the student plenty of time and patience
Be reactive and don’t be too rigid about lesson content
If you or your child has ADHD and you’re looking for piano or keyboard lessons, it is very possible to learn the instrument. If you have any questions or would like to learn piano/keyboard or guitar with me feel free to get in touch. I hope this blog has been helpful for students with ADHD and teachers trying to improve their lessons with ADHD students.
Teaching Guitar to Students with Disabilities – Multiple Sclerosis
Over the years I have been teaching guitar to students with a wide range of skills and disabilities. Often I have found the students with disabilities to be the most challenging but also the most rewarding. Every student I teach presents me with a new challenge. These students help me to become a better teacher because with every challenge in front of me I’m forced to find a solution.
After speaking to a good friend of mine on the weekend about the various types of students I’ve taught over the years, she thought it would be helpful to others if I shared my experience and findings. I had never thought about this before because all these solutions I developed were really to help me and my own students. And in some way that is a little selfish, especially if I can help other teachers trying to teach students with disabilities.
So I’ve decided to write a short series of blogs covering some of the students I’ve encountered over the years. From students with M.S. those in wheelchairs, children with growth issues affecting their size and strength, ADD, arthritis and past finger trauma, and others. My hope is that the things I have learnt from these students can help other teachers and students improve faster and better.
Teaching guitar to student L – M.S. student
Over the past ten years I have taught student L guitar – not their real name but you get the picture. Student L has suffered with multiple sclerosis since their early twenties. They came to me with a keen interest in the guitar and probably the notion that learning the guitar will aid their M.S. For me it was the first time I’d taught someone with a disability and student L proved to be a big challenge. My limited knowledge of M.S. at the time came from friends whose parents had the condition and general conversation. So interacting with student L on a weekly basis for over ten years has certainly helped me understand M.S. to a much higher degree.
My initial observations were that student L found forming chord shapes difficult. She could remember the shape in her mind but there were a host of physical issues preventing her from achieving these shapes. One of the main problems was that her wrist position seemed to move quite a bit. Also getting her wrist angle and thumb position to remain consistent was a regular problem. So this meant that she was almost having to learn the process of holding the guitar each lesson. She was also finding it tricky to push the notes down to get a clean sound, but more noticeably avoiding open strings or other fretted notes. So this came down to spacial awareness and touch sensitivity. I would also say finger strength was playing a part in these problems.
The right hand was also interesting. I noticed that strumming in the correct direction wasn’t a problem. However, strumming from a specific string seemed to be more of a challenge. And some times the accuracy of rhythm wasn’t always achieved in the normal time frame – around 5 – 10 minutes. When it came to finger picking, on a basic level student L actually could find the strings relatively quickly but with multiple strings involved and faster rhythms the right hand lost accuracy.
I would also like to mention a little bit about the way in which student L interpreted instructions. With M.S. it affects your hearing and student L’s hearing was gradually diminishing. With the help of a hearing aid this did improve things but I did noticed something interesting. Some times I would ask student L to play something new and it was like her brain couldn’t quite compute what had been said. So I would either have to say it again or in a completely different way. Often this related to a visual concept or a concept that required thinking outside the box a little. I use a lot of metaphors and imagery in my teaching so student L has been great in helping me develop multiple ways to explain the same idea.
Clamp Capo Knob controlled Capo
When teaching guitar to student L we found using capos for songs was initially a challenge. There are certain capos which look like mini claps and require a large amount of hand strength. Student L bought several capos over the years with varying degrees of tension which proved problematic. I thought it might be a good idea to keep using them as a way of developing hand strength but this proved to be an incorrect assumption. We settled on a capo that allowed you to lie it over the fret and then just turn a knob to create the tension. Honestly don’t waist your time with clamp grip capos – it really is very difficult with someone with multiple sclerosis.
What I have learnt from teaching guitar to Student L?
I can safely say that I owe a lot of my knowledge about the nuances of guitar learning to student L. The issues she was finding on the guitar were akin to the difference between catwalk and high street fashion. Where very subtle problems may be found with the average student, because of her multiple sclerosis they were magnified greatly like a caricature. What I can say is that I still teach student L today so the following solutions have helped her improve in varying degrees.
Left hand Performance
In order to maintain the left hand position in both angle and area we have focused on isolating individual parts of the hand consciously. Often her thumb would move around which is the equivalent of the floor moving as you walk. You need stability in the thumb and wrist to be able to give your fingers and tendons confidence and muscle memory. So we have spent many lessons just trying to play a few chords and focusing on the thumb staying firmly in one place. I’ve also found positive reinforcement and regularly encouraging her has also helped. I think this is because it keeps her calm and not stressed as she hears buzzing it hits the wrong string. Maintaining a relaxed persona throughout the learning process is essential.
