Flynn Amps and the value of enthusiasmK is for Knopfler, MarkM is for Modes

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Hello everyone,

It’s nearly time for the summer holidays, 8 weeks of dodging rain and trying to have a barbecue in a force 10 gale. If you’d rather stay inside and play the guitar however, then how about booking some lessons with me.

Either for your kids or for yourself, from now until the end of June you can get 8 weeks of lessons booked with me for just £150 for hour lessons or £102 for half hour ones.  That’s 25% off my normal price for those times!

Get in touch soon, as I don’t have unlimited spaces either harry@guitarglasgow.com or *7876710906 (* hides from spam searchers!)

 

/harry


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S is for Stack
November 27, 2014

There are guitar amps, and then there are guitar amps. While many musicians (mostly singers) will tell you that a guitar player doesn’t need a huge amp to sound huge I’m of the opinion that there is something about a big stack of amps that provides you with a little something extra.

A guitar amp stack has two or three parts. On top, the head or amplifier which does most of the work but has no speakers of its own. and below that one, or preferably two large open faced cabinets usually containing  four twelve inch speakers.  There are variations to these rules but the classic stack is an amp and two 4×12 cabs as they are known.

When placed together on the stage or in the studio these separate parts can often exceed six feet in hight, leading to the name “stack” simply referring to the stack of gear. Once upon a time the amp in a stack would almost always contain valve circuitry. This is still predominately the case but in recent years solid state technology has made an impact, mostly due to reliable travelling toughness although the sound of these amps has improved.

The use of full stacks has declined over time since their heyday in the late 1970’s due to a number of factors such as the rise of the number of semi-pro bands with smaller touring potential, legislation requiring venues we reduce noise pollution (philistines!) and the sheer weight of all three parts making using a full stack a labour of love.

/harry


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R is for Repairs
November 19, 2014

There are few things more useful and money saving than learning to fix the things you own. That goes for just about anything, from sewing buttons back on to replacing computer parts but it rings very true when you start talking about musical instruments. There are some parts of keeping your guitar in a good state that require skill and specialised equipment, re-fretting a guitar for example or fixing a cracked neck, there are also many smaller and easier jobs from the very basic (changing strings and replacing damaged machine heads) to the more advanced (soldering wiring internally and setting up a floating tremolo system).

There are numerous guitar shops where I live now for the really advanced work but this isn’t true for you if you live in the middle of nowhere as I did when I was growing up. As a result I learnt to do pretty much all of my own guitar repairs myself and I pass on as much of that as is required to my students. I consider changing strings and keeping the guitar (mostly the fretboard) clean as absolute basics and the best thing in the world for a tired sounding guitar. Cheap guitars are common when you’re starting out and cheap musical instruments do need a bit of TLC sometimes. Electronics go wrong and although it’s often a very simple problem to fix, people do panic.

Even just ten years ago, if you wanted to learn a practical skill like this you needed to find someone to teach you, as I do for people now, but since the explosion of YouTube and websites like WikiHow explaining in detail and with visual guides how to do everything from make an omelette to turbo-charge a tractor there really is no excuse for guitars in a poor state of repair.

Musicians never have much money in my experience and one way to get round that is to at least attempt to fix your guitar before you hand it in to someone. Importantly though, knowing where your limits currently are especially when making adjustments to the truss rod is a good idea. Don’t try and do things without reading up first. Equally though, don’t be scared. It’s just a lump of wood and some bits of metal. Go for it!

/harry


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Q is for Questions
September 26, 2014

OK, I admit it! I couldn’t think of anything for Q that wasn’t really obscure and not very interesting. So I know there’s a few of you out there who read this blog, and I’d like to invite some questions. Anything you want to know (about the guitar preferably) and I’ll do my very best to answer.

Fire away

/h


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Teaching people to teach
September 19, 2014

This is a new one for me. I’ve been teaching guitar and percussion for over ten years now but two weeks ago I was approached and asked if I could do a workshop teaching volunteer musicians how to teach music to asylum seeker and refugee children. A worthy cause and I said yes right away but the enormity of the task is beginning to strike home. I am doing my best to write a handout/handbook as not everyone will be able to attend my workshop and I keep thinking of new things to put in.

When I first started teaching I knew that I knew how to play guitar, but I wasn’t at all sure how to explain the processes to people. I think the same is going to be true this time. I know how to teach, and I am good at it but I am not sure how much of that I can put into words that other people will be able to make sense of. Starting with the basics and admitting this is a good place to begin. Teachers should not provide answers all the time, they should set good questions and give pupils the tools to answer them.

I may well put the handbook up here when I have finished. I have been told by some that it is silly and I would be damaging my own business helping others to teach. I don’t think that’s very true however and I am more keen on the idea of doing as much as I can, in my own way to help as many of the rest of humanity enjoy music and in this case, help others enjoy music.

Wish me luck!

/h


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I saw a terrifying statistic yesterday on Information Is Beautiful. I knew that streaming services really didn’t pay artists very well but I didn’t really know how bad the situation was. In order to earn (US) monthly minimum wage, as a solo artist mind you, gods help you if you’re in a ten piece funk band, you need to sell 143 self pressed CDs. Fair enough I think, and the more we can move towards a post-label industry the better, they are not needed any more. The further down that graph you go however, the more depressing the reading. The more services like Napster get in the way and take chucks of money the more fans you need to make any money at all.

