Originally commissioned for Total Guitar, this examination of the reader-voted top 50 guitar solos is now publicly available on Guitar World.
A live video presentation at the fantastic 21st Century Guitar Conference “in” Lisbon, March 2021, hosted by the wonderful Amy Brandon and Rita Torres. ‘Digital Self-Sabotage’ explores we guitarists’ deep and twisted engagement with the fretboard, and how technology can expand and disrupt this bond for learning and insight.
An incredible experience providing the keynote presentation at the Hong Kong Academy of the Performing Arts as part of the 3rd Altamira Guitar Symposium and International Guitar Research Conference. The paper Nuages: Rhythmic Diffusion in the music of Roland Dyens explores the extraordinary rhythmic sensibilities of the recently departed guitarist/composer, and was an honour to be given the opportunity for such a tribute, in such an amazing venue among such company.
Looking forward to joining the great team of Justin Sandercoe, Bridget, Jon Bishop, Steve Allsworth at the tuition clinics at the UK Guitar Show 29-30 September 2018 at the Olympia Exhibition Centre. I’ll be doing two fun sessions:
Uncaging Rhythm Guitar (29/9/18 1.30-2pm)
Jazz Guitar for Mortals (30/9/18 12.30-1pm)
Full details below
Bridget and Milton Mermikides will be performing their classical guitar and live electronic project, Tension Blue at Canterbury Christ Church University, preceded by a talk on Milton’s Hidden Music series. Wednesday 24th January 2018, St Gregory’s Centre for Music (Talk 11.45am, Concert 1.10-2pm), Free Entry.
Swing friction is a term I coined in my PhD thesis and is defined as the differential of swing values between individual performers (or groups of performers). If the swing friction is significantly large and consistently maintained, it may form a characteristic of ensemble feel.
Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode (Berry 1958) provides an instructive example of swing friction. Berry, often considered the father of rock n’ roll, was instrumental in ‘straightening out’ the blues 12/8 shuffle rhythm into the archetypal electric guitar riff. Johnny B. Goode features this ‘straight 8th’ guitar rhythm, as well as equally straight lead playing juxtaposed with a stubbornly bouncy drum, bass and piano feel. Heavily swung quaver values occur in the ride cymbal pattern, often near the 67% mark, a significant deviation of over 52ms from the straight quaver at 170bpm. The guitar rhythm part however remains resolutely straight rarely venturing beyond 52% swing. This already large 15% discrepancy of swing value is exaggerated with the guitar part often sitting on top of the beat (ranging between 0% and -4% latency) leading to a mean separation of about 17% (≈60ms). The lead guitar is equally straight, although not pushed, and occasionally falling behind the beat. Piano interjections are loose but quavers are generally quite swung, mainly in the 60-67% range and repeated quaver triplets prevail. The bass plays mainly crotchets, with the occasional quaver (usually ≈67%). A representative extract from the track can be heard here:
Figure 1 shows a composite two bar template for the lead, rhythm, bass and drum parts, with time-feel components added. There is a huge gap between the swing values of the guitars and bass and drums. The vocal track tends to fall in between these two extremes. In order to hear the effect of swing friction, This example contains electronic sequences of this section with varying time-feel values: 1) as from Figure 1, 2) all instruments at 67% 3) all at 52% 4) all at a middle ground of 60% and 5) back to the ‘true’ values for comparison.
Figure 1. Composite swing and latency values for guitars, bass and drums in Johnny B. Goode.
The sequences have been rendered with MIDI instruments on purpose; although the section would sound better with human performers, but the elimination of the inflection they would inevitably provide allows focus on the power – and limitations – of the SLW model. Mean values for swing and latency have been provided, but the standard deviations of these values introduce the component of looseness or tightness, again different between players. Weighting elements also occur, (the cymbal has a slight emphasis on offbeat quavers for example,) with both mean and standard deviations). This extract plays the sequence first as Figure 1 then with swing, latency, weighting standard deviations from Figure 2 introduced, which add a clearly-defined randomness to each of three time-feel elements, and instruments, individually. There is a subtle but appreciable difference between the sequences; attention to the cymbal pattern, for instance, will reveal a slight offbeat emphasis and looseness.
|Lead Guitar||Rhythm Guitar||Bass||Drums|
|µs= 51 ∂s=1.5 µl= 2 ∂l=
µw= -3 ∂w= 2
|µs= 52 ∂s=1
µl= -3 ∂l= 1
µw= -3 ∂w= 2
|µs= 67 ∂s=2
µl= 0 ∂l= 1
µw= 4 ∂w= 2
|µs= 67 ∂s=2
µl= 0 ∂l= 0
µw= 2 ∂w= 1
Figure 2 Mean and standard deviation values of swing, latency and
weighting (measured as dB level)
An averaging out of time-feel components over the entire track runs the risk of over-generalization and may incorrectly group specific mechanisms that occur only occasionally. There are for example, brief moments when the bass seems to join with the rhythm guitar’s straight quavers. There is also the assumption, with a single matrix per instrument, that all beats of the bar are the same, which ignores the emphasis on crotchets 2 and 4 in the drums. Matrices could be provided for beats 1 and 2, and beats 3 and 4 separately, or even weighting at the crotchet level, for greater sophistication when needed.
