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December 24, 2008

Merry Mutherfuckin' Christmas. Yo!

Don't ask. For some reason I've come over all Ghetto Xmas! I have no explanation other than it just felt right.

Normal services will resume shortly. DO NOT PANIC!

I had the weirdest frikkin' dream last night. I think it was triggered by us seeing "Sunset Boulevard" last night...

[Side note: no matter how queer I may become in my dotage, I will never be as gay as the fellow sat next to me in the theatre yesterday. Every time the Norma Desmond character came onstage to sang he wept uncontrollably then gave her an arms-fully-outstretched standing ovation, gasping "Bravo, Bravo" whilst choking back tears! Frankly, that's just 'feeling' too much!] Sunset Boulevard... strange dream!

In the dream I was on holiday and found myself downing a few pints in a remote country pub. It was packed with locals, all there to see a new 'band' play. The band was actually just a lone guitarist doing 'the Steve Vai thing', with a young blonde rock-chick type, dressed only in hot-pants and a fur coat. Think 'girl from Blind Faith album', minus the plane, plus a furry outdoor garment.

You got the picture? Nipples were involved. Did nothing for me!

So, the guitarist was running around the pub, shredding demonically, whilst the young lady ground (grinded?) herself against him as if he were a human pole. The guy was having real trouble keeping his axe in tune. Every bend went horribly wrong. Eventually he just sat down in the corner twiddling with the machine heads whilst the girl kept on keeping on.

The crowd didn't seem to mind. I don't think they were there for the music.

Anywho, being civic-minded I decided to try and help by loaning him Red. I pulled the guitar out of its case and got to tuning it up. The harder I tried, the more difficult it became and the weirder Red started to look. Eventually it became clear that not only did I not have enough strings, but that my beloved Les Paul was actually just a couple of 2x4's nailed to a badly painted plank!

Frustrated, I grabbed a minicab and headed back to my trailer, not really noticing the route we took.

At this point I really should have realised it was a dream and woken up. I mean... me... vacationing in a trailer? Not bloody likely!

So, I get dropped off at the trailer park (insert your own Britney Spears joke here) and, after avoiding a pill-popping drug dealer, I settle in for the night. The next morning comes around rather quickly and I awake in a panic, realising that I'd left Red in the bar and that I didn't know where the hell the joint was.

The dream ended with me running around trying to quiz locals as to where the last nights festivities had taken place! Kinda like that scene at the start of "An American Werewolf..."

Bzzzzzz... Bzzzzzz... Bzzzzz...

Alarm. Morning. It's CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!

So, the good news is that I spoke with my boss last night and there's no budget left this year for me to be in the office (!) so I get just over a week off. Tim'll be studying for his exams in the New Year, so it'll mostly just be me and Red, p***ing off the neighbours!

I'm really looking forward to the time off. I'd originally thought that I'd be working right through Xmas and New Year so yesterday's 11th hour stay of execution came as a more-than-pleasant surprise...

Okay, and just because I'm sure all of you have been nice, not naughty, here are the lyrics to my all time favourite Chrimbo song...

"Tonight's The Kind Of Night"
Written by Melanie Safka Schekeryk
Best ever performance by Kiki & Herb

Tonight's the kind of night
Where all things come together
Tonight's the kind of night
Where nothing need be said
Tonight's the kind of night
Where all the lamps are burning
And nobody wants to go to bed

Some will have crackers and
Some will have pudding
Soup and crispies and home made bread
And no one will go hungry
And lovers will be faithful
We'll sip a little cup and
Then we'll sip another and we'll sing

Come all ye faithful tonight, sing out
Merry Christmas, oh yeah!
Ave Maria we'll cry, one more time
Merry Christmas

Mommy's and Daddy's are loving all their children
And from a distant room
We can hear then giggling
One of them is dreaming
The world a little brighter
And everyone is listening
To the song in their head, and they sing

Come all ye faithful tonight, sing out
Merry Christmas, oh yeah!
Ave Maria we'll try, one more time
Merry Christmas

Tonight's the kind of night
The world won't hold us down here
From planet to planet
From star to star
We'll shine our little light
That everyone can follow

Tonight's the kind of night
Where all the lamps are burning
And no one will go hungry
And lovers will be faithful
Tonight's the kind of night
Where all things come together
Tonight I make a promise
That I will sing forever
Tonight the kisses fly from all our little fingers
And nobody wants to go to bed

Come all ye faithful tonight, sing out
Merry Christmas, oh yeah!
Ave Maria we'll try, one more time
Merry Christmas

Come all ye faithful tonight, sing out
Merry Christmas, oh yeah!
Ave Maria we'll try, one more time
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas

So! Merry Christmas one and all. Be beautiful, eh?

December 23, 2008

Okay, Okay, Okay...

So it'll still be "The Fillmore Five Project"!

I need to change the blurp, though. Maybe do some (early) Spring cleaning. Dress this ageing piece of mutton up as a bouncing baby lamb... Feel free to slag off any of the changes I make over the coming weeks! I probably won't listen, but hey, you'll feel better for having said something... And any changes will be work-in progress for a while.

You know, when we went for the Indian on Sunday I didn't think it would be possible for me to eat any more food than that. Last night I definitely beat Sunday's effort with a Chinese. I can still feel the duck pancakes pressing against my ribs...

God, it's almost Xmas... and the weather in London's turned (relatively) warm again! What's with that?

December 22, 2008

The Future...

Oh, by the way, I'm currently taking suggestions for the title of 'the new blog'...

Best I came up with was "The Continuing Adventures Of Red Dog"...

Too bloody long.

Maybe I should just stick with 'Fillmore Five' and drop the 'Project'...

Or... "Fillmore Five" (subtitled "The Continuing Adventures Of Red Dog")?

Too cornball, I guess...

Same Old... Same Old...

...or "When Exactly Will I Become An Adult, Mommy?"

So... new valve arrived on Saturday morning...


[Side note: if Special Delivery is so special, why don't they make the postman wait until you're at least awake and preferably dressed before knocking on your front door?]

Anywho. Valve arrived. Didn't have time to fit it on Saturday. Had literally 10 minutes free time to shove it in and have a play on Sunday, in between hurriedly vacuuming the flat and guests arriving at 12:30.

Rewind... what?

Okay, so Tim and I were supposed to be having a day together on Saturday, having been royally punished by our personal trainer for being so lardy... at 10am! Now, c'mon, everybody's a bit lardy at 10am, aren't they? So, he basically spent the hour between 10 and 11 trying to kill us, forcing our puny bodies to do all kind of things that are grossly unnatural.

"Why the hell would I want to lift that?


So, battered, bruised and broken after the gym we headed into town on the bikes for the day. Zoom-zoom, beep-beep, all good. We had theatre tickets for a show at 20:00, so after a few hours of terrorising unsuspecting Chrimbo pedestrians we returned home, showered, changed and headed out.

Oh, before we leave the West End (for now), special note goes to Carnaby Street (as usual) for having the season's best Christmas decorations! Giant inflatable snowmen! Terribly "Ghostbusters" but rather fun.

Everything was going according to plan. We arrived at the theatre just in time for a swift beverage, took our places in the darkened hall and sat through the first half.

...'Sat through'... no laughing... at all... and it was supposed to be a comedy! In deference to the performers I'm not going to let on which show it was, but let's just say that sometimes theatre is less than the sum of its parts. That was soooo true in this instance.

The interval lights came up, we looked at each other knowingly and walked out. We never do that! About that time our best laid plans started to fall apart. After a quick dinner at Ping Pong (WHY???!?) we headed into Soho to try and salvage the evening. See, the thing is that we knew that this would be about our only time to enjoy ourselves, what with my work and Tim's studies. We also knew that we had friends arriving at around 12:30 on Sunday so we couldn't stay out late.

I think it was the mojito at Ping Pong that did it. That was the tipping point. After that everything seems like a blur.

...or maybe it was the cheap mixed drinks at one of the backstreet bars in Soho... one that we had to leave because some weird (drunk) guy was gushing about how he'd been with his partner for 26 years but Tim was the most handsome man he'd ever seen in his life (whilst squeezing my knee! Of course, I'm contracturally obliged to agree that Tim is the most handsome man in the world but I suspect that the blood in this guy's alcohol system may have been affecting his judgement. Whatever. We elected to change venue...

I distinctly remember not dancing at the Shadow Lounge... seemingly a spot to 'get on down' with the cream of the C-list crop. After the Shadow Lounge I unsuccessfully tried to channel my mother, saying that we should be sensible and get home so that we could get up early in the morning to clean house. Next thing I knew it was 4am and we were dancing on a podium in one of London's many, many underground clubs.

12:30 comes around quickly when you're out all night shaking your groove thing... and the morning mirror is not your friend, I can tell you!

...all of which is a long-winded way of saying that no, I didn't get the chance to road test the new valve in my amp. I fitted it and noodled for 20 seconds before realising that I needed to scrape the residue from my drunken late-night pizza making attempt from the kitchen surfaces.

Today I'm just keeping on, keeping on. Sunday's gut-busting Brick Lane curry is still sitting heavy and I'm slightly dreading the meetup with friends for Xmas drinks tonight. Maybe I should stick to soft drinks... there's always a first time, eh?

December 19, 2008

Chasing Valves..., not "Chasing Cars"... chasing valves!

So, it's been two weeks and no valve, despite having chased the supplier earlier in the week and being told (rather off-handedly) that my order was in a batch that had been processed so I should receive it 'within the next couple of days'.

Phoned them up again just now and got someone else, who searched their system and found that my valve hadn't been processed for some reason. She was very apologetic and promised to comp me next-day delivery, so I should hopefully have it tomorrow... hopefully.

We shall see!

