And now onto 2024...
Merry Christmas everybody! I hope you’ve all had a nice break. Just like that, we’re already through Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and onto the days leading up to New Years Eve.
I always feel like I try to plan absolutely nothing on these interim days, to varying degrees of success. If my family and I end up not planning much with relatives or friends, I always hope to feel like I can melt into the sofa, eat about 65 boxes of Roses and try not to feel too restless!
Sometimes I have gigs scattered across these days, but this year it’s just the solitary one - the staple NYE gig. More on this particular gig later though…
What’s all this then?
Oh yes - I should probably introduce what’s going on here. This is the first edition of a monthly blog i’ll be posting to my students. You’ll see it first in our Discord area and then it’ll make its way to the dedicated blog area of my website. I plan to post these at the end of each month, so keep your eyes peeled!
I’ll be covering a range of topics in these posts including guitar and gear news, reviews, music recommendations and my general thoughts on the status quo (and Status Quo) of my gigging and session work.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking around! I hope this becomes an interesting feature of our tuition and something to look forward to each month. So where do we start?
Well, seeing as it’s December - a time to reflect back and plan forward, I thought it’d be apt to kick things off with a bit of a review of 2023 and a look ahead into 2024.
Some lovely shots from my 2023 gig travels. Left: Fowey, Cornwall. Centre: Battersea, London. Right: Epping, Essex.
Firstly, thank you!
I’d like to start by saying thank you to you - my students. I really value your custom and I hope you feel that we’ve made tracks towards getting you towards your goals! It is my genuine pleasure to be able to help you make progress on your technical, theoretical and stylistic development. I really value my one-to-one tuition. I love analysing technique and working on its application to your favourite songs and styles.
It’s been great to see every student develop their playing significantly over the year, so a huge well done to you all. I’m excited to get back to work with all my students in the new year and continue to push through the technical challenges that contemporary guitar playing can present.
I’d like to give a big shout out to my young students too, who this year took part in my inaugural guitar showcase! In September, I organised a performance for their family and friends to come along to and the children absolutely owned the songs they’d been working so hard on. Every student conquered their nerves, rose to the challenge and put in an awesome performance! They were actually incredible and i’m looking forward to doing it all again soon.
Above: the stage all set for my young students guitar showcase (September '23)!
On the road again…
What a whirlwind! It’s been a long, tough year of work for me this year. I’ve totalled it up at 147 gigs all in all (excluding video shoots and studio sessions), which includes everything from wedding band, corporate event band, party band, wedding acoustic duo, wedding solo acoustic and other various live session gigs. I’ve been everywhere from Cornwall and Devon up to Carlisle and Derbyshire, recently noticing i’ve put 58,000 miles on my car over the last two years. Crazy!
Left: a typical action shot. Centre: limping this thing to Birmingham with the injectors packing up. Right: well, pretty self explanatory! Taken sometime between gigs in July.
My favourite gigs of the year include a session gig I did for Buskerteers Choir at the Palace Theatre, Southend. Performing songs for a theatre full of people singing along was truly something special. You can check what that looked like by following this link here:
Above: photos from 'Big Busk' - a Buskerteers Choir performance at Palace Theatre, Southend (March '23).
I also had some fantastic band gigs with my main band Happy Hour. We played at lots of lovely weddings, but I always really enjoy and look forward to the corporate gig season of December. Those gigs are always really fancy with a big stage and AV team handling the big PA system! One particular favourite was held this month for the Nursing Workforce Awards at the Hilton Metropole in Edgware, London. The crowd were awesome and partied all the way till 1am on a Tuesday night!
Above: action shots from Happy Hour's gig at the Nursing Workforce Awards, London (December '23).
I’ve done lots of solo acoustic gigs at weddings and events this year too. It’s great to perform solo - there’s no hiding and you really have to nail the rhythmic feel and harmony in your acoustic performance. You can of course share that responsibility in a band, so vocal and guitar practise is a must if you’re on your own! It’s a big responsibility to perform at a couple’s wedding, especially if it’s the wedding ceremony and first dance.
My partner Emma and I have managed to do a few gigs this year - we usually do a number of weddings and events over the year but whilst she’s been busy training to be a teacher and i’ve been very busy with other gigging, we’ve not performed our usual amount. But we did get time for a lovely Christmas wine bar gig this month which was special. Emma is a world class vocalist and the festive jazz numbers are always so fun to play with her singing!
Left: Emma and I ready for a ceremony! Centre: our set up at another wedding. Right: a solo acoustic set at a wedding in Essex.