We’ve also looked at the angle of the wrist which moves dramatically without conscious attention. So we have spent many lessons trying to play single note melodies and simple chords trying to move the bottom of the wrist as little as possible.
Student L is very reliant on looking at her hand to guide it to chord positions. So we’ve taken some time to force her to feel her way between chords. Closing her eyes, looking at me or looking at music have all been used to help her become more in touch with her left hand senses.
I find getting student L to play single note sequences i.e. fingers 1 then 2 then 3 then 4 on the same string has helped with spacial improvement. We’ve done this same exercise in different orders with hammer ons, pull offs and on multiple strings. This has even helped improved the overall sound of barre chords which I never thought would become a reality.
Bends seem to be a large obstacle at the moment so we have avoided them so far to focus on other areas.
Right Hand Performance
As mentioned student L’s right hand has always been quite good at strumming patterns on a basic level. Fast strumming and intricate strumming has proved an issue because it requires quickly turning the hand over in a small area. For this reason we’ve worked on the wrist strength and trying to build strumming speed gradually. We are limited to semi quaver rhythms at the moment but we will be working on building on this even more.
The accuracy of where to strum from has been one of the biggest challenges, especially without looking at the guitar. So this has been more about the elbow positioning. If student L maintains a regular position with her right elbow, this seems to help with her locating of strings. So we’ve worked on this as well as string skipping exercises with the pick.
Another problem mentioned was finger picking. If a chord is fretted whilst working on right hand exercises it seems to confuse her brain so we’ve focused on finger picking with open strings. I’ve developed a little sequence of creating independent finger patterns in varying PIMA orders to strengthen this part of her playing. We’ve also worked on picking multiple strings at the same time which invariably is easier for her.
Teaching Student L new ideas
It’s all about clear instruction with multiple approaches to the same idea. I think there is something to be said about multiple layers and senses working together. For this reason I thought I’d play around with student L’s core senses minus taste and smell – Visual, Touch and hearing. We’ve used colours, visual diagrams, visualisation in the mind, touching certain strings with certain shapes, all with the aim of learning one new idea. This new idea might be a new type of chord like major sevenths or a new rhythm like triplets or swung quavers. I’ve found that by activating all of these senses altogether it helps to speed up the learning process. As mentioned I haven’t tried smell and taste but I have a feeling that these would help also with the learning process.
Student L today
Student L is still a regular student of mine and each week we have new learning adventures. Her physical level on the guitar is still that of a beginner but her knowledge is very much of an intermediate. So our aim is to bring her physical level up to her understanding of the instrument. You might say well what’s the point if after ten years she’s still a beginner. To the average person or teacher this could seem very long, with minimal results and for those will little patience very frustrating. But for student L it has helped her focus on something week to week. She has small goals and has to take life week by week as the condition requires constant monitoring. Some times she has to take new drugs or new dosages of drugs. In these cases she some times is not allowed to drive and is noticeably unsteady with her balance. So any progress made, however little it is, for someone with multiple sclerosis is a huge achievement.
Are you teaching guitar?
If you are teaching guitar and have had similar experiences please do get in touch and share what you have learnt. I feel we can all help each other to improve the way we teach pupils with multiple sclerosis. Let’s give them the best lessons and learning experience possible as a community.
For more information on multiple sclerosis head over to the mssociety website which has tonnes of advice and support for those suffering with M.S.
How to learn the guitar through ‘Active Listening’
If you’ve been learning the guitar for a while and feel your progress may be slow you may want to try ‘active listening’. You want to know how to learn the guitar but there are so many methods out there. And you want to progress quickly because you’re mate who started a week after you is so much better. Why is that? Why have they managed to learn the guitar so quickly and you’re stuck on the same chords and songs?
Well one of the reasons someone progresses so quickly comes down to the their ears. Yes that’s right, if you want to know how to learn the guitar properly then you need good ears. So what do I mean by good ears? Well when I talk about ears I’m really talking about your listening skills and how much good music you’ve been exposed to.
What is active listening?
Active listening is a different type of way to listen to music. Ordinarily you will get a playlist from Spotify or an album and stick it on in the background whilst you carry out your tasks. This type of listening is called passive listening. The interaction between you and the music is limited because your brain is distracted by various tasks. So it focuses it’s main attention on the task in front of you and the music essentially becomes ambient blur to set the mood. If you’re a standard music lover and just like to listen to music then that’s perfect. The music is achieving its purpose. But if you are someone wanting to know how to learn the guitar better then this type of music interaction is not very useful.
This leads us on to ‘Active listening’. Active listening requires listening to specific music – high quality and relates to principles you’ve been practising – and absorbing it distraction free. So active listening means you have to essentially sit with one or two songs for a sustained period of time without doing other tasks. At uni students can do this type of listening for hours. That’s very intense but they get very good very quickly.
Why is Active listening important?