In other news, the powers that be just suggested to me that perhaps I'd like to work all the way through Xmas and New Year's as our software licence for a particular program is running out and they'd like to get the best value possible out of the remaining few weeks.

I'll leave it to your imagination how many fingers I mentally held up!

December 16, 2008

Derek Trucks New Album

...due out in January!

Okay, so I knew the new Derek Trucks Band album was coming out. What I didn't expect was to be asked to promote it on this site.

Anything for the dTb. Here you go... here's a short video about the making of "Already Free".

Project Recap: Headed Towards Xmas

I only just realised today how close we are to Chrimbo! I guess I should have known, given the recent spate of text messages from people wanting to set up the annual work-night piss-ups. It'll be the same story as ever: we'll have a good time catching up, swear that we'll meet up more often and then never manage to find time, except maybe for a bbq in the summer. Such is life, especially in the city.

At least this year I'll have something new to bore people with... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Last stop for the Swirling Mists of Time! All aboard!

So, we got back from Morrocco and I jacked in metal music. How does the saying go? As one door closes, another one opens. I'd been contacted by a fellow strum-meister who'd got together 3 other guitarists and a drummer. He wanted to know whether I'd be interested in coming in on the ground level of his new band. It didn't sound that promising... I mean, what a line-up! 4 guitarists!... Nevertheless I said 'yes' and went along to meet the guys. It turned out that one guitarist wanted to play bass and one wanted to focus on singing, which left a two guitar, bass, drums, vox line-up. Things were looking up!

So, flashing forward to the present day, there's been some drama, but there's still the band. Everyone's keenly looking forward to getting out there and gigging, to making a name for ourselves on the sawdust and stale beer circuit.

I make music, therefore I am... a musician! I look forward to the concussion sustained from that first half-filled beer bottle slung at the stage.

Once again, I want to thank everyone of you who's watched and helped along the way over the course of the year. I'm sincerely grateful to each and every one of you.

So what's next? Well, the sands of time have run out so The Project as such. I've really enjoyed blogging about the journey so I think I shall carry on... I just need to come up with a new plan for what to write about, I suppose.

And yes, I look forward to boring friends silly over drinks, regaling them of tales from The Project and letting them know that they need to make sure they come along to our first gig...

Project Recap: Summer 2008

The summer, such as it was in the UK, turned out to be a dry patch for The Project. I'd got to the stage where I knew I wanted to play in a band and was 'out there' looking for other musos, but to no avail. Getting two people into a studio was hard enough, what with everyone heading off on their hols. Trying to get a whole band in one place at the same time proved to be impossible.

So, in the project recap we're lumping July, August and September into one lazy, hazy summer reminiscence!

Move along, nothing to see here! Really! I was really starting to get frustrated with all the 'Join My Band' type websites and the flaky people who inhabit them (most of whom hadn't as yet escaped the ravages of puberty). Finding people to play with was an (unsuccessful) exercise in patience.

Well, the project took a bit of a left turn in August. Having failed miserably to find anyone to play with to date, out of the blue I landed a sesh with a nascent metal band. They had a singer, one guitarist and a drummer. I was invited along to a rehearsal (along with another guitarist) to shake the tree and see whether anything fell out. Unfortunately, what fell out was my elbow joint! Metal strumming simply didn't suit me, it seemed, and as I was approaching light speed on some of the faster riffs the muscles in my right forearm simply gave up the ghost. Shooting pains. Tennis elbow. Ouch. Basically, that not only screwed me as far as playing metal was concerned, but made any kind of strumming incredibly painful!

Upon our return from a brief trip to Morrocco I came to the realisation that there was no way I'd cut it as a metalhead. I let the other guys in the band know that I was done and I moved on. I'll admit I was fairly despondent about this as I had felt I'd fluffed a good opportunity. September came, September went. Things were not looking good!

And NO Santa...

That last post about the Mesa Boogie was in no way a hint. If you come down my chimney with a £1599 tube amp (available on interest free credit from Andertons Music in Guildford... I did not say that) then I'd feel obliged to return the favour and buy Mrs Santa an equally fabulous gift of similar value which would somehow make her feel special in the same way...

...possibly a box of 50 rabbits? The remote-control kind!

Okay, so that random post was supposed to be somewhat comedic. I DO NOT WANT ANYONE TO BUY ME A MESA BOOGIE FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!

[Okay, so obviously I do want someone, somewhere to buy my one but nobody that I know or am in any way related to... and Mr Jackson, if you're out there and feeling randomly generous and Christmassy, you should know that I'm the only person to have never, ever said anything bad about you... though I did once snicker at that joke about you and 'Aladdin']

December 11, 2008

Project Recap: June 2008

Bo Diddley died, my trans-atlantic in-laws descended upon us, I started my new job. We also had a bit of a concert run, culminating in the fateful Robert Randolph & The Family Band show.

Fateful? Painful! The show itself was great, but it was in the crowded, overheated Borderline club. Something in my back went and I was laid up for most of the weekend. I think that was the point that I revisited my idea of getting in shape more... core stability... core stability...

Luckily, since starting a new training regime I've not had any back issues. I distinctly remember my 5-hour session with the metal band, though. At around the 3-hour mark I found myself forced to lean against the rehearsal room wall to stop myself from collapsing!

Well... I spoke with my valve supplier... despite having ordered a new Tung-Sol 12AX7 a week and a half ago, my order still has yet to be processed. So much for speedy service! Must be Christmas, eh?

What I really need to do is replace every single part in my old VS100 and turn it into one of these bad boys...

I've only played a Mesa Boogie amp once, and it wasn't even the Lonestar Special, but this puppy is high on my 'I WANT ONE' list. If only it matched the furniture it'd be an easier sell... amp cover, anyone?

Smart money's on sticking with a small all-valve practice amp that works for home use and recording, though. Perhaps the highly rated 5W Epiphone Valve Jr is one way to go... though I just priced it and guys, for those of you who snatched up the latest model for just £75... you made out like bandits! It's now retailing at over £130! Damn!

Project Recap: May 2008

Around about May I was starting to believe that maybe I could pull this thing off. I'd had my introduction to rehearsal rooms (thanks to Col of Axe Victim/Magic Ship fame), my juices were flowing and I felt like I was moving forwards. Not only that, but I gave up trying to make my daily commute more productive and simply secured a new job in the city (but not a 'city job').

Then the sun came out... and I, being a complete sun-whore, couldn't stay indoors!

The month passed with precious little movement on The Project. Moreover, little did I know that the summer months ahead and people's vacations and so on would cause such problems.

Well, this weekend was interesting. We went to a fancy-dress party on Saturday night, the theme of which was 'what you wanted to be when you grew up'. Many superheroes, a Bond. I shot for Rock Star and got the rather dubious compliment from one of the less into-it guests that at least she wasn't the only person who couldn't be bothered to dress up!

Played some guitar but not as much as I should have. Our internet and phone connections were out, so I had no way to investigate the new songs I'm supposed to be learning. Hey ho...

Still no news on my replacement valve and I've had no response to communications with the vendor's sales department! Still, they've not taken any money, so... maybe they've gone bust! Maybe I should take Col's suggestion and go and try out some all-valve amps to match up with my Les Paul properly!

Project Recap: April 2008

So, at the start of April I was running out of ideas as to how to move forward. I'd taken myself down to open mics but had failed miserably to network with anyone who wanted to collaborate. I'd not written any new material and I hadn't recorded any demos.

Whatever drive I had was petering out and it looked likely that I would remain stuck as a bedroom noodler for the rest of my life.

Just as I was starting to give up, the hand of fate intervened and I got an invite from fellow blogger and top bloke, Col of Axe Victim and the rockin' band Magic Ship. He asked whether I'd be interested in coming over and jamming with his side-project 'The Sociables'. Pre-project Ken would have shit his drawers and run away screaming... 'Fillmore Five' Ken recognised that this was the opportunity he'd been waiting for. At long last a new experience and a quantum leap in the right direction! I'm still immensely grateful to Col for the opportunity and all the support and advice since then. Without the foot in the door I reckon I'd still be on the outside.

I had momentum again and I started to be more proactive about creating music. I recorded a couple of demos. Despite not being great art, they were something concrete at least. I also started to consider how I could make better use of my time. The 3+ daily commute was starting to take its toll (after two years!) and I hated the fact that it was simply dead time as far as The Project was concerned. Time was ticking away.

Back to today... still no valve in the mail, BUT I did actually get to have a play with another VS100. Whilst the amp itself didn't sound as nice as mine for some reason... perhaps it'd been ridden hard and put away wet... it didn't suffer from any of the background noise that mine does. At least that confirms that there's definitely something wrong! Hopefully a new valve will fix it, otherwise I'm going to have to look at other options.

December 9, 2008

Project Recap: March 2008

March was the month that I had planned to kick things into high gear, but, in reality, The Project was starting to stall. Pressure was building at work, I had no time to play and the WAES course came to an end, leaving me high and dry. My half-hearted attempts to use sites like 'Join My Band' only led to frustration as I was clearly over the hill as far as the youf market was concerned. Something had to happen soon to get things moving again... but it seemed like I was running out of ideas. Little did I know that the hand of fate was around the corner, waiting to give me a hard shove in the right direction...

In present-day-land, my new valve didn't arrive so practice time last night was a low volume affair. I rechecked the invoice and saw that where I had thought delivery was guaranteed within 4 days, in fact, processing of my order was guaranteed within 4 working days. In other words, the damn thing probably hasn't even been mailed out yet, so I may not even have it in time for the weekend. I'm certain the neighbours didn't mind the reduced noise levels. I have no doubt they're sick and tired of me playing through "Supersonic" at full tilt.

On a whim I signed up for 6 months of "Lick Library"... 6 months seeming to be the minimum subscription at a cost of £1.50 a week. Some of the lessons I was interested in cost £2.50 or so to purchase without membership so I figured 'what harm' to just sign up for a bit.

