Saturday, 12 July 2014

Alsager Music Festival today

I'm playing at the Alsager Music Festival today. My main show is at 3pm at The Meir Inn but this morning I've been busking around the town. Lots of fun!

Had a great time at the festival last year (check out for the videos) when I was playing the Sunken Garden Stage on the main festival site, Milton Park, with Dan Logan. This was all despite having heatstroke!

Thankfully feeling great today and looking forward to a fun day of music :-)

Monday, 7 July 2014

Gigging in Newcastle

I'm playing a wedding gig today at Blackfriars in Newcastle upon Tyne. I've rarely been to the city centre and as far as I remember haven't played here before. 

It's a lovely venue and a wonderful crowd here too. I'm playing totally acoustically as the venue isn't able to have amplified music which has made a really nice intimate atmosphere. Some really nice acoustics in the room too!

Violin time

I've been playing the violin tonight. I don't play as often as I'd like - party down to time, partly down to it being quite a loud instrument, party down to not being as good as I'd like to be - but always have fun when I do. 

Tonight I've put the scores aside and just had a mess about trying to play some of my songs that I'd usually sing. 

It's been really interesting to see the songs in a different light and also to see how some of the things I do vocally translate into different fingers and strings when moved to an instrument. Really gives me a good idea of how much is involved that I don't often realise. 

Sunday, 6 July 2014


Today was a rare day off for me. Much needed after gigging in Newcaste upon Tyne yesterday. I was playing totally acoustically at a wedding at Blackfriars in the city centre. It was a lovely venue and wonderful audience involving busking requests (acoustic YMCA anyone?) along with the usual covers and originals. Lots of fun but a very late drive home and had to be up early to take the hire car back. 

So today has been a mixture of sleep and rest, feeling as though I should be doing more. I did get chance to play the bouzouki for a while though (though still seem to be struggling to move away from the same few chords) and had a mess about with my Alesis SR16 drum machine which I've had for years but never really got to grips with. 

It got me thinking that it's likely that, due to changes in technology and especially the advent of digital recording, I probably have a more sophisticated recording studio set up than was used in either of the two studios I used to record my Still Life album, in terms of flexibility, amount of channels, ease of editing etc. Yet I'm still not recording as much as I'd like to and certainly not anywhere near as much as I did when I was a teenager with just an Atari ST, cheap Yamaha keyboard connected through MIDI, and a Tascam 4 track using compact cassettes.

Back then I used to dream of having a portable studio like I'd seen in some recording magazine which was really little more than a little MIDI keyboard with recording facilities for its own sounds. These days I have that much capability and much more in the form of the iphone I carry everywhere and the ipad I often have with me. Yet still use them far, far less than I would have done back then. 

It's partly down to lack of free time, working several jobs and travelling nationwide (and sometimes internationally) to play gigs. And I suppose partly down to an odd lack of motivation. 

So now I've realised this I feel as though I need to address it. I have some ideas of how to make that happen. Collaborations will hopefully be part of it and also creating a form of pressure as I'm well aware that I work much better to a deadline. 

Watch this space!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Score writing

Following on from my recent long post about wanting to learn to be better at reading and writing music I've tried to score a reasonably new song using my iPad. It's not going well so far! This is about an hour's work and it's only vaguely right. No idea at all how to notate the strummed tenor guitar part. 

Still, if you'd like a sneak peak of a new song from me then here's a taster: :-)

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Capturing songwriting ideas

For several years I've been recording song ideas into the voice memos app built into my iPhone. I've got more advanced audio apps but it's a very quick and easy app to use to get a song idea down so tends to be the one I'll use as an audio notepad. I've not really mastered the art of using either the iPhone or iPad to their full recording studio capabilities yet, generally finding things easier on a Mac. Must be my age getting the better of me. 

I've been trying to get a recent song demo uploaded to the Facebook page from the voice memos app to the page and seem to have failed miserably. I'll probably have to resort to importing the audio into the computer I guess. 

But it's been interesting to go back through some of the older demos I've recorded, going back to 2009. I've had an iPhone since their were first released in the UK in 2007 so guess I either hadn't discovered the audio voice memos app then, or probably more likely it didn't exist. 

I've found songs that I'd forgotten all about, songs I now know well but which sound completely different in their original demo formats, and some which I thought I'd lost. 

I'm not sure how interesting they'd be to anyone else, unless maybe used as part of a longer blog post or podcast with explanations and audio explaining the journey but it made me realise quite how much technology has helped save such snippets, including the date and time of the recording. 

I was clearing my loft out a few years ago and came across lots of old lyrics, the majority of which I'd either forgotten about or turned into 'real' songs. For the ones I'd forgotten about the tunes are now lost - unless I happened to record the idea onto a cassette but suspect that would have been harder than using an app, and they'll also be no date or time recorded even presuming I could ever find the relevant cassette or bother listening through the hundreds I still have filling the loft. 

It's also brought home the realisation of why I'm trying to become better at reading and writing sheet music. I mostly dismissed it in my younger years, thinking it relevant only to more classical music. It's a challenge and one that in some ways is less necessary with the ease of recording into an iPhone app. But that relies on the technology still existing and being compatible, and still being able to work the chords and tune out from the recording. 

It's encouraging to realise that, as difficult as I'm finding it to learn properly, it will be a useful skill that will benefit me in years to come if I can learn to read and write a score with a similar ease to being able to use an iPhone app.