The King of Rock and Roll?

Many people regard Elvis Presley as the king of rock and roll but I must disagree. For me Chuck Berry is the true king. When I think of Chuck I think of him playing Johnny.B.Goode with his famous red 335 guitar and doing his duck walk.

Of course Chuck was far more than one song and a stage gimmick even if it was great to watch. In the words of John Lennon ”if rock and roll were to be given another name it would be called Chuck Berry”.

Chucks early influences are in the blues but it wasn’t till he combined his rhythm and blues with his country style guitar licks that his musical sound came together.

His famous intro to Johnny.B.Goode and a few of his other classic songs i.e.roll over Beethoven are played using a mix of the major and minor scale but it was the way he mixed them and his brilliant use of double stops [ two strings played together] that created the unique Chuck Berry sound.

If you listen to a slightly more obscure Berry track, Down Bound Train you get to hear the skill of his lyric writing as he tells a story of souls lost on a train with the devil at the wheel, a fantastic song and with Chuck playing some great guitar including his trademark double stops its one of my favourites.

Chuck mostly played a Gibson 335 guitar, which is a semi acoustic guitar. He played straight into all valve fender amps on full volume to give him his sweet tone.

Not only did chuck have great songs and invent a new sound he was a fantastic showman. He invented the duck walk and could do the splits while still playing a blistering solo!

Chucks best decades were the 50s and 60s but in the 70s and 80s his music became less fashionable and he resorted to picking up his bands from town to town. Great music never dies though and his music has stood the test of time. If you are a young budding guitarist learning some of Chucks licks is a must and great fun also!

Chuck playing Johnny.B.Goode duck walking across the stage with his 335 is an image that won’t soon be forgotten.

 

Ever wondered how to make money out of music?

Thinking of learning an instrument, wondering what you could do with your music once you get to a good standard?

Then, if like me you are a struggling rock star with more emphasis on the struggling than the rockstar you might want to consider joining a wedding/function band.

As with all jobs there are good and bad points.  Let’s start with the good….

  • The money for a start! Being in a wedding band is fairly well paid compared to playing pub gigs.
  • It can also be a lot of fun playing weddings and parties with your band mates.
  • Our band also gets to play in many nice venues around the country , many of which are set in beautiful grounds.
  • Meeting lots of nice people is another good thing about the job and they are normally in good spirits as it’s either their special day or party time (or both)!

There are a few negatives though.

  • Commitment is essential and you need to be available at weekends and bank holidays as this is when the vast majority of the work is.
  • Band work can also be unpredictable with the summer months being a lot busier than the winter months, where work can be a little scarce. A negative for my band, however great for those who are looking for a band for a wedding or event in the quieter months as many bands offer discounts including my band Superfuzz!
  • Then there is the music itself! You won’t be playing your favourite blues or any zeppelin-esque riffs, instead a lot of it is middle of the road cheese but we try to keep our sets as good as possible for a wedding group.

Overall being in a function band is a lot of fun! We have a lot of laughs and the odd beer and if you are committed and have the necessary skill to turn your hand to lots of different styles of music then it might just be for you!

If you’re looking for a wedding or function band then why not consider my band Superfuzz.

Superfuzz are the best function and wedding band in the country, with years of experience and expertise to get your party going!

 

Jimi Hendrix still the best?

After all these years since Jimi died on September the 18th 1970 at the tender age of 27 he is still widely regarded as the best and one of the most influential guitarists of all time. Given that he has been gone for over 40 years its a testament to the man and his extraordinary playing that he is still held in such high regard.

I suppose to be regarded as one of the true greats in music you need to take music in a new direction, invent a new style as it were. Chuck berry with his country rock guitar playing on classic tracks Johnny B Goode and roll over Beethoven to name a few influenced countless guitarists.  Dylan did it fusing folk and rock, muddy waters in Chicago electrifying his blues with his fantastic band including the legend little Walter. One could argue that Jimmy Page should be included here by distorting his bluesy riffs with zeppelin and creating the early seeds of heavy metal.

Of course Jimi’s technique was flawless, his mastery of his instrument there for all to see. As with most great rock players Hendrix’s roots were deep in the blues. In Red House we hear Jimi’s control of his guitar with his bending, vibrato and tasteful blues licks.

But Hendrix was much more than a great blues player. It was his mix of psychedelic rock riffs fusing with the heavy blues he loved [check out machine gun ] where he  excelled and his genius really showed. From Purple Haze with its unique solo mixing the pentatonic and harmonic minor scales to the wah riff of voodoo child’ his sound was new and innovative. Using Marshall amplification and his white Fender Stratocaster Hendrix used a variety of pedals to create new sounds even using a Leslie speaker usually used for Hammond organs on his wonderful little wing.