I don't know whether it'll be a worthwhile investment or not, but I certainly had fun with it for a couple of hours last night. It's much easier to be taught a song than to learn it by yourself. From what I've seen the teachers actually know what they're doing, too, which is unusual! I'm not big on these pay-for-play sites at all but I've been getting seriously tired of searching through YouTube for anything worthwhile that doesn't feature a spotty 13 year old prodigy.

I guess I was interested to check it out, not only because it had a few songs I want to learn, but also to get hints and tips on riff writing and to push me towards genres I wouldn't normally consider. We'll see how it pans out.

The only negative I'd say about the site right off the bat for me is that the song choice veers towards the heavier side of rock. If you're interested in joining then take time to look through the track listings to see whether the style you want to achieve is represented... Also, for no apparent reason from time to time it seems to log me out so that I have to re-login to view paid-for material. I wouldn't suggest it for a beginner guitarist, though. I think it's more aimed at someone who knows what they're doing and who wants to learn songs.

I've not really checked out all the jam tracks, but it's interesting to me that there seem to be more backing tracks than lessons. For example, if you search for Eric Clapton you get:

Wonderful Tonight
Tears In Heaven

Bad Love
Before You Accuse Me
Change The World
Layla (Unplugged)
Old Love
Tears In Heaven
Wonderful Tonight

That's not a bad thing... it just surprised me.

Project Recap: February 2008

Geez, February saw me in a really reflective, yet strangely forward looking, mood. I was really into the WAES acoustic course, totally pre-occupied with learning to play the intro to Jack Johnson's "Taylor". Boy-oh-boy, did I build up some calluses with that puppy! Someday I'll revisit it and have another go, but I definitely remember getting so sick and tired of trying (and failing) to get the synchopation down at the time that I was about ready to smash Blackie into a million pieces.

We took a quick trip to psychadelic Amsterdam and even before coming home I was missing the cool, creative vibe there. It has dark and seedy aspects, but they only serve to add spice to the mix. Watch out, though. The Dutch government are planning on cleaning up the city, forcing coffee-shops and brothels near to schools and churches to close down. The city will change, that's for sure. I love amsterdam and will hate to see it change, but I do get why they think it's a good idea. It will be a shame, though, if some of the more historic establishments can't be kept on under 'grandfather' laws.

Our Amsterdam trip also put me in mind of how I used to feel when we'd head over to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Good times, good times.

On The Project front, that was about it. I was trying to build up my confidence through the WAES course, knowing full well that once I was done with that I'd have to pull my finger out and try and 'get out there'.

Travelling back through the swirling mists of time to RIGHT NOW, I was reading (I think) "Classic Rock" magazine over the weekend and it had a couple of snippets about Genesis, over in Way-Back-When land. It made mention of "Selling England By The Pound", something like their 5th studio album and the one just before 1974's "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" which, to me, has always been their opus magnus. After "Lamb" Peter Gabriel quit the band and headed off to pursue his solo efforts.

Back in the day I used to be a major Genesis freak. This was before I discovered Southern Rock and I think it was what got me hooked on 15 minute overblown swirling instrumental breaks grafted onto rock songs.

The wail of Duane Allman's slide guitar was the death knell for my Genesis phase. I simply stopped listening to those well-worn vinyls and never really went back. Over the years I've replaced the records with CD's, but never really got hooked on them again. I think the spectre of Phil Collins' solo career overshadowed the majesty and freak-a-delicity of The Old Stuff.

Well, today, RIGHT NOW, I'm listening to "Selling England..." and I have to say it's bringing back memories. I had thought that it might provide inspiration for some new tunes or at least riffs, but I do... not... think... so! I like it... I get it sonically, but it's not where I'm at right now.

The other thing I uploaded onto my iPod to have a sneaky listen to this morning was some stuff by Live. They're another band that I used to take guilty pleasure in cranking up. I loved their albums "Throwing Copper" and "The Distance To Here". In a weird way "Secret Samadhi" was probably my favourite.

Then, well, they went all Goddy. Now, I don't mind if people want to sing about religion, spirituality or whatever, but does every single song have to be about how God does this that or the other? I completely lost interest when they released the album "Birds Of Pray". As far as material for 'homage' [cough] goes, there's potential for some rifftastic stuff in there. I'd seriously consider doing a cover of "Waitress" from "Throwing Copper" just because it uses the words 'fucking' and 'bitch' so much!

Come on baby leave some change behind,
She was a bitch, but I don't care,
She brought our food out on time,
And wore a funky barrette in her hair.

Come on baby leave some change behind,
She was a bitch but good enough,
To leave some change,
Everybody's good enough for some change.

The girl's got family,
She needs cash to buy aspirin for her pain,
Everybody's good enough for some change.

We all get the flu,
We all get AIDS,
We've got to stick together after all,
Everybody's good enough for some change,

And finally on the list of crap I've put onto my iPod we have... "Pride" (1995 Best Of Living Color). Vernon Reid... should be a few licks to cop in there!

And... again... the new preamp for my Marshall didn't turn up yesterday. The issue with the amp seems to be getting worse and the whine's become noticeable on the clean channel. Not fun. We'll see whether the replacement valve improves things. What I don't want to do is spend £100 getting the amp fixed when I could just get a small all-valve practice/recording amp instead for now... or a Mesa Boogie Lonestar Special (you gotta dream, don't you?)

Project Recap: January 2008

Wow, I just re-read the stuff I wrote back in January. I really didn't have a clue what I was doing, did I? Talk about naive! Well, at least I started putting one foot in front of the other, and that got me on the path.

Let's go back to where it all began...

Starting From Zero
...Got Nothing To Lose.

Almost a year ago my husband and I were bellied up to the bar at one of our now-traditional "beer & ribs" joints in Amsterdam. It was mid-afternoon, New Year's Day, and we were well on our way to resurrecting our drunk from the night before. Our last day in Sin City was slipping by. London, and real life, beckoned.

Neither of us are big on making New Year's resolutions but as we sat there chatting about how far we'd come in the past year it seemed only natural to speculate about what we might achieve in the months to come.

During a discussion which ranged from getting more tattoos to deciding whether or not to adopt a child, one theme kept on rearing its ugly head: music. More specifically how I manage to constantly under-achieve when trying to improve.

Another twelve months have passed and I have yet to make significant progress in my playing. Why am I not in a band? When am I going to be good enough to play open mic's or jam sessions?

So, here it is, the question that I'm asking myself for 2008: how can I go from zero to hero in a year?

What happened next? Well, I set myself a preliminary action plan that went something like this:

1) Get Good
2) Record Demos
3) Get Out There

On the 'get good' front I actually did pretty well. I signed up for a course and it really got me motivated to practice daily and improve. I do feel like the nature of the course distracted me somewhat from playing electric, possibly delaying me slightly, but at the same time it got me playing in a group situation and meeting like-minded people.

I never really did record demos and 'getting out there' in terms of meeting other bandmates would come later. I went to loads of open mics but never had the guts to stand up and do my thing, not that I had a thing to do...

Overall, January wasn't a bad start. At least I was moving forwards.

Oh, the other thing I'd recognised was that middle-age spread was creeping in and that I could do with shaping up a bit and working on my image. For a while I did the diet thing, but it wouldn't really be until after having back issues in the summer that I'd seriously look at addressing my weight issue. More of that later, I guess.

The one bit of current news to share with you guys is that I'm awaiting delivery of a new pre-amp tube for my Marshall VS100. It recently developed an annoying whine whilst on the overdrive channels which isn't horrible but it's distracting. Since the amp's possibly 10 years old and the pre-amp tubes are only really expected to last 4-5 years I figured I'd try swapping it out to see whether it made any difference. I'll keep you posted! It's due for delivery today (so I probably won't get it for a week!)

A New Beginning

Well, I got the chance to speak with Jon last night and clear the air a bit. Whilst I'm not going to discuss what was said (for obvious reasons), one of the things that was mentioned was that perhaps it was too drastic to stop blogging entirely because of the situation. Also, I got a few supportive emails to say that I should carry on, but cut out stuff about the band unless it was only relevant to me.

In all honesty, the 'Zero to Hero in a year' aspect of things is coming to a close. We're hurtling headlong towards Xmas and from there it's a short downwards spiral to the New Year. So, what I'm considering doing is writing a more graceful close-out to the project... an end of year summary, if you like. Kind of like one of those god-awful 'so that was 2008' programmes! Yay! Lessons learned, blah, blah, blah. I've been meaning to read through the blog again myself, anyway, as a reminder of the journey.

After that, who knows. Perhaps a new blog? Similar content, different focus? Who can say. Watch this space, I guess.

December 7, 2008

Move Along, Nothing To See Here...

...that's it, I'm done. All gone.

Well, overall I think I can honestly say that (at 2:30 on a Saturday night/Sunday morning after a few vodka tonics) the project has been an unmitigated disaster. Rock God? No. Not in any way, shape or form. I've met some people along the way, had some good times, but really... when all's said and done, well, it's all said and done.

So... so long and thanks for all the cheese.



It's 12 hours later, I'm sober (so far... it's early). Here's a bit more of an explanation than I gave above.

I was feeling pretty stupid last night. I still am. I started this blog as a motivational tool to keep me focused on the job of getting into a band in 2008. Well, I got into a band... me and 4 other great people. At that point I should have signed off, said thanks to everyone for all their support and halted the blog, or at the very least changed the subject matter to make it less personal. I'll admit, though, that I was hooked on blogging. I discovered that I enjoy the process of putting my thoughts into words and had come to feel a part of the 'blogging community'. I allowed myself to believe that it was important for me to maintain my so-called 'journalistic integrity'.