Despite these acknowledged limitations, the discretionary use of this type of analysis allows for an instructive and parsimonious description of ensemble time-feel elements.
The next international conference of the International Guitar Research Centre has been announced. It will take place 18th to 23rd March 2016. The call for papers, keynote speakers and headline concert artists can be found here. The deadline for proposals is midnight GMT on Friday 9th October 2015.
The IGRC has no stylistic or conceptual prejudice, if you are doing work that is innovative, creative and related to the guitar, we are interested. For further info
Molto excited to be running a Jazz guitar course (with Bridget running the parallel Classical guitar course) in the stunning Palazzo Mannocchi in the Marche region of Italy 15-22 August 2015 with Helicon Arts. Italian food and wine, terraces, gorgeous views, 2 swimming pools, all food and trips catered and lots and lots of extended chords, guide-tome lines and tasteful phrasing.
On the 10th anniversary of my bone marrow transplant, you are warmly invited to a concert of the Eclectic Guitar Orchestra, in support of leukaemia charities. April 8th 2015, 7.30pm Bush Hall (Shepherd’s Bush) Tickets a mere £25
Performers include the legendary John Williams, George Uki Hrab, Declan Zapala, Craig Ogden, Bridget Mermikides, John Wheatcroft, Peter Gregson Amanda Cook, Steve Goss Jake Willson and an ever growing list of amazing musicians.
Please join the Facebook event for ticketing information, how you can support the event, to express interest (so I can get an idea of numbers), and a bunch of other exciting stuff to be announced… visit again for unfolding information…
Alexia Coley’s debut album is out on Jalapeño records. It was a pleasure to play geetar on the record and even more of a pleasure to gig the material. Alexia’s music is infectious and a joy to play, and her voice gives me the bumps of many geese.
Here’s a sneak preview:
Martino Unstrung (2008 Sixteen Films) – for which I was honoured to compose the music – is now available to view online.
In 1980 Pat Martino moved his belongings from California to Philadelphia to live with two complete strangers: his parents. As a young jazz guitar virtuoso he had achieved near legendary status during the 60s and 70s, before being diagnosed with a life-threatening brain condition. Surgery had saved his life but wiped his memory. Back in his childhood home, surrounded by the relics of his former life, his father played him his old recordings at full volume and friends rallied to try to coax him back to being the great artist he had been. He could not dispute the evidence; the face in the mirror was the same as the one on the record sleeves but it meant nothing to him. Amnesia had ripped selfhood from his brain and rendered his life meaningless. He was nobody.
Director Ian Knox and Neuropsycologist Paul Broks travel America in search of the soul of the legendary jazz guitar great Pat Martino, tracing his remarkable return from the depths of amnesia to the peak of artistic achievement. FEATURING: CARLOS SANTANA, PETE TOWNSHEND, LES PAUL, JOE PESCI, JOHN PATITUCCI, RED HOLLOWAY, DELMAR BROWN.
No 4 in a series of Guitar Instructional DVDs is out now! Available in many newsagents worldwide, or the interamawebs here
What’s in it (besides from a nice new shirt and guitar(s)? In the words of Future Publishing –
- Theoretical: You will gain knowledge of scales and how to use them to make music
- Practical: This will help you gain the technique and skills you will need to create solos
- Style and Creativity: Listening to and adapting the playing of great guitarists is a brilliant way to begin developing your own vocabulary.
March 2014 saw the launch of the International Guitar Research Centre, a major asset to guitar research world wide. It’s great to be involved among such eminent guitar practitioners and theorists. From the IGRC:
“The research centre will work in close affiliation with various partner institutions including the IGF (International Guitar Foundation, King’s Place, London), the IGRA (International Guitar Research Archive, CSUN, Los Angeles, California) and the University of São Paulo (Brazil). The launch was a two-day event on 29th and 30th March 2014 that included academic papers, seminars, public discussions, lecture-recitals and concerts. Guest artists included John Williams, Xuefei Yang, Newton Faulkner, The Amadeus Guitar Duo, Bridget Mermikides, Declan Zapala and Michael Partington.”
A nice promo vid is viewable here, which includes a fragment of my classical guitar and electronics concert with Bridget.
Well I must be doing something right – or probably not enough wrong – as the good people of Future have asked me to yet another DVD this Winter.
It’s due for release in early 2014. Topic is under wraps but this little image should give you a mighty big clue. Rather excited about this one.
My instructional DVD on Chicago Blues is now available in newsagents and online. The early Chicago Blues players – hugely influential on Hendrix, Clapton and the rest – are incredibly important in shaping much of what is now standard practice in all contemporary electric guitar playing. Researching these players was hugely instructive and I worked hard to distill and communicate some of these powerful elements on the DVD. And I have new guitarists in my pantheon of inspiring players Jimmy Dawkins and Magic Sam
Total Guitar Issue 243 includes an article by me and the eminent microbiologist Dr. Simon Park (with whom I collaborated on the Microcosmos project and does many other beautiful things). Here we took a rather nasty set of strings from the Future Publishing offices and endeavoured to discover what constituted the invisible audience to our noodlings. Get it at all good newsagents. Wash your hands before and after.
Here’s a short educational video explaining some fundamental concepts of maths and tuning. Nice production by frequent collaborator Anna Tanczos of Sci-Comm Studios.