My entry for JTC guitar solo contest 2015!

Here is my entry for the Jam Track Central Guitar Solo competition 2015!

There’s some stiff competition out there (this is an international competition), but I’ve always enjoyed creating/playing solos and so I’ve given it a crack. I went for the category of rock and made sure to put on my best display of face gurning – this is undoubtedly something judges will look for..

If you’d like to ‘vote’ for me please click ‘rate’ at the following link: https://www.jamtrackcentral.com/jtcguitarsolocontest…/…/487/

 

 

Finding your own sound

‘I don’t care about the rules. In fact, if I don’t break the rules at least 10 times in every song then I’m not doing my job properly.’ – Jeff Beck.

Whilst I can’t claim to ‘break the rules’ nearly as often as Jeff does, or even claim that I try to, I still enjoy this quote and admire his words. As a guitar teacher I’m naturally concerned with imparting the most accurate and effective advice to my students. I want to make sure that they have the best chance to play the songs they want to play and develop the techniques they want to develop. But as important as it is to pass on practised methods, part of the joy of playing guitar for me has always been experimentation and finding out what works best for you.

Many of the greatest guitarists have gone with this approach and the already huge body of guitar techniques has grown accordingly to include playing with your thumb, ‘finger-tapping’, percussion using the body of the guitar and all manner of other techniques.

However the above examples relate only to the invention of new techniques. Not many of us will have the privilege of creating a new technique, so how about just finding your own distinctive sound on the guitar, how do you do that?

I think by playing what you want to hear. This is a very natural and authentic way to create music. It doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to break rules, but instead you follow your gut, listen to what you’re doing and find out for yourself what works and what doesn’t. In other words you don’t write music for other people, but instead write and play in line with your own sense of beauty and enjoyment. People tend to enjoy this authenticity in music anyway.

So on that note, I think it’s appropriate to end with a video of Jeff Beck in one of my favourite performances: ‘Drown in my own tears’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFlRVNHdeIQ

I hope you enjoy it!

 

Free ‘starter pack’ for new guitar students!

Muppets and Minions plectrums - free starter pack tomhunt.co.ukIf you’d like a plectrum with Kermit the Frog on it, this could be your lucky day… I’m offering free ‘starter packs’ to my new guitar students.

Each one includes a folder of guitar tabs, chord charts and tuition materials I’ve designed/transcribed (including ‘Tom’s Top Tips’ for getting started on the guitar), a pick holder, selection of picks and a choice of a novelty pick (it’s not just kids that like the Muppets or the Minions after all).

To find out more about the tuition I offer, please visit the Guitar Tuition and Masterclasses page of this website.

Turning ‘up to 11’ for new video

I decided my recent ‘guitarist video reel’ needed to showcase a bit more of the louder stuff – so I have made up and added a metal-style solo to the start of it. I’ve always loved playing in a variety of genres on the guitar and am happy to teach all sorts of things! If you’re interested in lessons please visit the ‘Teaching’ page of this website. Here is the new video reel:

‘Notes like raindrops’

The title of this article, ‘Notes like raindrops’, refers to a review written about one of my favourite jazz guitarists – Randy Napoleon. The words are as lyrical as the musician himself:

“…each note hangs, suspended with raindrop-like clarity from its bough of melody.” (Lawrence Consentino, Lansing Michigan’s City Pulse).

What a beautiful way to describe the playing of this guitarist.

Several years ago I watched Randy play live in Hertfordshire and was impressed not only by his guitar skills and feel for melody, but how gracious and unpretentious he was as a performer. Known for playing alongside top acts such as Michael Buble (amongst other projects!), he came out on to the stage to find only a handful of people in his audience. Despite this, his first words were something like:

“Don’t worry, we will play the same for you as we would for an audience of ten thousand people.”

Friendly and down-to-earth, he was willing to spend time chatting with us afterwards. I felt at the time that this was the sort of performer I aspired to be – always giving my best on stage and with no superiority complex!