When you listen to music actively you will start to absorb ideas from the musicians. These ideas may never have come to you but they sound great and are now in your mind. When you’ve heard them enough it’s like lyrics of your favourite song. You don’t know why you know all the words you just do. Well these rhythms, melodies, chord changes, techniques etc start to become part of your go to instincts on the guitar. You start trying melodies and ideas that you’ve never tried before. When you analyse what you just did you realise it was a B.B. King lick or a Herbie Hancock fill. And because you’re listening to great musicians you end up sounding great when you play.
Be selective about who you actively listen to
When it comes to active listening you don’t just want to listen to random stuff. The active listening is meant to serve a purpose – better rhythm, melodies, chord choice, techniques etc. So if you have a specific thing you want to improve on ask friends and fellow music lovers which musicians and artists feature that sort of thing in their music. From there you just need to actively listen a lot until you start hearing those ideas appear in your playing.
How long should you Active listen for?
I would suggest at the beginning to spend at least ten minutes doing active listening. After a week or two you should notice things creep into your guitar playing that you’ve never tried before. Over a period of time you will have the capacity to active listen for longer. I would say a good amount of active listening if you want to improve at a good rate on the guitar would be thirty minutes a day.
In this blog I wanted to discuss the merits and the downsides of both private guitar lessons and group guitar lessons. Many of you may be thinking as Christmas nears to indulge in buying a friend or loved one some guitar lessons. And with this in mind you may be wondering whether to go on Groupon and buy a few group lessons or find a guitar teacher and buy some private guitar lessons. Well in this blog I’ll go through some things to think about when deciding.
Private Guitar Lessons – The Merits
When it comes to private guitar lessons there are several great things that are found in the one on one environment. The first is that your lessons are catered to you. Each lesson can work on building and developing on your own personal guitaring weaknesses and strengths.
Every person is individual and has individual musical tastes. With private guitar lessons you can learn songs from your favourite artists and musicians. This is actually quite important when it comes to developing your own unique sound. This is because the people you listen to and copy will ultimately influence your guitar playing style.
Private guitar lessons can fit around you time wise. So if you can’t make a one on one session you can always move it to another day – assuming the teacher has an available space that day.
With one on one lessons you get full attention from the teacher. So there is little room for you to pick up bad habits in the lesson because they are spotted very quickly.
Some guitar teachers like to travel to student’s houses and for those with chaotic lives this may suit you better.
Group Guitar Lessons – The Merits
When you have several people around you learning what you’re learning it can inspire you. You can see what other guitarists are doing and use that as a springboard to keep motivated. You can say, well if they can do it, then I can do it. So the group environment can keep you pushing yourself.
In a group guitar lesson because there are other people learning with you, you can get a sense of your own personal level. And this can give you confidence. Especially if you’ve started at the same time as someone else and have improved quicker.
By learning in a group environment you will have a support network of like minded guitarists who you can talk to and bounce ideas off of. Some times you will learn something in a lesson but after talking with your fellow students make sense of it better.
A group guitar lesson will usually be cheaper being that the whole group are sharing the cost of the lesson.
Often group guitar lessons are held in the evenings which can work well after work.
Generally modern day group guitar lessons have some online support with PDFs and audio to help you.
Private guitar Lessons – The Cons
In general because you are getting more attention and a bespoke set of lessons the price of private guitar lessons will be more expensive.
If you have a good teacher then chances are they are going to be quite busy. If that is the case then they may not be as flexible with times and days as you’d like.
Finding a good guitar teacher can be tricky and you may have to go through several one on one teachers before you find the right one for you. Being a good teacher is more about understanding your student’s needs rather than being the best guitar player on the planet.
Group Guitar Lessons – The Cons
Because you’re in a big group you may not get as much attention by the teacher. So if you don’t understand something or you think the speed of the lesson is too fast you may just have to put up with that.
Group guitar lessons work on a strict block with syllabus to fit in each lesson. So if you don’t fully achieve learning a particular idea one week you may struggle the next week when there is new material to learn.
If you are progressing quickly and there are others in the group learning slower it may frustrate you. Often the teacher will have to stop to give these students some guidance. For advancing guitarists this can be quite annoying.
Group guitar lessons will happen on a specific time and day each week. So if you are ill or have an arrangement you can’t get out of then you will miss the class. And as mentioned you’ll miss a whole load of new material that you will essentially have to teach yourself out of class.
Because the syllabus is set to cater for the group you may not like the style of music you are learning.
There really is no right type of way to learn the guitar. I hope you’ve found out some good reasons why private guitar lessons and group guitar lessons could be the right choice for you. It’s an individual preference and ultimately comes down to your weekly schedule, routine, budget and personality. If you are looking for private guitar lessons, feel free to get in touch. For those looking for Christmas guitar lesson gifts, I have some Christmas offers waiting for you. Just ask away.
