Overdubbing Guitar

The other day I decided to take half a dozen of my short original tunes and see what could be done by overdubbing some additional parts.  All sounds were made using one guitar, and everything was recorded onto a Tascam multitrack via a Roland amp.

The first track, Workin’ All Night (the title is a slight exaggeration!) is an attempt to bring some funk to a drumless setting.  I recorded a rhythm guitar part to the left channel, a bassline to the right and the main lead line somewhere in between.  To simulate a bass drum kick on beats two and four I turned up the bass frequencies and patted the three lowest guitar strings.  Pick scraping on the sixth string helped to allude to a kind of vinyl scratching effect, and a separate track with phaser helped to simulate an organ sound for the chorus.

Microcosm is more of a laid-back, open-ended jazz groove with the melody dead centre, rhythm guitar panned to the left, palm-muted bassline to the right and the phaser for sustained chords.

Skimming Stones tries to evoke that pastime with the bounce of the rhythm and the use of different phrase lengths.  This time there are two rhythm guitar tracks panned far left and right.  The first played fingerstyle, and taking care of the bass notes, the second played with the pick.  The lead line occupies the space between the two.

Blues Amble is taken at an appropriately leisurely pace.  A bassline is played on the low strings of the guitar.  There are once again two rhythm guitar parts to support the melodic line, the second of these parts provides tremolo chords during the solo.

Anthem For K.B. makes use of a few extra tracks.  In addition to the rhythm and lead guitar parts, there is also a phased bassline, designed to reference more of a fretless sound.  The phaser is employed for chords in another channel, and other tracks are used for percussive effects such as muted strumming and fretboard bongo tapping!  The K.B. in question is Kenny Burrell – the first jazz guitarist I ever heard – on a CD borrowed from the library back when they had a pretty good collection.

Lazy Evening is the last of the six tunes.  It’s my homage to soul music and in particular guitar players such as Steve Cropper, Cornell Dupree and Teenie Hodges – players whose subtle contributions added so much to the appeal of 60’s & 70’s soul music.  I played the whole piece as a solo track (left channel), then added some touches on top.  These include the right channel rhythm guitar, the basslines, a touch of approximately simulated organ, and a short guitar solo.  Later on, for the minor-key change, two more lines were added, and then panned left and right.  These are single note reinforcements of the 6ths which were present already in the original guitar part.



Upcoming Premiere

On Saturday 23rd January 2016 the superb guitarist Jonathan Parkin will perform two of my works as part of an exciting classical guitar recital at St Mary with St Alban in Teddington.  The first of these is Espejitos, a piece commissioned by Jonny back in 2013 and performed by him at several venues since.  The second is the world premiere of my Five Ukrainian Preludes.  The concert will also feature pieces by Bach, Dowland and Spanish composer Antonio Jose.  The concert starts at 7.30pm.  Tickets are £8 on the door or £6 if you reserve your ticket in advance through me.  (See contact page for email address)

Cocaine Nights in Rehearsal

Yesterday we had our third rehearsal for Cocaine Nights. A couple of people were deputising, and for them it was the first time they’d seen their parts. Gareth Trott can just about be glimpsed in the grainy photo playing the French horn part on Euphonium, not the easiest task (out of shot are the bass, drums, trumpet and trombone). The other day he also covered the trombone part!  Charlie Jackson helped out with conducting.

Charlie conducting a tricky bit

Cocaine Nights Project

At the moment I’m working on a twenty minute chamber piece which is intended to be a musical portrait of the novel Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard.  The idea is to extrapolate moods and themes from the book, and allow its narrative to influence the structure of the work.  Although it is impossible to directly represent the content of a novel in a piece of instrumental music, it is nevertheless interesting to see how it can generate different ways of thinking about musical material, and lead to all sorts of abstract parallels. The piece will be performed on Tuesday the 12th of May at RWCMD.  Further details to follow…

Distortions Receives Marvellous First Performance

Distortions was well received after its first performance last Thurs (5th Feb) at Chapter Arts Centre, in the gallery containing Karen Mirza & Brad Butler’s video work The Unreliable Narrator.  It was extremely rewarding to hear the piece played so well, and to be able to hear it in situ, surrounded by the powerful artwork that inspired it.  The performers were Sam Baxter (oboe), Darius Gray (clarinet/bass clarinet), Beatrice Newman (cello) and Harriet Riley (percussion).  Each did an excellent job, and I’m looking  forward to them making a studio recording of the piece.

Premier of Distortions

This Thurs (5th Feb) my piece Distortions will be performed at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.  The work is a response to a video installation by Karen Mirza and Brad Butler entitled The Unreliable Narrator, which features in the Artes Mundi 6 exhibition.

The duo’s artwork deals with the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks which lasted for four days and left the city scarred.  Mirza and Butler compiled CCTV footage, recordings of terrorist phone calls, video of the terrorists interrogation, and scenes from a Bollywood film based on the events which took place.  Over the top sounds the voice of a female narrator.  The work highlights the ways in which a tragic event can become a media circus, leaving people in doubt as to which version of events to believe, and giving rise to the question of who is in control:  The terrorists or the media.

Distortions is scored for a quartet of oboe, clarinet doubling bass clarinet, cello and percussion.