So, against better judgement I chose to continue blogging about what was going on in the band each session, chronicling how things were coming together or not, as the case may be. It's obviously not an anonymous blog but none of the other band members had mentioned that they knew about it, which is fair enough. I wrote it, I put it in the public domain. I take full responsibility for anything I said.

So, you can guess the punchline. I wrote stuff based on my perception of what was going on and I was utterly frank about it. I showed no real consideration of what the other band members' feelings would be if they read it and that was foolish, to say the least. I guess in some ways you get sucked into the ego trip that is blogging and you simply say what's on your mind, not really considering the what the fallout might be. The fallout from blogging about the band is that I may have now only ruined my friendship with one of the band-members but I may also have ruined his friendship with the other guys aswell, having portrayed them in an unjustified bad light. They're not malicious people and I believe they didn't want to talk to Jon in an upfront matter because they wanted to get consensus before potentially hurting his feelings. I hope to try to mitigate any of the damage I've caused but as yet I don't know whether that's even possible at this stage.

So, with 24 days of 2008 left I'm pulling the plug on "The Fillmore Five Project".

The band situation is unresolved, but clearly I can't write honestly about it here for fear of doing more damage than I already have. If I can't write the truth then there's no point in writing at all, right?

Will I blog again, oh loyal 5 or 6 readers? Perhaps. I don't know. My obsession with musical advancement was really the driving force behind this effort and since that option has been removed I don't really know what I have to talk about that anyone would take the time with... how the cat is responding to his asthma medication? Doubt it! The new stationary they ordered in at my office? Thrilling stuff...

So. Here it is. The End. I really do want to thank all of you guys who've shown so much support over the past 12... let's make that 11 months. Without the advice/breaks you've given me I doubt I'd have come as far as I have.

So, once again it's time to say... so long and thanks for all the cheese.

December 5, 2008

And In Other News...

Jason Mraz is coming back to the UK in the Spring! I know, I know, aren't I a bit too rock 'n' roll to be a mraz-a-fan? Well, maybe, but I like him. We have two tickets. We're going.

The other youf-ful luminary who's gracing our shores (and possibly trailer parks) with her presence is none other than...

[Drum roll]


Now, funnily enough, I was shooting pool with a friend at bar a couple of weeks and saw the following graffiti scratched into the men's room wall.

...Oh, trust me... I will! I'm not even going to pretend to be interested in seeing that young lady do her thang!

The Die Is Cast...

...and George Harrison rocks on!

Okay, it must be Friday with a ropey connection (or lack thereof) like that!

Band stuff: I think we've all basically agreed that at the practice session next Thursday (for which I'll have to skip Rockschool again) will be without Jon. The original lineup was:

Jo: vox
Rich: bass
Jon: drums
Bo: guitar
Me: guitar

The new line up we're going to try is:

Jo: vox/bass
Rich: drums
Bo: guitar/vox
Me: guitar

We've not said anything to Jon yet. I feel really shitty about it as I don't buy into the whole politics thing. I know the other guys feel bad, too, and nobody really wants to kick him out of the band. Hopefully Jon's absence doesn't throw a cloud over things.

We're going to have a chat after the practice session. After that we'll either talk to Jon and tell him that sorry, you're surplus to requirements, or we'll ask him to come to the next rehearsal as if nothing's happened. That doesn't sit well with me, but I'm not going to invest any emotional crap in the politics otherwise I'll lose the sense of fun about playing. I have no real choice but to be mercinary.

We'll see what happens. I really liked Rich's bass playing so it'll be a shame to lose that. Despite being a guitarist, he was really getting into it, laying down a good fat groove for us to jam over. Will Jo be able to fill his shoes? Will Rich play better drums than Jon?? How many rhetorical questions can I ask??? How many question marks are strictly-speaking necessary????


Oh, go on... one more...



I think I need a cigarette, and I don't even smoke.

I didn't go to the Rockschool Christmas concert last night. I just didn't feel that using my free time to travel across London and spend an hour and a half with beginner musicians was high on the bangs-for-bucks scale. Instead I stayed home, cranked the amp and rocked out on Red Dog.

Felt good, very cathartic.

[Is that the right word? Ach, who cares!?! Ooh, exclamation points, too!]

Started off with some of our band standards, but wasn't really in the mood so I switched to Rockschool homework and took another look at George Harrison's solo on "Let It Be". It's not too complex, but contains most of the elements of standard electric rock 'n' blues playing: pentatonic licks, slides, bends, hammer-ons, pull-offs etc. No sweep-picking, fretboard tapping or playing with the teeth!

One thing I don't practice enough is string bending and last night I kept going sharp, which is the big no-no! Go flat, you've got room to correct and pretend you meant it. Go sharp and you're ske-re-ooed. Next happy note's a looooong way off!

I decided to crank the Marshall a bit more, illiciting a gorgeous hollow tone from the amp (accompanied by an annoying whine that I couldn't get rid of... too late to ask Santa for a new amp for Christmas?... Ach, I'll order a replacement preamp valve for a tenner and give that a go first). Standing up and letting go a bit, suddenly everything came into place. Here's the real skinny folks, when you stand up and play, you subconsciously use the weight of the guitar to anchor your bends. Do it. Be a rock star.

Sounded good. Better than George... or at least better than Ringo!

The weekend is MINE, ALL MINE... so I get to put in some serious practice time, hopefully nailing everything on the band playlist and maybe bringing something new to the table. In these times of change it'll be smart to be seen to be invested, eh?

December 3, 2008

Die Politik Der Band

Okay, so here's the thing. I wasn't going to blog about this until I knew what was actually going to happen, partly because I didn't want to make a big deal about something which might turn out to be a non-issue and partly because, well, although I've not told my fellow band-members about this blog, if you Google my email address... voila!

So, if any of you guys are out there having a sneaky read, well, this is a significant ongoing issue to me right now and please, please try to understand that I use this site for advice and support from friends and random strangers with opinions... and I know that there will be some opinions. I also try to be as honest as possible here, so what's the point in having this site if I don't say what's going on.

Looking back, I didn't blog about last week's rehearsal. I'm not sure why other than that I simply didn't have time! It was the one where I had to cut out of Rockschool early just to arrive late for practice. So... that seems like a good place to start!

[Swirling mists of time]

Okay, so after Rockschool I rode over to Camden to join in with the rehearsal. When I got there the guys were running through a punk song that Rich (bass) had written. Sounded really good. Catchy. Sounded like a real band, all pulling together (without me [cough]).

They ran through it one more time for me and I tried to pick up the groove, volume rolled off to begin with then joining in. That's one of the things I never really knew I'd enjoy so much... the collaboration and the feeling of being at one with other musicians, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

We went into a couple of our other pre-prepared numbers: "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Supersonic". It was during the latter that I first realised we had something of a problem. Jon (drums) was having difficulty keeping the tempo even. Moreover, he was slowing down the further we got into the song, taking all the momentum out of it.

From there on in the rehearsal never really recovered, our timing being all over the place. I remember looking over at Rich to see what his expression was at one point when the timing was, shall we say 'somewhat synchopated' (not in a good way), only to realise that he'd simply stopped playing and was standing there with a puzzled look on his face. I pulled up short on the rhythm and the tune petered out.

The first thing that came to mind was that maybe Jon was having an off day. Whilst he's no Ginger Baker, with less than a year of drumming experience under his belt, I'd not really noticed too many issues other than when called upon to improvise new rhythms on stuff like the song Bo wrote.

The other thing I should mention is that I'm in a bit of a glass house here. My playing over the last few rehearsals has been patchy at best... missing chord changes, missing entire strings, losing my groove etc. For me to criticize any of the other performances would be hypocritical. It's coming, but fitting into a band takes time. Maybe on guitar, though, you can mask some of the howlers. If you lose it on drums, you're history. Hey, besides, even if I don't always sound musical, at least I can bring the kudos of a shiny Les Paul to the mix!

Once we'd all packed up and headed to the pub for a swift half I made a mental note that I should have a chat with Jon and ask him what had happened. As it turned out, I didn't get the chance. Just before leaving for Paris, a group email (Jon excluded) was sent round, saying that we have a real problem with Jon on drums if we're serious about gigging.

I'm not going to say who the email was from. Frankly it doesn't matter as it might as well have been from me or anyone else. We were all thinking the same thing, that we needed to do something about the situation.

Right now it's all up in the air and smacks of band politics. We need to talk it through. My preference would have been to make the process 100% transparent by including Jon in all discussions, but I guess majority rule says that we need to figure out what path we're taking. I see some logic in that, in that if we decide to simply carry on as we are, other than trying to nudge Jon in the right direction and support him as much as we can, there would be little reason to muddy the water by telling him what alternatives had been discussed.

The thing is that we all really like Jon and are impressed by his enthusiasm, dedication and, well, he's a cool guy. He brings his own energy and character to the band. I do think that he's falling behind, but, like I say, in the 'who's the best bandmate' race, I think I'm only a nose in front of him. We all like him and, same as everyone else, he's an integral part of 'what we are'. It's a bit like Tolkein's "Fellowship Of The Ring"... only without the orcs, warlocks... horses... the ring... okay, so it's NOTHING like the book, but my point is that we all started in on this together.

I think the thing that's changed is that whilst none of us had any expectations of being able to get up and gig in the short term we all realised that with a bit of polish we might make it to the seedy spit-and-sawdust circuit sooner rather than later, if only we could get our crap in a sock. Therein lies the rub. Do we a) hope for the best, that Jon's playing will come along leaps and bounds in a short time, b) find something else for him to do in the band... (what??? Be a 'Bez'?) or c) mercillously cut out his heart and somehow find a replacement.

My initial thought (saint that I am... look... you can see my halo if you squint) was that there had to be something we could do to smooth over the rough edges, for example by making him play to a click or something. Not being a drummer, I don't know what the tricks of the trade are. He's not a complete clunker... he wouldn't have made it this far if he had been.