What’s in store for 2024?
Looking ahead into the new year, there’s lots to be excited about for our tuition. As you may have heard mentioned during lessons, i’ve got some exciting additional features to our lessons in the works. Keep an eye out for news on some cool digital content coming your way - exclusively for students, as well as some let’s say ‘events’ being planned!
One of the main exciting things is the forthcoming construction of my new tuition studio, which during it’s planning phase is shaping up to be a world-class guitar tuition space. High-end professional gear and innovative learning tools will assist you in achieving the goals you’ve always wished for as an aspiring guitarist. And let’s just say there may be some other very interesting features integrated too…
As for my gigging work - well, the start of the year is looking quiet as it usually does. As a professional musician, you may often see last minute work come in for corporate gigs and bar/restaurant gigs around this time of year. That usually happens across January and February. My trio band Viva tend to pick up a few casino bar gigs in London too, which are great fun because we can bust out the chilled bluesy/soul jams we love playing!
Left: digging in at a wedding! Centre: following the chart at an accompaniment gig. Right: Richie up to his usual antics!
The back end of March is where the wedding gigs start to pick up again and then bang! It’s all systems go from May onwards. For me this year though, I have worked out a new plan to keep our tuition schedule ticking along healthily alongside my gigging work, so i’m looking forward to balancing things out nicely and keeping our tuition together consistent. After all, consistency is key!
My favourites this year!
Here’s a quick snapshot of my favourites this year! There’s probably loads i’ve forgotten, but here’s what I can recall for now.
My Favourite Song of 2023
Turnover - Cutting My Fingers Off
I’ve become somewhat addicted to this album (Peripheral Vision, 2015). I didn’t suspect that I'd end up loving it as much as I do. There’s a few reasons why, I think.
It’s got that British indie sound which is very reminiscent of the sort of bands that I've written music in, so there’s a nostalgic feel to it. But there’s also this dreamy, ethereal sound which is so well produced with layers of reverb on the instruments (particularly vocals), perfectly mixed. I also think for the band themselves, it’s such a departure from their previous pop-punk/’midwest’ emo sound (one of my favourite styles) that it’s just captivating and interesting to hear a band make a huge change in the sound.
I’ve always ended up doing full listen throughs on this album at nice times, particularly over the course of this busy year! Relaxing drives home from gigs, going away, chilling out indoors - so it’s probably the association with that too.
This particular song has emerged as one of my favourites.
My Favourite Riff of 2023
Intervals - Lock & Key
Aaron Marshall is well known in the guitar community for producing phenomenal instrumental guitar music under his project name ‘Intervals’. Coming from the ashes of a full band with a vocalist, over the course of a decade he’s released several albums himself which are packed full of innovative and interesting lead guitar melodies and thunderous metal-inspired band backing tracks.
Quite simply, he is an absolutely awesome guitarist with possibly the best left hand technique i’ve ever seen. His clinical playing and refined technique gives way for intricate melodies to shine and this is reflected in his song Lock & Key.
The intro riff is a fantastic demonstration of ‘hybrid’ picking, where you pick with the plectrum as well as pluck the B string with your 2nd finger. Using stretching major and minor ‘add9’ chords (similar to chord shapes used by Andy Summers of The Police), a fresh and driving melody is carved out against a powerful rhythmic backing.
My Favourite Live Performance of 2023
Plini - Handmade Cities (Live)
A lot of you probably know about my obsession over Plini - an Australian guitarist who like Aaron Marshall (mentioned above), heads his own instrumental guitar project. After all, Plini is one of the main reasons I bought myself a Strandberg guitar recently!
Plini oozes cool and composure, especially when he performs live. You’re watching a master at work here as he performs his song Handmade Cities, taken from the 2016 album of the same name.
Packed full of intriguing lead melodies, challenging polyrhythms and dynamic shifts, it’s a wonderful rollercoaster to listen to. In this live video, it’s performed absolutely immaculately from the quartet and includes an outrageous drum solo by Troy Wright at the end. Bass player Simon Grove gets a cheeky bass solo mid-song which is really cool! As he is also a renowned producer and engineer, it’s no wonder he got his hands on the raw audio files and mixed them himself to help produce this excellent live performance video.
That’s all for now…
As suspected, this first blog has turned out to be quite long and mostly me talking about myself! But fear not - we’ve always got so much to discuss as guitarists and musicians, so expect to see some interesting topics tackled over the year’s blogs.
Have a lovely rest of your Christmas break and see you on the other side!