Trying a little Romeo and Juliet …

… and struggling before I’ve even got started.

Unfortunately I’ve not been blessed with long, slim and strong fingers which I guess would be the ideal guitar playing.  Instead I’ve got little hands with stumpy fingers; these fingers are becoming a proper pain in the arse!

I’ve been a Dire Straits fan for as long as I can remember thanks to my dad.  Blimey, he did love to sit in front of his stereo and flap his slipper on the end of his foot to their music.  This is a habit that I seem to have picked up now he is no longer with us.

One of my favourite tracks is Romeo and Juliet.  I love the tempo, the sounds of the dobro guitar; it’s an easy song to get lost in.  My sister and I chose it as the track of reflection at his funeral and I recall thinking at that time that I must learn to play it.  10 years down the road and not a lot of practice later I’ve decided it’s time.  Acoustic in hand and tuned to Open G I signed up to 6 months of Lick Library membership to give this, and a few other songs a go.  Unfortunately my hands aren’t on my side right now!

The opening chord is a barre and I just can’t get it right!  My third finger keeps deadening the string below it and no matter how much I adjust I just can’t get it right.   On top of that it all gets a little uncomfortable after a few moments of trying to twist myself around the chord and my thumb starts to hurt.   I’m guessing a little practice often may be the key.

…here’s the master making it look easy back in ’96.

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A Supersonic NGD

I had a strange day yesterday.  Well possibly not entirely strange in the true scale of strange, lets just call it a small awakening of some kind.  In a way I guess the start of all this is a significant change that took place recently in my work life; I was made redundant and have recently started a new job closer to home.  I now find myself with much more spare time in the mornings and evenings.  With this I’ve found it much easier to listen to music as I commute by train instead of drive.  Beforehand music was just background noise and now I seem to manage to take it in.  I’ve started to enjoy music much more and specifically the ol’ Britpop days which was a period in which I transitioned from School to college to work.  A very enjoyable time in my life. Continue reading A Supersonic NGD

Roll call

They say “a picture paints a thousand words”…well that will certainly have to be the case today as I’ve not much to say but do have a little something to show.



I’ve been spending my evenings preparing the spare room for a visit from my sister; the spare room doubles up as my home office and music room (formerly Flabby Toad Studios).

“Preparing” has so far involved pretty much emptying the room of everything so I can have a belated spring clean.  A mighty fine excuse to give my guitars a little TLC.

From left to right we have my Little Martin, Benford Custom, SixStringBliss Podcaster (a collaboration by friends: Searcy Pickups, Alfie tone kicker with assembly by Steve Benford and Dave McLeod I believe), Fender MIM Stratocaster and Line 6 Variax.  A pretty handsome lot if I do say so myself.

…odd number though…maybe I should round up.


Movie: It’s so easy and other lies

I haditssoeasy the opportunity to grab myself a mid week movie earlier in the week and decided on ‘hiring’ It’s So Easy And Other Lies.  I knew very little about Duff McKagan other than he was a member of Guns ‘n’ Roses; I didn’t realise he was a founding member of the band!

The movie is an autobiographical moving covering Duff’s early years growing up in the North West Pacific Coast of the U.S., and then his migration south to Los Angeles where Guns ‘n’ Roses was born.  Like many, Duff has diced with death from drug and alcohol addiction and had to make some challenging life choices to turn things around.  Thankfully he managed it!

One thing I did like about this movie, was the lack of coverage relating to the stressful relationships with other band members; the movie is nearly all about Duff and his life.

I didn’t realise Duff has been involved with so many bands!  I didn’t realise he was in Velvet Revolver for a start (and I call myself a music fan).

The movie is quite short at around 1hr 20 min in length but well worth a watch.  A good 7.5/10 from me.  I will definitely visit the book in the not too distant future.

Guitar Nostalgia – Epiphone

I’ve been hunting through my photo archive (some 28,000 photos!) to pick out images of my past guitars.  I’m a little gutted that I don’t have pictures of them all but there we go!  This beauty was my second Epiphone Les Paul, the first was a Standard model in black with the white pick guard, chrome hardware and gold knobbage (never really understood the gold and black!).

Here we have the Studio model in Worn Cherry.  If I remember correctly I ordered in Red Wine but I think they had their pictures mixed up and were advertising a Gibson Les Paul Studio as an Epiphone.  I didn’t know enough back then to know the difference but wasn’t too disappointed when this arrived with a sorry note.

Epiphone Les Paul StudioI seem to recall everything about this guitar being perfect straight out of the box so there was no need for me to tinker with it and therefore bugger it up.  Unlike the other models this had an all mahogany body so no maple cap to brighten the tone a little; oh it was awesome.  Unfortunately at some point during the past my bank account wasn’t so awesome so had to sell off some stuff and this went to a colleagues kids.  Oh how I wish I hadn’t!  This is one of those guitars that I GAS after another but wonder whether I’d be disappointed.  Was it the beer that made it so good?  Maybe the weather?  One day I may take the plunge as they’re reasonably inexpensive, might even be one of those things to keep an eye out on eBay for.

So it would appear…

…that my blogging skills, or should that be my skills to blog have not improved over the years; yet another long break.