I have a feeling, though, that the tide may be turning against him. Being a rookie when it comes to such band matters I'm not sure what opinion I should have, if any. What's becoming clear is that the real decision we have to make is whether we're all about getting a songlist together and starting to gig (I typed that as 'gag' first time round!!!!) or whether we're a bunch of like-minded souls playing music for ourselves and no-one else. Personally I don't buy into that 100%, but that's the spin on things at the moment. Who's to say that in 2 months Jon's not going to have pulled it together, or indeed whether in 2 months anyone else might not be up to scratch either. Right now the 'not knowing' seems to be driving a wedge between everyone, so we need to sort this out one way or the other ASAP.

Y'know, I can sense the hunger in everyone. I can feel how nobody had expectations but then we all realised that we might actually come together as a band... even if it means leaving someone behind.

Hey, maybe it is like Tolkein after all...

[Only without the horses, the narks, the gimlets, the niblets, the wacky-dacky-do-dahs or whatever... oh, and without Christopher Lee doing a fabulous impression of Cher circa her 23rd farewell tour]

December 2, 2008

Back In The UK!

Yes, we're back from Paris. Very brief weekend Thanksgiving trip. The above photo (stolen from the internet as I don't have access to the ones we took right now) is of one of Jeff Koons' sculptures on display at Versailles at the moment. If you get the chance, go see the exhibition. It's great. A stunning mix of classical architecture and uber-contemporary art. Absolutely mind-blowingly cool.

There's some band news that I need to write about, but not right now. I want to get the full picture before I say anything. No, we haven't been signed by a label, if that's what you're thinking...!

I got back to Blighty to find an email in my inbox saying that Rockschool is having a Christmas concert this Thursday, in place of the regular class. Attendance is not manditory, but if you do turn up with a guitar and amp then you can join in on "Knocking On Heaven's Door". Not sure whether we're talking Dylan, Clapton or Guns, here... trying to find out the real skinny before I say yay/nay. I could use the time to catch up on other stuff I've missed along the way. Apparently, last Thursday's lesson was 'great', 'the best yet' (according to Teach, whose opinion may well be biased!)

Work? Aaaargh!!! Okay, not as bad as it was (hopefully), but the end of the month wasn't quite the watershed I was hoping for. The biggest difference, though, is that my attitude towards it has to change. I need to make sure I don't stress as much about it as I have been.

November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving... Paris!

I needed a break... A few days away from La Guerre! Good food, good friends, good times!

November 24, 2008

Best Laid Plans...

...or Rock & Roll weekend heads south!

So, this weekend I wasn't working and Tim was away on a course so I had planned an intensive musical time.

Things started off well enough. Col of AxeVictim's band, Magic Ship were playing a support gig at the White Hart in Barnes. Magic Ship are a good-time rockin' band and the perfect way to get the musical juices flowing. For the sake of 'journalistic integrity' I have to say that their performance wasn't up to the standard of their previous Half Moon headlining gig, but there were pre-show issues with the promoter, the evening's line-up was incredibly badly thought out, with a strange mix of electric and acoustic acts, which sucked the life out of the room and then on top of that, Col's Firebird was throwing a wobbly, refusing to stay in tune. Not to mention the fact that through illness and so on they'd not managed to squeeze in a rehearsal inbetween gigs.

Despite the ribbing that we gave the band post-set, they did manage to get on top of most of the songs, particularly "Monkeyphonic Alphabet" and "Lucky Lost". Lucky's not my favourite tune of theirs by a long shot, but they managed to knock it out of the ballpark on Friday night.

A few beers, some good music and the last train home to civilization. A promising start to the weekend.

When I woke up early on Saturday morning I was buzzing with ideas. Intro riffs were running through my mind. Power chords, lead lines. The works. By the time I'd showered and my head was starting to clear I could feel things starting to slip away so I quickly fixed coffee, grabbed the nearest available guitar and started to try and nail down my inspiration.

Nearest guitar... big mistake. The nearest guitar was the acoustic. Not the rock 'n' roll leviathon that I needed. I could literally feel the inspiration slipping away as I sat there, plucking at the strings. D'Oh!

Frustration set in, so I took a step back and looked at some of the homework that had been set for Rockschool. I was keenly drawn to the first solo from "Let It Be" that we'd been told to study, learn, whatever. It's not a hard solo to learn by any means, but it's got bends, slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs etc, which I guess was the point of the exercise. I 90% learned it. Not well enough to play it through without looking at the tab, but well enough for now.

I was starting to get back into the groove. Riding the George Harrison wave, I started writing down lyric ideas... Not Good. ABORT!!! ABORT!!!! My mental rhyming dictionary was fully engaged and I couldn't not rhyme! Everything I came up with was trite.

So, I decided to take a break... at which point I realised that while music may be the food of love, my company tax return was due and I needed to get that out of the way to put some food on the table. Disruption. Documents to sign, information to mail off.

I could go on, but let's just say that from then on, whilst I did manage to play/practice guitar more, my muse had definitely left the building. It really does underline the fact that when you have inspiration you just have to seize it there and then. Don't shower, don't fix coffee. Just get to work!

Oh, and yes, I had a listen through to most of the new Guns album. You know, they just let the perfect adjective into the next edition of Collins English Dictionary: 'Meh'!

November 20, 2008

I'm Just Sayin'...

Well, I never thought this day would come...

It's not here yet, but supposedly you can listen to the whole album on the GnR myspace page. No, I'm not going to give a link. If you're interested then Google the damn thing...

Is it any good? I've not listened to it yet (though I'm sure I will over the weekend out of some perverse curiosity). Reviewers seem to be giving it a reluctant 4/5, saying that it's no "Appetite..." but it's better than "Use Your Illusion". Overall the response has been positive. The primary criticism leveled at it seems to be that none of the songs are "Paradise City" or "Sweet Child..."

I'm not a major Guns fan. I own "Appetite..." and love it, but I never heard anything off the other albums to make me sit up and take note...

And no, I have no idea why I can't be bothered to type in the whole track names! Sue me! No, not you Mr Rose... please don't sue me!

Oh, and Project news, blah-blah, Rockschool tonight... AND band practice. I have to cut part of the end of class and part of the beginning of Band Camp to shoehorn both into one evening. Eek!

November 18, 2008


When the hell was the last time I posted????

Apologies, avid reader [cough]. Busy, busy!

Last post was about band practice, eh? Okay, catchup time then.

First up, had Rockschool the following day (last Thursday). Had our first little exam. Did okay. I think I scored 80%. Most of it was about chord construction, what chords are in the major keys etc. Some was practical 'play this scale in this key' stuff. I pretty much goofed on 2 out of 10 in each section. I was really distracted that night, I can tell you. I even had to ask for one question to be read out again as I'd zoned out completely, thinking about work.

For homework we were supposed to learn our study-partner's song, then learn and tab out the chord structure for the first song in our 'easy' songlist. Mine was "Mr Tambourine Man" which has a structure, albeit a rather changeable one depending upon how many lyrics Mr Dylan wanted to throw in. We were also given a number of pentatonic hammer-on exercises, which, for some reason, have been giving me trouble. They shouldn't be hard, but my issues arise on the high B/E strings. I can't seem to get the notes clean and switching from the 2 semi-tone to 3 semi-tone interval from the G to B-string trips me up every time. Not a clue why. I used to think I was pretty good at that stuff!

I actually didn't work (real work) at all over the weekend. My excuse was that I was stuck at home waiting for a plumber, who didn't come on Saturday then didn't turn up on Sunday until late... and who's supposedly coming back tomorrow morning to try to fix our boiler startup problems, though he doesn't come across as particularly convinced that he knows what the issue is. The upside to that was that I got to wail on the axe for a bit, both acoustically and with some electrification. It felt good. Very good.

Band practice this week is on Thursday, overlapping with Rockschool, so I'm going to have to cut out of class early and arrive late at the studio. I used to complain that I didn't have enough guitar going on... now I'm having scheduling conflicts! Quite the change. I still don't know how I'm going to juggle Rockschool and The Band and still do both justice. Frankly, though, The Band comes first in my books. It's what I want. In many ways it was the reason for signing up to RS in the first place. It just so happened that, like London buses, I waited forever then the two came along at once.

Tonight I have to write out the structure of "Mr Tambourine Man" properly so that I can perform it in class on Thursday. Any more playing than that is a bonus!!!

Oh, and as Tim's away on a residential course this weekend I should have lots of time for practice. If I can I'm going to head down to the Magic Ship (supporting) gig in Barnes on Friday night to hopefully kick of a rockin' weekend.

November 13, 2008

Band Rehearsal #2

Okay, before I forget, The Project's now into its last 50 days. That's not many shopping days 'til Xmas, campers! I guess come New Year's I'll reflect on where I'm at, what I'm doing and where I'm going. I'm tempted to do so now... but 50 days is 50 days (except it's actually 48 now). Anything can happen.

The other thing I want to say up front is that I'm shattered, mentally bunged up and about as stressed out as I've been in my life. Work. Why do we have to do it, people? Why, I ask you? Would civilization really crumble if we all just stopped?

[Don't answer that. I know what you're going to say]

I remember the days,
Free and clear,
The world so small,
Was big enough for me.

So, work, stress, ugh.

Outside of that little arena I have the two major things going on. Band and Rockschool. It's too early to write off Rockschool completely (and I'm not going to), but damn, it looks like it's going to be hard work and I don't currently see where all this practice time is going to come from!!! Maybe after the contract I'm working on is done I'll have more time but right now juggling all these balls is getting to be a challenge. I can't even goof off much because a) we get tested on it and b) we're working with partners. I'm not going to complain, though. I signed up for it and the value for money quotient is super high.