As for the guitar-work, the tone and technique were wonderful and he moved around those solos with the precision of an SAS sniper (but with none of the violence). The other two musicians accompanying him were also fantastic and clearly enjoyed their job!

Of course, all of this is a way of encouraging you to check him out.

Have a listen here and enjoy: http://www.randynapoleon.com

Free online guitar lessons

Acoustic Applause guitar - shot taken by Lyn IsonI’ve recently uploaded some free online guitar lessons which you can check out under the ‘Teaching’ page of this website.

To begin with I’ve added a few ‘In the style of…’ licks to help you play like some of the Blues/Rock greats such as Jimi Hendrix, BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Once I’ve added a few in that genre I will also be covering styles such as Acoustic Fingerstyle, slide playing and Country.

Each lick has some text accompanying it to give you a deeper understanding of how it works – theory, technique etc.. I plan to upload a new one each week or two so please let me know if you have any requests! Enjoy!

Guitarists – Look after your tendons!

The title of this article would have been good advice for me several years ago! Unfortunately back then I was playing lots of guitar without well-aligned posture and with some subtle errors in my technique. This soon took its toll in the form of a repetitive strain injury, the pain centred in my right shoulder and right wrist (my ‘picking arm’).

This meant some time away from my beloved Amelia (an Ibanez electric guitar) and plenty of treatment from the wonderful charity BAPAM – http://www.bapam.org.uk, and later from a great local osteopath – http://www.stalbansosteopaths272.co.uk

It’s amazing how common these types of injuries are amongst guitarists (and many other instrumentalists for that matter) and although I was lucky enough to make a pretty good recovery, I had to learn the hard/painful way. Even to this day I have to be very careful of how I’m sitting or standing when I play, how much unnecessary tension I’m carrying in my body when I play, when I’m overdoing it and a variety of other factors. 

Whilst I make no claims to being an expert in physiotherapy, osteopathy, nutrition, sports science or any other related areas that I would recommend for treating tendon problems, I have nevertheless picked up useful information along the way. Not all injuries are the same of course, but here are a few things that have helped me:

1. Regular rests – A more obvious point but still worth mentioning. Very much about discipline and patience – knowing when to stop practising and take a break, even if you’re desperate to master your favourite riff or lick. A break at least every 30 minutes makes sense to me.

2. Good posture – Keep your posture and balance centred. It’s very common for guitarists to break this rule for at least a couple of reasons:

 – Bending over too much to see what’s going on on their fretboard. This is a common habit that guitarists tend to do without realising. Therefore the first thing is simply to be more aware of how you’re sitting. Also you can try watching the fretboard by only turning your head to see what your fingers are doing, rather than bending over.

– Bending over to read music notation or guitar tab. One of the best purchases I’ve ever made was a music stand. Having music books in front of you at a height that won’t strain your neck is an easy way to reduce your chances of an injury.

Practising in front of a mirror can also improve posture, helping you notice if you are leaning one way more than the other and noticing if and where you are holding tension in your body. Pay attention to factors such as whether your picking hand, wrist and forearm are aligned when you play (wherever possible – not always an option when fretting complicated chords), or whether you’re hunching your shoulders (such was my habit once!).

3. Stretching – Definitely a very important one on this list. Please check out the following link for some great stretching exercises and advice: http://www.bapam.org.uk/docs/1_Dont_cramp_your_style_web.pdf

I also use an ‘eggsercizer’ to do some warm up exercises with my fingers and hands. Check it out here: http://www.magistercorp.com/eggsercizer.html

4. Attention to technique – One thing that many guitarists do (especially rock/metal guitarists) is hold their plectrum too tightly. You may find it surprising just how easy it is to achieve a rugged and punchy rock/metal tone, even with a very relaxed grip of the plectrum. As mentioned under ‘Posture’, also pay attention to other areas of your body such as your neck, shoulders and wrists to make sure that they are well aligned and relaxed.