So, I thought I’d break the silence with a blast from my personal past!  A guitar from the many that I’ve owned throughout the years of not learning how to play guitar.  I aim to create a separate gallery at some point, this will do for now.

Here’s my first ever ‘proper’ Fender – by that I mean my first Fender full stop!  This was a MIM Standard HSS and to be honest it was bloody awful.  I bought the guitar over the Internet in the days I thought all guitars were equal.  This was probably my first proper guitar lesson.


It looked great (as you can see) but its action was high and I thought it always sounded too thin.  Guitarists talk about tone and I don’t think this guitar really had any!  Oddly the person I sold it to over eBay loved it and thought he had got it far too cheap so wired across more money.

Getting on with it.

I received some good advice following my last post about procrastination which highlighted the need for structuring my learning.  Bloomin’ obvious really.  The comment included a link to JustinGuitar which contains not only free lessons but also a community.  Now, I’ve dipped I not the site before in relation to specific songs or techniques but have never delved into the course material.  This visit was no different!  However, I did join the community and did purchase the beginners song books; I don’t think I’ve ever played as much as I have in this past week.

So why not complete the beginners course?  No other reason than I think I will become bored covering old ground and just want to get on and learn some songs.  My word do I have some songs to learn now!  Both of the books by Justin have around a 100 songs from various periods and genres.  Great value in my opinion.

I have no excuse now as I could never say I`m short of material or inspiration.  I’m going to use the song books as the basis for my resolution to learn and record a bunch of new material.

The songs are split into stages depending on complexity and are accompanied by additional information and chord diagrams.  The information includes some notes about the song or artist along with where to place a capo if you want to play along with the original.  Very useful indeed.

Hopefully will keep me both interested and focused for a good period of time.

Thinking about it too much…

…not a verbatim comment (I think), but basically something a guitar buddy commented recently in relation to my playing.  Do you know what?  They hit the nail right on the head.

I’m a very self conscious procrastinator you see.  I’ll often not do something because I’m worried about what somebody, actually what everybody will think.  Odd as I’m a bedroom player.  The outcome of this “feature” is that I essentially spend the majority of my time worrying about what I should be playing or hunting the Internets for guitar ‘stuff’ that I think may help instead of playing.  I’ve owned a guitar for some 24 years now I should be a bloody expert but instead I can barely string a song together!  Looking back I think I made some progress a few years ago when I submitted a few songs as a member of an online guitar community.  However, progress was short as I started studying for my degree and the community collapsed.  Me leaving and the collapse aren’t related!

So what am I going to do about it?  Well I’ve got my little resolution which is to learn and record a bunch of stuff; that isn’t going to well though, I’ve some catching up to do!  One thing I’ve started to do it listen to more music to get m into the swing of things.  I’ve started listening to music radio in the car and when I get the chance at home (instead of Radio 4), along with getting the headphones on at work as and when appropriate.  I have to say the listening seems to be lighting a little fire in my belly again which drives me to pick up the guitar.  An example being I heard Radiohead’s Creep on the radio this afternoon and got list in that little melodic trail that goes on through the song.  Instead of wishing I could play it I disappeared into my play room and had a little go.  Now I was crap but it’s a step in the right direction right!

All I need to do now is keep up momentum :/



Gear Part 2 – Backstar ID:Core 10

Welcome to the second post about my gear!  I thought would move from guitar to amplifier and give you a brief little run through of my Blackstar ID:Core 10.

My first grIMG_2749own up amp was a Backstar HT5 Combo which I bought the same time as my Variax which was the subject of my previous gear post.  God I loved that amp!  I sold it some years ago as it was just too loud for the house (I had a newb
orn at that time); I’ve regretted it ever since.  So, another child later and I made a bit of an impulse purchased base on loving my HT5 – enter the ID Core 10.
IMG_2750Firstly it has the good looks of the HT5 and felt very familiar indeed. This is the baby sibling of the ID Core 20, 40 and 40H (Head).  The ID Core 10 consists of two 5 watt speakers and is described by Backstar as being the “ultimate entry level guitar amplifier”.  I wouldn’t disagree with them for a second.  Your ninety Earth pounds gets you a compact stereo amplifier with 12 stereo effects, a line in, headphone jack, USB ticket and is compatible with Blackstar’s Insider software.

All the sockets and jacks are easily accessible via the control panel on the top of the amp.  Control wise we have a Voice knob which provides us with:

  • Overdrive 1
  • Overdrive 2
  • Super Crunch
  • Crunch
  • Clean Bright
  • Clean Warm

IMG_2748We then have Gain, Volume and EQ – the latter provides us with a sliding scale between US and British sounds.  We have buttons for Modulation, Delay and Reverb (along with Tap).  There are two further controls for which control the Type and Level of effect.

I’ve been delighted with the quality of what is effectively an entry level practice amp.  Maybe it’s just me but mine seems to be getting better with age – I’ve heard something before about the need for speakers to break in but I’m not sure how true this is.  The highlight of this amp for me is the input.  As a slow learner and a bedroom player this allows me to play along with records with only the need for something to play songs (Tablet, Phone or MP3 player); a revelation for somebody with time constraints.