That leaves band news. We had rehearsal #2 last night. Everyone turned up, plugged in and played. If I'm being 100% honest I didn't feel like I acquitted myself well last night. Not enough practice time... preoccupied... stressed. I did okay, but only 'okay'. The three hour session went in a flash. Scary.

As with last time I really enjoyed the moments I got the room to myself while everyone else was off for a fag break. It meant that I could just close my eyes, crank my amp and lean into my very own wall of sound.

[Note: the amp I got last night was an old Peavey combo... which really, really sucked]

If anything, the highlight of the evening was running through "I Wanna Be Your Dog". It's not hard to play but I got to take out a lot of my current frustration, really just letting go and surrendering myself to the moment.

We ran through the other songs we'd played before, including "Supersonic", "Strange Brew" etc. On "Strange Brew" I do the groove-rhythm. Boy did I suck the first couple of times!!!! Finally I started getting it, but my fingers were just not working early on.

We did some Hendrix stuff, too, and also had a go at revamping "Once In A Lifetime" by Talking Heads. It has potential to be rocked-up.

The surprise addition to our playlist was a song that the other guitarist, Bo, had written. It sounded really good. Most of it was just a vamp on E and A5 with some pinky 'add' notes and some low E runs. I think it may end up being worked up into our first very own original.

I have to say that I'm actually really impressed with everyone in the band. They're good guys, open to stuff 'n' all, all bringing something to the table. If anything I feel I'm lagging behind as I just haven't had the time and energy to invest in it this past month.

Energy. I need energy. I've been at work pretty much every day for as long as I can remember now. We have a major milestone on Tuesday and then another the end of the month. It'll be done, because it needs to be, but I really just want to NOT work this weekend, hang the consequences. I've spoken with my boss to try and 'manage his expectations', so we'll see how that goes.

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

And it's Rockschool tonight, so I can't work late. The positive spin on RS is that it gives me a chance to escape real life. For those two hours every Thursday I get to step out of my day-to-day situation and relax. I just hope I don't end up being the guy who comes to class but never does the homework. That'd be a major waste of time.

November 12, 2008

Venice Day

Okay, so this is going to sound like I broke my 'never drink before lunchtime' rule... which doesn't apply when one's in New Orleans, obviously... but for some reason I really felt like I should be in Venice today.

I think it started this morning when I climbed onboard my gondola... erm... scooter. The blue skies and crisp cold air were strangely reminiscent of the last time we were in the city of fallen angels, almost two years ago.

Two years. Wow. It doesn't seem that long.

I know it sounds weird, but I'm sometimes hit by 'spirit of place' moments. Some days I feel like I should be on a greek island... sometimes in Paris... quite often in Amsterdam. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to feel like I'm centred in London. On days like that I feel a real connection to the city, seeing it with the fresh eyes of a tourist.

The love of travel is both a gift and a curse. Some days you wake up to the city in which you live, knowing deep down that at that precise moment in time you're 'supposed' to be somewhere else.

Shit, maybe I just need another vacation. At least in a few weeks we're off to visit friends of ours in Paris to celebrate Thanksgiving. The benefit of being one half of an anglo-american couple. You get two turkey days a year!

I think that sometimes feeling displaced like this is a good thing. It often signals the start of a creative patch... let's hope that's the case this time as my creativity has been running at an all time low.

It's band practice #2 tonight. Maybe I'll be inspired to start writing some original songs for the guys. Right now all I'm shooting for is to be able to find my G-string with both hands.

November 10, 2008

Monday Blurp...

Once again, no time!

Toxic Slut set on Friday was really good. They did 30 minutes and really had everyone along for the ride. Covers included Clash, Aerosmith stuff and so on, punkee-stylee.

While I didn't spend the whole weekend in the office, I was briefly at work both Saturday and Sunday, which sucked. Particularly as I got embroiled in the traffic diversions from the Lord Mayor's Show during a serious downpour on Saturday. I was soaked to the skin even before I could find somewhere to pull over.

We finally get to have our second band rehearsal this week! Yay! Oh... now wait a minute... I've hardly had any time to practice the material. D'Oh! Best pull Red out tonight I guess. Neighbours, I apologise in advance.

With Rockschool, I decided to shoot for the Grade 5 exam in June. From their website:

"You will be confident in a range of physical and expressive techniques. You will be able to demonstrate your abilities across a number of styles and have control over tone and sound adjustments to suit the playing style of your choice."

Exam requirements:

These should be played at 100 bpm in a straight feel: eighth notes

Group A Scales 2 octaves to be prepared chromatically in the keys of G-B, root note 6th string
• Minor pentatonic scales: The candidate must prepare all positions and the examiner will ask two consecutive positions

Group B Arpeggios 2 octaves to be prepared chromatically in the keys C-E, root note 5th string
• Major arpeggios
• Minor arpeggios
• Minor 7 arpeggios
• Dominant 7 arpeggios

Group C Chords
• Root 5th string barre chords: C, Dm, Em7, F, G. Play as a continuous sequence

Group D Legato Study. Candidates should prepare the eight bar legato study to be performed with the backing track.

Doesn't sound too bad... but I don't know how I'll play in an exam type situation! Realistically, passing the exam is secondary to getting something out of the course for me.

Rockschool homework...? Been trying to learn all the notes on all the strings. It's not easy to do without resorting to some kind of 'relative' methodology, such as knowing that if you skip two frets down then two frets over, then if that's a C on the A-string then it's a C on the G string... just have to keep plugging away at it I guess. I learned the A-string by remembering that the 3rd, 5th and 7th frets were C, D and E respectively. Once you know that, everything else falls into place. Brain exploding... Danger Will Robinson, Danger!

Maybe I should just stick a crib sheet on the back of my guitar in case we get tested this week!

November 9, 2008

Song For School

Okay, so it's not ROCK, but here's the little song I wrote for class. The brief was to pick a key, use the 'magic decoder ring' method for getting the chords, strum a simple rhythm and then add a melody over the top. On this version I also noodled in the middle for hell of it.

November 7, 2008

Rockschool Week 4

First week back after half term. Only five people there this time. Everyone else sick, it seems!

Okay, so 'the syllabus' took an interesting turn! Rather than shoot for Grade 3 as we were previously told, we've now been informed that we can actually study for and take any exam we want to! How does that work in group sessions, where everybody'll be aiming for different levels? No clue! The main difference off the bat is that WAES will order each of us the appropriate study guide. I'm guessing that we'll effectively become self-starters and refer any queries to teach. All very odd.

I'm thinking I'm going to shoot for Grade 5... maybe 4. Depends on what Teach thinks. I'm going to email him in a bit to ask for his opinion. When I've chosen I guess I'll post the study guide here.

Last night's lesson was primarily a show-and-tell of the 'simple songs' we wrote over half term. We paired up, learned each other's rhythm part then played lead over our own compositions. It seems that the concept of 'simple' was somewhat lost on one of our more talented students, but damn, did it sound good with Teach backing him up!

With just minutes to spare at the end of the two hour session Teach threw in some new (to me) arpeggios, the blues scale (been there, done that) and a rethink of the extended pentatonic. His approach is to split the guitar into three sets of two strings, then to use the same octave (so five notes) pattern on each set.

In tab, that'd look like this for the A minor pentatonic (note that you don't start on the root note):

e ---------------------------------------8-10/12--
B ---------------------------------8-10-----------
G ----------------------5-7/9---------------------
D -----------------5-7----------------------------
A ------3-5/7-------------------------------------
E --3-5-------------------------------------------

So, same exact fingering and same notes means that the same lick with work for each position, an octave apart. That says to me that he's hinting that the first four notes make a useful box, with the fifth being just a bend or slide away.

On top of that, for homework we have to record and learn our jam partner's song... PLUS...

P-L-U-S... that we've learned the notes on the E and A-strings, we have to learn the other strings, too... in a week... STRETCH TARGET OR WHAT?!?!?

Oh well, at least tonight I get the night off from work, school and so on. I'm off to see my band's lead singer play with her 'other band', Toxic Slut! Punk in Islington! Whatever next?

November 5, 2008

Exciting Times!

Okay, so Obama has won the 2008 US Presidential election with a landslide. Doesn't need a recount. No point in complaining that it was too close to call. He even won in FLORIDA! All done and dusted, time to get on with it.

The world turns. It's another day.

All the election hype rather overshadowed the other major event of yesterday, though. What was it? I shall tell you!

Maybe I won't...

Maybe I will...

Oh, alright. I will. The Derek Trucks Band released their first single from their hotly anticipated (by me) new album, "Already Free", which is due out in the new year. It's on digital download (probably a smart marketing move, though a little too techie for me).

From the band's website:

The new DTB single "Down in the Flood" will be available through iTunes and all major digital music providers Nov. 4, a little taste for those of you eagerly awaiting the new dTb studio album Already Free (due in stores Jan '09).

Already Free was self-produced by Derek at his new home studio in Jacksonville. In addition to the core members of the dTb, the album offers collaborations with a close circle of family and friends including Doyle Bramhall II, Oteil Burbridge, Susan Tedeschi, Duane Trucks and more. The album came to life organically in Derek's backyard as friends stopped by to write and rehearse in the new studio. Derek explained in a recent interview: "When we went in the studio originally it was just to write and kind of get comfortable in the space. It wasn't to do a record, so there was no pressure. There were some times when everybody would go out to dinner and I would stay behind. If I got an idea, I would run into the control room, hit 'play,' then run out into the recording room and set up a mic. You'd hear this thing banging around and then this guitar part comes in. A lot of the album was completely done by the seat of our pants, and a lot of the sounds we got, it was just so in the moment."