5. Exercise – One piece of advice that music charity BAPAM gave me was something along the lines of: due to the intense demands musicians put on parts of their body, they should see themselves as ‘performance athletes’.

Therefore strengthening the body and improving flexibility is an important aspect of injury prevention and recovery. For me, swimming has been the perfect remedy. When other forms of exercise seemed too painful, swimming was great because I could easily adapt the intensity and it gave me a total body workout.

6. Good nutrition – With regards to treating injuries such as tendonitis, I’m still figuring this one out as it is hard to find conclusive research out there. However a good amount of protein seems important and there are various supplements that claim to help repair tendons, joints etc. I think the best bet is simply to eat a varied, healthy diet!

7. Visualisation/mental practise – Not as much fun I know, but I find this a pretty successful way of practising when I want to give my body a break. I visualise my fingers playing the notes and hear the music in my head – simple as that and it seems to work!

8. Prevention is preferable! – R.S.I. injuries can take time to treat successfully, so don’t wait until you have one to take care of your body. Please start now to save yourself pain and medical bills!

Whilst there are surely other points that could be listed, these are the ones I understand best and so have chosen to list. I hope they have been helpful for some of you out there. Most importantly don’t be put off! Playing an instrument can be so rewarding that its worth the small effort to do it in a way that won’t cause your body harm.

 

 

 

Xmas guitar lesson gift vouchers!

Feeling musical this Christmas? I am selling guitar lesson gift vouchers! Choose between a 30 minute or 1 hour session (£15 or £30 with free P&P). All ages and abilities welcome, a variety of styles taught and delivered at my home studio in St Albans. Limited availability. Please email lessons@tomhunt.co.uk if you’re interested and for payment details.Tom Hunt Guitar gift vouchers

Lyric writing and pimpin’ my studio

I’m currently enjoying one of those rare but cathartic moments when I feel I have things to write about. Usually a new song or two comes along at some turning point in my life or when some intense experience naturally brings a lyric into my head.

Having just had a pretty intense week, I’ve opened a word document on my computer and fired off about three paragraphs of lyrics! The working title at the moment is ‘Courage from pain’. Here’s a wee cheeky sample:

‘The courage that is born out of pain
Can change a life, blossom in joy
Turn the most important problems
Into memories of another life
Pages from a book floating downstream
A bottomless river that swallows it all
And remains clean and flowing’

Knowing how much of a perfectionist I am, this probably means the lyrics I’ve just written will be a song in approximately a years time… Still, I shall post the full set of lyrics on this website when I have them written/refined!

In other news I’ve just added a shure sm58 microphone to my studio – if this name doesn’t mean much to you, put simply it’s a legendary bit of kit and should mean I have some nicer sounding recordings for you soon. There’s no fish tank in the back of my guitar amp, so I haven’t really ‘pimped’ my studio but it made for a nice title.

 

New songs on the way…

Having been sitting on a few new songs for a while, I’m pleased to say that I’ve finally recorded them in a way that I’m happy with.  The first song I’ve put online (which is in the ‘Listen’ section of this website) is called ‘The Kindness of Strangers’.

It’s written about the various hiking trips and adventures I’ve been on over the last several years and the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. I’ve been fortunate enough to trek/mountain climb in beautiful regions including New Zealand, Scotland and England’s Lake District. For me going off into wild areas like these, with only the strangers I meet as my companions, is an act of trust.

Tom Hunt above the clouds

The first time I’d ever been above the clouds (without a plane) – Fiordland, New Zealand 2008.

I’m grateful that  this trust has been rewarded with some great friends – the sort of people that look out for one another. Perhaps being in potentially dangerous (albeit extremely beautiful) environments, brings out the best nature of many people. The quiet beauty of such regions also has a way of putting smiles on people’s faces!

Whatever the reason, these good people are the inspiration for ‘The Kindness of Strangers’. Look out for the next song coming very soon…