Every person who picks up the guitar has a different background, motivation for learning and personality. All of these factors will heavily influence the way you will practise and the best way for you to learn the guitar. So what is the best way to learn the guitar? Is there just one way? Is it through books, YouTube, guitar teacher, songs?
To answer this I will look at two different approaches and from there you can come to your own conclusion.
Transcribing sounds like a very fancy word but essentially it means copying. But more than copying it means trying to copy note for note what’s going on in a song. When you transcribe a guitar part from a song you’re aiming to copying the exact chord changes, picking or strumming patterns, chord variations, soloing notes and techniques etc. Transcribing is a really great way to sound close to or even exactly like your favourite guitarists. But is it the best way to learn the guitar?
In some respects by transcribing guitar songs you will learn subconsciously a whole bunch of things. You’ll learn without having to think where chords are – maybe not their names – but certainly how to fret certain chord shapes. You’ll also learn quite advanced fret board movement but not really see it as advanced. This is because you’re copying the muscle positions rather than thought process behind these movements.
So really the transcribing approach takes away the thinking element of learning the guitar which can suit people who just want to play their favourite songs, or maybe sing and strum along to songs. This will also suit learners who are happy to learn only a few songs but play them really well and are happy to go over them lots and lots of times.
Learning the guitar musical matrix
The second approach requires a different kind of motivation when it comes to learning the guitar. This approach really breaks down the individual elements of guitar learning. So for example instead of learning a chord shape, it may be a case of trying to find multiple ways of playing that chord around the fret board. This requires patience and lots of practise.
Instead of copying exactly what you hear, this method looks at understanding what you hear. So after hearing a song a few times this method would look at breaking down the guitar concepts found in the song. Maybe there are particular strumming techniques, rhythmical ideas, melodic movements etc. By delving into the guitaring matrix you’re actually trying to understand the guitarist’s mind. And this approach allows you to take what you’ve learnt and bring it into other songs. Is this the best way to learn the guitar?
Well this is the best way to get good at everything at an even rate. With the transcribing approach I generally find that these types of players have a particular thing they’re good at. For example their chord shapes or soloing ability is really high. But then their rhythm is much lower, or their tone quality is poor. With the guitar matrix approach you’ll find these players take longer to get very good, but all elements of their playing are at a similar level.
I can not give you the definitive best way to learn the guitar. As mentioned earlier this heavily relies upon your personality and motivations. But the great thing is that there is an approach to learning the guitar for everyone. So just try things out and see how you get on. If you’re looking for guitar lessons and live in or around the Borehamwood area feel free to get in touch. My studio is based at the Maxwell Park Community Centre and I teach Monday to Friday. Also feel free to check out some of my YouTube video lessons which look at basic rhythm, chords and scales. I hope this has been helpful for you and happy learning.
I’ve had a very busy summer this year and I’ve been lucky enough to provide live entertainment for a lot of different types of events. In this blog I wanted to share some of my summer experiences through the photos and stories I’ve been a part of.
This summer I’ve performed a lot with the Function Band and they have gone all out with their staging and light production. I took the photo above when we provided live entertainment for a corporate dentist awards show. We had an absolute blast.
The trio has been quite busy this summer and we managed to venture recently to Richmond to perform at Bridget and Ali’s wedding. What I like about the live entertainment we provide as a trio is how much we can do in a day. We can start both acoustically and instrumentally. Then work our way into an acoustic vocal trio. And finally throw in our backing tracks to get people on the dance floor for a party. It’s a lot of fun.
Occasionally when prodiving live entertainment accidents happen. And at a gig in Stoke Newington my guitar was knocked over which lead to me meeting the lovely guys from LA guitars. They managed to fix the guitar in one day and saved my life as I was performing the following day at a big event.
I am very fortunate that as a musician I get to travel to some unbelievably scenic destinations on a weekly basis. I mean drop dead gorgeous! The photo above was taken at Quendon Hall and the day could not have been better. The sun was beaming, the guests were dressed to impress and it really was a beautiful wedding.
I think the photo above wins the most original cake design. It really does show the difference between the couple getting married but it also shows what marriage is all about – COMPROMISE! This was taken at the same wedding that the couple swooped in on helicopters to greet their guests.
The summer was also when I decided to take myself, the duo and trio to the O2 for a video shoot. With the help of a great team I was able to showcase my solo, duo, trio, DJ live and DJ set ups. It was a really fun experience and actually really interesting. I learnt about all the various types of lenses and shots that go into making a video. We did a lot, I mean a lot of takes to get the perfect angles but it was well worth it. You can see the full promo video below.
So that’s been my summer of live entertainment. I am very fortunate to do something that I love and wouldn’t choose to do anything else. I hope to see you at an event real soon. If you’re looking to book a musician for your event whether it’s solo, duo, triio, DJ or something else feel free to get in touch.