The streaming services at the bottom are where my blood really starts to boil though. From 850k plays for minimum wage on Rhapsody all the way up to a sickening 4 mllion with Spotify. Yes, that’s a 4 and six zeros. 4,000,000. For minimum wage. And they still don’t manage to make any money. Which leads me to wonder how on earth they are in so many homes. Every time I go to a party (admittedly not often) the music is being played by streaming it. No thought what so ever to the people who made it, and would like to get some remuneration for having made your lives a more pleasant place.

There are better places out there to find new music. Websites such as Bandcamp, who are not only inventive but fair, taking a small amount from artists in return for an excellent service. LastFM are an excellent way to find the bands you want to listen to, but again, using their radio leaves musicians high and dry.

By all means use the internet to explore and enjoy the massive and exciting place that is music in 2014, but have in the back of your mind that if you’d like to hear that band make another album, it’s worth making sure that they feel rewarded for the blood sweat and tears they put into making the first one.

/harry


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Progress as a teacher
August 29, 2014

Ever since I was very small I have enjoyed showing other people how to do things. I remember teaching one of my sisters how to do something on a bicycle which I had worked out (I have no idea what it was now) and the feeling when she understood it and looked happy has stuck with me. Later on I realised that not everyone could play the guitar or cook as well as I could and I liked to pass on my skills with those too, long before I began my long road into professional teaching.

Throughout that however I reminded sure of the fact I was never going to know everything, that there where going to be changes in technology, attitudes and my own experience that where going to lead me to change, question and alter how I teach. I often encounter attitudes in schools, and private classes where the teach is too set in their ways. I get very frustrated by this, because of the detrimental effect it has on young peoples enjoyment of music and their continuing to play and get something out of music for the rest of their lives.

So, in closing, please if you work in any capacity as a teacher or instructor, embrace change. Get excited when a new way of looking at, reading about, recording or writing down music (or what ever it is you specialise in) comes about. Don’t dismiss it as new-fangled rubbish and ignore it. The kids and teenagers you work with won’t, and enthusiasm is a fantastic motivator.

/harry


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P is for Paco
August 8, 2014

Paco Peña to give him his full name. Peña was born in Spain in 1942 and relocated to London in 1966. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost traditional Flamenco players and a traditionalist in a strong sense, who sees his role as promoting flamence culture, rhythms and traditional sounds. Peña started playing young, learning from his brother aged 6 and gave his first professional concert aged 12. Before his move to London he performed throughout Spain both as part of a government sponsored folk music and dance program and later with professional companies in Madrid and the Costa Brava.

In 1970 he founded the Paco Peña Flamenco Company, consisting of himself, two dancers, two singers and another guitar player. The company has since given concerts throughout the world. He signed to the Decca label, and released The Art of Flamenco Guitar (1972), The Flamenco World of Paco Peña (1978), and The Paco Peña Company Live At Sadler’s Wells, London (1980) amongst many others.

In 1981 he founded the Centre of Flamenco in Cordoba, which hosts an annual Festival Internacional de la Guittarra, a two month celibration of the guitar with concerts and master-classes from flamenco and classical musicians such as John Williams, Ben Verdery and Serranito. In 1985 Peña was appointed the worlds first Professor of Flamenco at the Rotterdam Conservatory and in 1997 was awarded ‘La Cruz de Oficial de la Orden del Merito Civil’ by the King of Spain.

/h


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O is for Open Chords
August 1, 2014

Open chords are chords in which open (non-fretted) strings are used as a part of the chord. Normally, but not exclusively these are played at the nut end of the fretboard, and are popular with rhythm guitar players and singer song-writers for their compact nature and ease of use. More commonly used on acoustic guitar rather than electric these chords also form the starting point for most players learning chords and those of C, A, G, E, and D are the basis of the CAGED system of fretboard knowledge. I often start with those first five when teaching and a couple of associated minor ones and get students to try and see the “shapes” and recognise these patterns when they pop elsewhere. Seeing E major and A minor as the same shape, on different strings is a good first step.

/h


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N is for National
July 25, 2014

National Guitars are a company best known for two things. Firstly for being the first major guitar manufacturer to decided to shift focus from acoustic to electric instruments. And for making from 1928 onwards, the Dobro and other resonator guitars. These instruments are made with metal bodies and metal resonator cones, most commonly fashioned out of aluminium. This design gives the guitar a louder sound than traditional wooden models but provides an excellent harsh and brittle metallic tone which although an acquired taste, suites some styles of blues and especially slide guitar playing.

When they merged with the Dobro company in 1932 the two luthiers began producing triplate resonators, guitars with three metal cones that vibrated inside the body, amplifying the sound. The most famous model however, is the one that appears on the cover of Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms album, the National Style O. This guitar features a single large resonating cone in the face of the guitar body, which is all made of pressed steel.

The company also made lap-steel guitars and mandolins, later making cheaper instruments under the the Supra budget brand name. National spotted early opportunities for the electric amplification of the guitar but failed to capitalise on it in the Rickenbacker and later Fender did so successfully. The company went bust in the 1950s but has since come back from the grave to make resonator guitars to the original designs from the days of Dobro.

/h