Original material makes up a major part of this record, largely due to a luxury Derek isn't used to: time off. His hectic schedule finally opened a window for Derek to write at home with band mates and friends. "Everyday I would get up, and me or Susan would drive our two kids to school," Derek says. "I'd come back, have some coffee and then head to the studio and start messing around with a guitar and hope a song idea appeared. Somehow without fail, there was at least a song written every day, or some great cover idea that came to us and we recorded it. So there was a good three or four-week period where every day we were writing and recording a song. That was different for me." In addition to the wealth of original material on Already Free there are some choice cover songs interpreted and revived as only the dTb can do, including the single being released in November. "Down in the Flood," from Bob Dylan and the Band's Basement Tapes, is a tune that may have more portent now than when Dylan wrote it in 1967. "That was one that was kind of an afterthought," admits Derek. "We just went in and tracked it. I think it really turned out to be one of the most powerful songs on the album. Lyrically, it's pretty timely. Crash on the levee, down in the flood, are significant post-Katrina. They are good metaphors, as there are in most Dylan tunes."

So, two big memos-to-yourselves on November 4th: 1) Participate in democracy by casting your vote, and 2) check out "Down in the Flood" for some fresh dTb!

For me, the dTb has always been about live performance, so it'll be interesting to see how this new work from Derek's own home studio comes out. I have to say I love the sound of the recording process. I must remember to pop around to his place for dinner sometime. Maybe I'll end up inspriring a song or two on his next (or the one after... or the one after that) album.

You never know...

November 4, 2008

Super Tuesday... not necessarily so super.

Work. Ugh. I'm not catching a break right now. Haven't had much time for playing guitar, let alone updating this blog.


I'm just gonna force myself to put something down here RIGHT NOW, even if it's a bit unfocused.

Okay, so it's Super Tuesday TODAY! Got an email from the Allman Brothers today about it. Went like this:

"Tuesday we will elect the next President of the United States. The result will have great consequences for the nation.

"This election offers a choice between two men with dramatically different visions of the future. We have strong feelings about this choice. But we feel even more strongly that all Americans, regardless of political preference, have a stake in the outcome and should vote in this critical election.

"This is likely to be a close election. Your vote matters. Please use it and make a difference."

Okay, so it wasn't directly to me, but it was a mailshot from the band. I thought it was kind of cool that they pulled the ol' 'vote for who you want, but make sure you vote' line. I think I know who they're planning on voting for given they just played a benefit concert in support of one of the candidates.

You know, I just hope that this time around there's a clear winner so that the world doesn't have to go through the whole waiting game that we did last time and the time before. Times are stressful enough as it is. Truth be told, I've deliberately stuck my head in the ground (politically) over the last few weeks so as to avoid the inevitable last minute nonsense.

Onto more musical things...

I have to pull my finger out TONIGHT and do my half-term Rockschool homework. I've done some of it, but not all. It's basically in three parts.

1) List 5 songs that use 4 or less chords (so that we can analyse their structure later). I think I've chosen:

"Mr Tambourine Man" by Bob Dylan
"Taylor" by Jack Johnson
"Wild Thing" by the Troggs
"Land of Canaan" by the Indigo Girls
"Strange Brew" by Cream

Pretty random choice, I know.

2) Write a song in a major key using the tools we've been taught. The song should consist of a verse, chorus and bridge, with rhythm (to be demonstrated) and melody (to be tabbed). During class we'll partner up, teach/learn each other's song and then perform together. I have my chords and some melody, but I've not written any of it down in a meaningful format.

3) Revise previous materials for a fun spot test. Yeah, right... we'll see how that one goes on the fly, I guess. I'm going to have my hands full with 2) tonight.

Rockschool's not until Thursday, but tomorrow night looks like a busy one already.

What else? Jammed a bit on electric at the weekend, inbetween trips into the office and catching up on sleep. Started to try and groove "One Way Out" Allmans-stylee for a laugh. The Band (who I've not heard from in a few days...!) aren't likely to buy into doing the song, but I've always liked the intro riff and it's good string-skipping, pulling off and double-note practice. Hey, it's also a three chord song! Hey, maybe I should swap out one of my 5 above...

Hey ho... on Friday I plan on going along to our lead singer's 'other band' gig (she's on guitar/backing vox). Here's the flyer!

The only shag is that I have to be up really early on Saturday, so alcoholic imbibulation will be at a minimum.

November 2, 2008

Magic Ship @ The Half Moon, Putney

Rocked. Absolutely.

Check out Col's blog for pictures of the gig, here. They had the crowd from the get-go. Grabbed hold and didn't let go.

Tim actually summed up Magic Ship's performance much better than I could. His take on the show was that the band took their own original material and 100% sold every number in a way that was accessable, even to someone who hadn't heard the songs before.

When Col asked me what I thought over an after-show beer I let him know that they really hit it on every song. The only tune that felt like it needed a little more was "LoveTel Motel", the title track from the band's debut album. Funny thing, that, replied Col... somehow he'd managed to turn the volume down on his guitar and he couldn't get it turned back on! Showed the versatility of Sam, lead guitarist and co-singer. He carried the tune and nobody really noticed!

Way to go Magic Ship. Knocked it out of the park!

In celeb news, rubbed shoulders, metaphorically, with Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters on Saturday night. He was special guest at Justin Bond's show, "Lustre" at the Soho theatre and was mingling with Joe Public afterwards. Seemed very down to earth despite being an international recording artist. It's nice to know that celebs are real people, too. No, I didn't talk to him... what would I say, anyway?

October 30, 2008


I so need a break. Work is driving me INSANE! I'm stuck with using some software which not only doesn't work, but it doesn't not work in the same way twice, if that makes sense! Errors are not reproduceable. Imagine, for one moment, that you were lumbered with a calculator which not only would not give the same result twice for the same calculation, but which was churlish enough to switch itself off at random.

Magnify 1000 times and you have a measure of my frustration.

What it means is that I've had to spend more time with 'real' work the past fortnight than I have with guitar, life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

About my only advancement is that I now think I've got the chord changes down on Oasis' "Supersonic". It seems that the tab I had was woefully incorrect (or at least incomplete), which meant that I was switching back to the verse before the guitar solos ended. D'Oh! I had planned on spending the whole of this evening playing, but as I've just been asked to work all weekend, that may not happen as I'd rather work now and play later... I have plans for Friday night, all of Saturday and possibly Sunday night, which doesn't leave much time for being a slave to the wage.

Looking forward to the Magic Ship gig tomorrow night (Friday 31st, Half Moon in Putney). Should be good. I'm certainly not going to miss that for work!!!! I managed to miss both their debut gig and the warmup for this one, so I'm two for nothing, coming into the third.

Okay, well that was my break. Back to it, I guess...

Oh, and it's half term at WAES Rockschool, so no class tonight, plus our band couldn't find a suitable rehearsal space this week, so it'll be next week before we get together for Round 2!

October 27, 2008

Songwriting Using A Magic Decoder Ring

In my last post I mentioned that I have to write a simple song over Rockschool half term and that Teach showed us a simple way to find the major and minor chords in any major key, using the guitar as a magic decoder ring.

Over the weekened I had a crack and it and found that something surprising happened. In previous songwriting attempts I've always thrown loads of chord changes in, occasionally switching voicings on the fly and so on. My approach wasn't very structured in that I'd strum a chord then think "what would sound good after that?". When I sat down and applied Teach's method, first by strumming the I-IV-V majors) followed by the VI-II-III (minors) I obviously had a much more limited palette. Now, we're allowed to modify the chords for our song, but the point is to think about what we're doing logically rather than haphazardly.

So, I screwed around with various chord patterns, but ended up basically coming back to an 8-bar format using I-IIIm-V.

Erm... I think I was in the key of A...

|  A  | C#m |  A  | C#m |
|  A  | C#m |  E  |  E  |

Something like that. Rather than playing full chords I was plucking and slapping the strings a bit using three fingers making an 'E major' shape, which I guess means that the chords were actually inversions. Sounded very cool and relaxing. You get tension building from the switch from the major I to the minor III, with an 'optimistic' sounding partial release when you hit the V.

I need to fool around with it more, but it sounds like a decent start to a pretty little etherial tune...

Oh, and based on Col of Axevictim's recommendation I invested in a Korg Pitchblack tuner yesterday. A very cool little device! Easy to use. Does exactly what it says on the tin.

October 24, 2008

WAES Rockschool, Week #3 (I Think!?!)

We're coming into half term, so we have a break next week. That's probably a good thing, given how my work life is killing me at the moment. REAL LIFE SUCKS! If you get the chance, learn guitar young, become the mysterious sexy one in a band, act like an delinquent a-hole and ride that ticket all the way. Seriously. It's the best advice that career officers won't give you at school.


Rockschool! I have to say I'm liking Teach's style more and more. He has this insightful 'cut to the punchline' kind of methodology. You're there to learn music but look, there's a guitar in your hands, let's use that to figure this stuff out.

Case and point: last night was about starting to look at song structure with a view to writing our own material. First up... what's a major key and how do you find the basic chords within that key?

Did he start with the whole interval thing as most do? Nope. His approach was basically to say that if you want to play the major chords in a key, find the E-shape barre chord with that root note. Easy. That's your I. Directly below it is your IV chord in the A-shape. Two frets up from the IV is the V, again in A-shape. What's the I-IV-V? Basic structure for many, many songs. Now, anyone who's played for a while could tell you that, but what about the minor chords? Well, without going into the ins and outs of relative minors, modes and all that he basically said 'don't use your brain, use your guitar'.

To find the minor chords, start from the I, move down 3 frets and in the Em shape, that's your VI. Follow the same procedure of playing the Am shape beneath it then moving up two frets and there are your II and III chords. So, if you're composing, you have 6 of the 7 fundamental chords in that key. How about the VII? The diminished one? Not writing a jazz song? Don't worry about it for now.