Of course great playing is no good without the songs to match and Hendrix was a brilliant songwriter and lyricist often writing lyrics that were poetic and dreamlike.

We will certainly never see the like of Jimi Hendrix again. Check out his version of the star spangled banner live at Woodstock in 1969. with his famous white strat, his Marshall amps on full volume, foot on his wah pedal he creates sounds on the guitar we never knew existed. Hendrix still the greatest? You bet!

The different ways to play the Harmonica

Ways of playing a Harmonica

The harmonica has endured over the years because of its versatility in blues and folk.  Take Dylan and Little Walter, both of them play the harp (harmonica) in very different ways.  Dylan mostly playing what are called ‘straight harp’ meaning using the ‘blow holes’ more than the ‘draw’.

Straight harp means if the song you are playing is in the key of C you would play a harmonica also in that key!  See Bob Dylan playing the Harmonica in ‘Blowing in the Wind’ on YouTube.

Little Walter on the other hand would primarily use the ‘draw notes’.  So if the song was in the key of C the blues harp player would play the harp in the key of ‘F’.  This is because when you play the draw notes in a ‘F’ harp you produce notes that sound bluesy over a blues in C.  Little Walter would also ‘bend’ the notes on his harp too, something particular to playing the blues.  It is a difficult technique to master.  See Little Walter in a YouTube video below ‘drawing’ on his harmonica.  You can really hear the difference!

Types of Harmonicas

There are also two types of harp.  The ‘Diatonic’ and ‘Chromatic’.

The Diatonic or ‘blues harp’ has 10 holes producing just the major scale whereas the Chromatic harmonica has the same but by pressing a button enables the sharp and flats to be played.  Of course by bending notes on a Diatonic these notes can be achieved.

The ‘marine band’ is the warmest sounding harp in my opinion with its wooden comb it can become warped if not played properly but it remains the original and best.

Marine-Band-Harmonica
Marine Band Harmonica

Lee Oskar provides a plastic comb and are ‘brighter’ sounding so it depends on what sound you are after.  Both cost  around £25.

lee-oskar-harmonica
Lee Oskar Harmonica

Lets not forget that the Harmonica is a wonderful instrument!  Small enough to ft in your pocket, but with a sound that is sweet and soulful, bluesy and melodic!

A guide to buying an Amplifier for your Guitar

With so many guitar amplifiers on the market its difficult to know which one to buy.  In general there are two types of guitar amps.

1. Valve Amplifiers (also known as Tube Amps).

2. Transistor Amplifiers.

As with most things in music it comes down to what type of sound you like.  For example if you look at Bob Dylan’s voice, some people love his voice whereas others don’t!

For me tube amplifiers are the king here.  Blues players often go for them because the more you turn then up (or drive them as we say), the more natural overdrive you get and it is a sweet ‘tubey’ overdrive compared with the more ‘waspy’ distortion that can often come through the artificial gain of a solid state amp.

Also don’t be fooled by wattage!

A 15 watt value amp will be much louder than its solid state counterpart.  Throughout the years tube amps have been played by the most influential guitarists.  Hendrix played Marshalls (although he did add pedals to give him extra distortion!).  Clapton played through a Vox AC30 with Cream.

All the old blues guys used  really simple tube amps to great effect.  From Muddy Waters to John Lee Hooker through to SRV and Buddy Guy.

I myself use a Fender Deluxe Reverb.  This is a fantastic Amp when cranked all the way up.  Having said this, many Rock and Metal guitarists do prefer solid state amps because they give more distortion at lower volumes than tube amps do!

Fender-Amp

Fender Amplifier

marshall-amp

Marshall Amplifier

To hear the sound of a Fender Deluxe Reverb re-issue take a look at my YouTube video (played with a Fender Telecaster).

Guitar Lessons – Grade 2

About Ben

Ben is a nine year old lad, and a complete beginner when he started learning the guitar, and we are now working on Rock School Guitar Grade 2.

What Ben is now playing

Ben plays a strat like his hero John Fuschanti and has chosen to do two songs from the Hot Rocks (sister book of the Rock School grades); Fleetwood Mac’s, ‘Albatross’ and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, ‘Californication’.  Each song requires learning very different guitar techniques, with finger slide on Albatross and cord strumming and bends on Californication.  The Hot Rock books are a great addition to the Rock School Book series, especially for kids, who can play the guitar licks of their heroes.

The future for Ben

Ben will be taking his Grade 2 Rock School Exams after Christmas.

rock-school-grade-books
Rock School Grade Books – 2012 to 2018

A Guide to Buying your First Electric Guitar

Electric guitars come in all shapes and sizes, so buying an electric guitar for you or your child can be confusing.  There are many makes and models, most of which are copies of the more expensive US made Fenders and Gibsons and a few other brands.

