30 Jul 2023

The latest Blur album didn’t hit home for me, but did cause me to dive back into one of my favourite bands of the years. I put on the film of their 2009 reunion concert at Hyde Park whilst working this week, which really got me wanting to plug into a loud amp and play some Blur tunes, so when I went into the workshop this week I took my OG telecaster with me to indulge in some noise, which I just recorded on my phone, so no fancy audio this time :)

This is meant to be Lonesome Street, the opening track from their previous album, Magic Whip released in 2015, and is certainly in my top three blur albums (along with 13 and Blur). You can see how it’s meant to be performed here:

My versions doesn’t quiet work when all you have is my foot tapping to fill in for the rest of the band, but I had fun. And I feel compared to earlier playing I’m getting a bit better at not rushing ahead in the fun bits and keeping some semblance of pace - I recently restored all my older practice sessions I had previously uploaded to Instagram as part of my daily practice routine back in 2019, and it was somewhat, erm, educational, to see some of those performances :)

12 May 2023

My attempt at the intro to Julian Lage’s performance of I’ll Be Seeing You.

It’s not as rich or nuanced as Julian’s wonderful performance, but I can’t express how emotional it was to play this for the first time and discover I could play anything approximating the right sound.

I can count on the fingers of one hand (and have room to spare) the number of times I’ve been moved by my own playing, that realisation that I could make a magic sound that is the gift from proper musicians. This video doesn’t really capture that moment, as here I’m too busy trying not to fluff it up after half a dozen attempts, but when I forget about the practice and just enjoy the piece, it still boggles me that I can attempt this piece, which I find so moving in the original.

19 Mar 2023

I’ve been quite inspired by the playing of jazz guitarist Julian Lage of late. His playing is to me beautiful: a gentle mastery of the fretboard, courteous of his fellow musicians, and still quite raw in tone - he’s not hiding anywhere when he’s out with just a OG fifties telecaster and a small Fender amplifier, as seen in this live performance from a few years ago:

The clip above is me trying to learn the intro to Nocturne, of which he also has a live performance. Learning this piece has been a fun mix, being simple enough I can contemplate trying it, but enough complexity to push me into trying new shapes, and things like mixing finger and plectrum work. I’m a long way off Mr Lage’s style, but it made me very happy just being able to get something recognisable out of my usual ham-fisted playing.

I got the transcription of the song (and some others by Lage) from Play Like The Greats, which isn’t the usual source of material, but rather transcripts by an enthusiastic player that me makes available for a modest fee. I’d not come agross this site before, but I’m very pleased with his interpretation of Nocturne.

17 Nov 2022

This week I finally got myself the sheet-music to Radiohead’s last album, Moon Shaped Pool. I really dislike the opening track, which doesn’t fit to the rest of the album in my mind, but otherwise is a good album. Thankfully I don’t listen to it on analog sources, otherwise I’d have to once again become a dab hand at dropping the needle in the right place, a skill I had as a child that I’m sure will now have atrophied. But I digress.

I’ve mentioned before how I’m enchanted by the simplicity of the performances of The Number and Past Tense that feature just Thom, Johnny, and a CR-78 drum machine. Today’s practice session I guess is was trying to tap into that.

The chord sequence is all I took from the book, the drum beat is Garageband’s random drum generator, and the improv over it is me trying to riff in a similar style based on my poor understanding of modes.

In my guitar lessons of late we’ve been doing a bunch of modal jazz things, so I’m on the lookout for modal sounds, and from my understanding this is in C Myxolidian. I have to confess that I slipped out of the mode when playing the upper reaches, and that didn’t quite work all the time, but by trying and playing wrong notes is how you learn. I can (and do) slip into noodling sessions like this for five/ten minutes just trying to explore - but the limits of Garageband save you from getting all of that, but that is my happy place guitar wise.

The reviews on Amazon of the sheet-music book complained about its accuracy, but I’m not really interested in playing things like this correctly - I’ve long since come to terms with my lack of ability to recreate songs - I just really want a framework in which to noodle and explore. That’s why I have a love/hate relationship with music theory: I don’t really want to use my limited music playing time budget on bookwork, but knowing about modes and stuff makes it easier for me to then adlib somewhat coherently in situations like this.