So, in the space of 5 minutes he gave us budding songmeisters the tools for writing a song in any major key, using the guitar as a kind of 'magic decoder ring' type affair. For me it was a great revelation. I knew all the theory already, but having it circumvented to get people writing songs right off the bat? Very cool.

Over half term we have to each write a simple song using that technique... chords for verse, bridge, chorus, the rhythm and a melody. Next time we'll pair up, teach our partner our song, learn theirs and then perform them.

It may all seem very rudimentary, but sometimes getting back to basics is a great way of moving forward.

October 23, 2008

The Band With No Name?

Actually, we may have a name, but it's a working title so no hints right now.

This is us... the motley crew!

Let me introduce you. From right to left we have:

Rich: bass
Jo: vox and Pretty Kitty slinger
Jonathan: drums
Bo: guitar
Ken: guitar

Last night was our first time playing together so none of us knew what to expect. Overall it didn't go too badly. It became pretty clear early on that everyone else has put lots of work into practice, learning the songs in terms of chords, leads, changes and so on over the past week. I hadn't had the time to nail the changes so I was playing catchup. I also hadn't had time to learn "Strange Brew" so Bo stepped up and taught me how he plays the song on the fly then took the lead.

Let me just say that I needn't have had any worries about whether the other guys could play. They certainly can.

"I Wanna Be Your Dog" (The Stooges) went well from the get-go. "Supersonic" (Oasis) took a couple of run-throughs but wasn't too bad overall. "Wild Thing" (The Troggs) was a fun interlude. Even though I'd not learned it, "Strange Brew" went strangely well, as did a few little jams we had along the way.

I was really not in the zone when I first got there. About 30 minutes into the session, though, the other guys took off for a fag break. I stayed behind, closed my eyes and just noodled. Click. Found it. Things started to work.

Looks like everyone was happy with the band so we're going to keep at it!

Rock-stardom on the horizon [cough]? Don't know. What I do know is that I'm a million miles from where I was at the start of The Project, holding my own in a band-type-situation. For once I'm actually kinda proud of myself!

October 21, 2008

All Work...

And no playing, makes Ken a very frustrated boy.

Work is sucking so hard right now. No time for any fun. Companies who release software with so many bugs that it makes us poor saps want to go postal should be held accountable!

First band practice tomorrow. Haven't played since the weekend.

October 19, 2008

Random Post... Online Metronome

I usually steer clear of online metronomes as they often suffer from slowdown with CPU load. Having said that, in this day and age, practicing in front of a computer seems to be 'de rigeur' given all the lessons etc on YouTube. What with Rockschool I've been reintroducing 'rigorous practice' into my routine, which means that I needed to get back in step with a ticker. I've got a couple of physical ones but they're clunky to use. Google just found an online one that I actually get on with!

Check it out here.

October 17, 2008

Rockschool Week #2

Okay, so the 'situation' with Rockschool became a lot clearer last night. From what I gathered, for WAES to get funding from Rockschool themselves (or the study materials, accreditation etc at a reduced rate at least) they needed the numbers. Not enough people? Sorry... pay full price per student. With two new folks joining in this week we have a full compliment and we are ready to ROCK!

Rockschool isn't specifically about rock, though. It's more about popular music of any type... y'know, giving you the building blocks to play and write songs. Funding is available up to the Grade 3 level, so that's the exam we're shooting for at the end of the school year in June. To get to Grade 3, we'll quickly run through the other grades, too.

Here's a more detailed guide:

Grade 1
These should be played at 80 beats per minute (bpm) in a straight feel: quarter notes.

Group A Scales 1 octave
• C major scale
• A natural minor scale
• E & A minor pentatonic scales

Group B Chords:
• Power chords: B5, A5, G5 Two note chords to be played as a continuous sequence
• Major chords: A, D & E
• Minor chords: Am, Dm & Em

Group C Riff. The riff is played over a four bar backing track. The initial riff pattern is given and candidates are asked to complete the riff by playing the same pattern over a different chord in the subsequent three bars.

Grade 2
These should be played at 100 bpm in a straight feel: quarter notes

Group A Scales 1 octave
• C & G major scales
• E & A natural minor scale
• C & G minor pentatonic scales

Group B Chords:
• Power chords: B5, A5, G5 Three note chords to be played as a continuous sequence
• Major chords: C, F & G
• Minor chords: Am7, Dm7 & Em7

Group C Riff. The riff is played over an eight bar backing track. The initial riff pattern is given (two bars) and candidates are asked to complete the riff by moving the same pattern on to the indicated root of a different chord over the subsequent bars.

Grade 3
These should be played at 60 bpm in a straight feel: eighth notes

Group A Scales 2 octaves to be prepared in the keys of G, A and B
• Major scales
• Natural minor scale
• Minor pentatonic scales
• Blues Scales

Group B Arpeggios 2 octaves to be prepared in the keys of G, A and B
• Major arpeggios
• Minor arpeggios

Group C Chords:
• Barre chords: G, Am, Bm to be played as a continuous sequence
• Dominant 7 chords: A7, C7, D7 & E7 to be prepared in open position or in barre chord form

Group D Riff. The riff is played over an eight bar backing track. The initial riff pattern is given (two bars) and candidates are asked to complete the riff by moving the same pattern on to the indicated root of a different chord over the subsequent bars.

Right, so... I should already be good to jump into a Grade 3 exam and pass with flying colours. When you list it out, it sounds like a lot of stuff, but it really isn't. Similar patterns in different places on the neck.

BUT... that doesn't mean I'm jaded about the whole thing. Oh no! First thing to say is that "Teach" is really good. I was impressed with his style last week, and this week he continued to move the group along at a pace yet zone in on individual difficulties. He's got a great attitude and has ready answers for all our questions. He's basically said that he's going to teach us the syllabus but also give us lots of extra useful stuff on the side.

The biggest thing I learned last night was that my right hand technique sucks! I learned to play in isolation, back in the days before YouTube... in fact I started even before the internet was born! How scary is that?!?!

Anyway, so I started off playing by anchoring my right hand to the guitar using my ring and pinkie fingers, placed on the pickguard (I had a Squier Strat) below the high E. That's not bad per se, but it means your hand is doing all kinds of stuff it really doesn't need to. If I needed to palm mute I'd move it back and down onto the strings pretty haphazardly. In the fullness of time I taught myself to lift my fingers off the guitar body and use the inside of my forearm as a location point instead, with my hand hovering over the strings. Again, not bad but in sweaty situations it kind of leads to positioning mistakes. My view on playing an instrument is that as long as you're consistently getting the sound you want out of it then that's fine. There are things that you can do to help yourself, though.

Teach suggested that we use the bridge (or at least the strings between the bridge and the tail-piece) as a locator, then if we needed to mute, just pull our right hands forward. Sounds good. Feels weird, obviously, as it's something 'different', but clearly gives much more control and positional accuracy. Put that on the list for homework! I think my wayward right hand technique probably explains why I have difficulty getting up to speed when picking as I invariably lose accuracy. I'm now keen as mustard to get back into practicing scales etc so that I can unlearn that particular bad habit.

The next thing on 'homework' was a repeating pentatonic exercise. Play first 4 notes in box position 1 then loop back to note number 1. Repeat 4 times then start on note 3 and repeat up through 2 and a bit octaves. I know a few pentatonic drills but somehow I missed that one. Obviously when you get the the high E-string you turn around and go back down in reverse.

Oh, and strumming/muting! I've always relied on my left hand lifting off pressure to mute when strumming. Teach explained that you really want it to be a combination of right and left hand muting, so to practice both techniques. I'm really crap at right hand muting when strumming, so I need to practice, practice, practice!

That's the thing about playing guitar... you think you're getting good then BAM, you realise that in some areas you totally suck! You also realise that small changes can make a huge difference. Frankly, if I manage to change my right hand technique and it improves my picking then the course will have been worth the price of entry just for that!

It was one hell of a busy day yesterday. Work then two hours of class then an hour at the gym. In my few spare minutes I managed to look into The Band songlist a bit more, checking out YouTube vids, tabs etc. "Strange Brew" is really turning me on at the moment. I'm dying to try the rhythm part on the electric. "My Generation" looks deceptively simple but I've not had the chance to actually try it yet... oh, and I found a neat video lesson on how to play "Jumpin' Jack Flash" in standard tuning and still make is sound roughly like the Stones' studio recording. It seems like originally it was probably played in an open tuning (G?) and that's how Keef does it live these days. The Band had already discussed whether we should consider doing any covers in open tunings at the meeting on Wednesday and decided that we'd try to avoid them for now as we don't want to be screwing around tuning up guitars onstage...


Hmmm... let's ponder on that a moment...

Let's hope we get that far, eh? I started wondering whether we may actually get out there before the New Year after all. Jo's (the singer) other band have been booked all over the place and she seems to think she'd have no problem getting us in somewhere at very short notice if we can get our crap in a sock (pardon my French!). God, I so hope we can all actually play! It'll totally bite if we're all really keen but we can't get it together. I guess we'll find out what chance we have in under a week!

On that subject, there was a funny moment at the meetup. Bo, the other guitarist was saying that he didn't know what open tunings were, which set off alarm bells as that's pretty basic stuff. I started to wonder whether he knows what he's doing... then we started talking songlists and he expressed a preference for "All Along The Watchtower" over "Foxy Lady" as he could 'already play it'. If he can already play some Hendrix then baby, youse in da band! Hell, you can even stand right up front if you wanna!!!

Other 'Band' news. Rich (bass) says he's been writing loads of lyrics this past week. Will they be good? We'll see! He seems fired up about them, which is great. Him and Jo also seem really keen to choose a band name sooner rather than later. Seems like early days to me, but hey, if they're out there buzzing with ideas then that's a good thing, right? Creativity isn't something you should put on the backburner.

So, this weekend's likely to be pretty guitar intensive. Gotta nail those riffs. Can't be the one who lets the team down.