How much do you want to spend?

The first thing that you might want to consider is the amount of money that you want to spend on your electric guitar.  As with most things in life you get what you pay for, so beware of anything too cheap.

Does size matter?

If your child wants to lean the electric guitar and is nine and under, I would suggest a 3/4 size guitar.  Their size makes it easier for kids to reach the fretboard and have the same features as a larger electric guitar.  The only downside in my experience tends to be difficulty holding its tune and the strings tend to be much further away from the fretboard meaning that you have to push down harder to make a note.  These problems can be fixed with a few alterations to the saddle and bridge.  A 3/4 size guitar can be brought for about £80.

For a child who is nine to ten years and upwards, I would recommend a full size electric guitar with a small watt amplifier.  I would go for a ‘Fender Squier’ range of guitars which is at the cheaper end of Fender guitars, but they have been making Fender Squiers for over 30 years now.  These guitars are based on the classic ‘Stratocaster’ (played by Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Hank Marvin and many others) and the ‘Telecaster’ (played by Muddy Waters, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton).

electric-guitar
Electric Guitar

Thank you card for Guitar Lessons

I have taught Joe and Erin (brother and sister) guitar for several years, but after I moved to Lilbourne, just outside Rugby in Warwickshire earlier this year I was forced to give up their guitar lessons.

Having to give up their guitar lesson was a real shame because they both really enjoyed their lessons.  Joe and Erin both achieved their grade three in their Rock School exams with flying colours.

A few weeks after their last lesson I was delighted to get a lovely thank you card from them both.  Take a look at the picture of it below.

Thank-you-cards-guitar-lessons

Erin says: 

”Dear Martin, 

thank you for everything you’ve taught me on guitar for about 4 years.  I’ve learnt so much about how to perform in exams.  thank you! 

Love from Erin :-)”

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Joe says:

”To Martin,

Thank you for these past years where you have taught us guitar.  I have learnt so much with you and hopefully never forget.

Thank you

From

Joe”

Guitar Teacher Rugby

If you’re looking for guitar lessons in Rugby, Lilbourne, Catthorpe, Yelvertoft, Clifton-Upon Dunsmore or any of the villages surrounding rugby then don’t hesitate to contact me either by phone 07845 961345 or e-mail: martin.music.guitar@hotmail.co.uk

Piano Lessons – Grade 1 Student

What Level Freya was at the start of her Piano Lessons.

I have been teaching Freya the keyboard for a year of so now.  She was a complete beginner when she first started at the age of 10.  The piano lessons take place in her home which saves her parents driving out to me and waiting for Freya whilst she has her lessons!  This method of lessons is a real winner with parents!

Where Freya has got to with her Piano Lessons so far…

I started her piano lessons off by teaching her some basic chords and some simple tunes.  Freya has done well and is now progressing on to her Grade 1 Rock School exam.  Freya is loving the different styles of music in the Rock School grade 1 book.

We have completed a jazzy tune called Ten to Ten in the Rock School book and we are now working on the blues shuffle ‘Choo choo train boogie’ which is a bluesy shuffle in the style of Jimmy Yancey and Clarence ‘Pine top’ Smith.

What’s next for Freya and her Piano Lessons?

Freya hopes to take her Grade 1 Rock School exam early next year.

Looking for Piano Lessons in Rugby?

If you’re looking for song based or Rock School grade based Piano Lessons in Rugby or the surrounding villages then don’t hesitate to give me a call!

Drum Lessons – Grade 2 Student

Kai background – where his drum lessons started

I started teaching Kai drum lessons a couple of years ago and he was a complete beginner.  We started his lessons off with the basics by getting him to play some standard four four bass drum and snare beats which Kai picked up pretty quickly.  Kai was then an eager beaver to get on with his Rock School Grades!   Kai then went on to pass his Rock School Debut and Grade 1 in Drums.

What Drum piece I’m currently teaching Kai

Kai is are currently working on ‘Bleach’ from Grade 2 and ACDC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ which is from the sister book ‘Hot Rocks’.  See AC-DC’s YouTube clip below.

There are some good beats going on here with lots to get your teeth into. Bleach is an up-tempo number with lots of tom tom work which Kai enjoys. When playing You Shook Me Kai thinks he is playing at Wembley stadium and even tries his stick twirling which is funny. After coming back down to earth we do some of the tech exercises which are made of paradiddles and different drum fills and patterns followed by some ear tests which end the book. As I leave he is still practicing AC-DC and no doubt back at Wembley stadium!

What’s Next for Kai and his Drum lessons?

Kai will keep practicing his drum songs including ‘Iron Man’ by Black Sabbath!   We are looking to put Kai in for his Grade 2 drums after Christmas.