8 Nov 2022

I’m more familar with the later, funky side of Herbie Hancock à la works like Chameleon, but in the 60s he was part of the Miles Davis Quartet, and then on his solo work was doing a more slower version of Jazz, such as on this piece that I’m learning, Maiden Voyage. They’re very different styles, but I like both pieces.

18 Oct 2022

Just playing around with the notes of the G major chord and some over-dubs. A bit slow, but again, it’s all just practice.

12 Oct 2022

Another small thing for #looptober, a small upbeat thing based on a three chord progression that I was playing whilst waiting for my guitar lesson to start, which I quickly caught using my phone camera so I didn’t forget it, and then played around with this morning.

As every, trying to go from chord riff to something that I’m playing over drums requires a bit of reworking and quite a bit of hunting around GarageBand’s generative drummers to find a suitable compromise, but this one worked out okay. I tried to lay on a small walking bass-line in there too, which might be over egging the pudding a bit, but it’s something I want to try practice more.

9 Oct 2022

This is a little thing that is a hybrid from yesterday’s playing something based on Weird Fishes and my usual blues jazz style nonsense, inspired again by the looptober thing that people are doing, which I find quite inspirational. Each morning this month I’ve been logging into mastodon and searching for #looptober and seeing what people have been making, and there’s lots of people just experimenting, which I guess is the nature of trying to do a tune a day as some people are doing. Lots of the submissions are just a few bars long, but they are still nice to listen to.

This is only the third one I’ve felt right to post, versus my normal practice bits. This is a mutation/simplification of the riff from Weird Fishes, over which I’ve mixed a very basic subtle bass part, and then an improv that is major pentatonic, major scale, major pentatonic. The timing is a bit off, but it’s not something I want to get sucked into labouring over, which would take the fun out of it.

8 Oct 2022

I very much like the mixing of a early drum machines exemplified by the series of videos Radiohead put out of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood playing arpeggiated guitars over an old CR78 drum machine:

Unfortunately, that embed is region locked, but Radiohead have it on their website, so you can also see it here if so, and you can find the other one they did in this Thom/Johnny/CR78 trio here.

I suspect it’s just because that all feels somewhat obtainable as a sound I can recreate myself (with suitable effort) as a target for my practicing.

Here I’m trying to dip my toe in this, with playing the riff from Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, from Radiohead’s In Rainbows. Clearly amateur stuff on my side, but it makes a change from practicing over the more “traditional” sounding drums in GarageBand. The original was not this way, with a very much not digital Phil Selway on the drums, as can be seen on the opening of the “From The Basement” session:

That session is well worth a watch, not just for the music, but also to watch the band at work, to see what sounds come from where: watching guitarist Ed just sit on the floor and play his looper pedal for a while, or Johnny trade his guitar for various instruments that wouldn’t be out of place in a junior school that fit in perfectly.

Update: A hat tip to Will Thompson who pointed me at this recording of the song by Kelly Lee Owens which is a beautiful all electronic version of the song, which I really dig.

Back to Moondance again, but today I’ve both upped the tempo and played the rhythm section through in a single take, rather than recording it as sections then assembled in GarageBand. The improv over the top is a bit lacklustre today, as I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired, but I’m quite pleased with the rest.

A little random Sunday morning improve that reminds me a little of the music to one of my favourite video games of all time, Beautiful Katamari, which had just the best soundtrack to boot.

This is partly inspired by #looptober, where people are making small tracker or loop based tunes each day in October. I’m not going to try that, but there’s been some lovely stuff start to trick into my social media feed, like this one by Alison Parrish who made it on her Gameboy, which is what inspired me to try this little loop over what feels like a video-game-esk loop.

This is also me trying to see if I can wing some music theory. The main vamp here here is B7 and A7, which I think means I play in the A Lydian mode. Normally when I try to wield music theory like this is that I then explain what I thought I did to my teacher at my next lesson and they explain to me what I actually did :)

Trying to pull together the two different moondance bass riffs (part one and part two) into one, and then switching between playing dorian over the first part and pentatonic over the second. It’s a bit rough, but the point was trying to just remember when to change between styles and fit everything in rather than thinking too much about what I was actually improvising.

I don’t normally do this sort of sections thing with my looper pedal even though it technically supports it as the UI just a bit cumbersome for that whilst also trying to play.