Chris Woods Groove Orchestra Rehearsals Pt 2

This extract of the blog delves into how I have been communicating my ideas to the rest of the orchestra…as we work towards recording.

One of the best/worst/most interesting challenges of getting a band together…or ‘Orchestra’ as I like to think of it is communicating your ideas. I come from more of a contemporary/rock/jazz/pop background and the usual way of things is ‘heres the song’ and let players go crazy! – However, I’ve really tried to approach this project in a more orchestral way, composing with instruments in mind, at the same time as recognising the strengths of the musicians who join. So for me, I have been notating main themes and ideas for the players so they have a working structure…

Now, I’m not really a ‘reader’. I have never really had the need, and groove, swing and feel always seem so distant from the score not to mention the whole changing tuning thing. I have a good grasp of reading rhythms, but as far as sight reading goes its something I dont practice thus I don’t do well. But it really hasn’t put me off and I dont think it should put you off either… I use Guitar pro. Its an amazing programme and really helps in creating your ideas. By using the TAB function, writing parts for cello or double bass are easy and importantly you can hear what you create… so with a bit of trial and error you can compose something quite stunning with very minimal reading ability! thank you Guitar Pro!!!

Below is an extract from the score I have for a recent work in progress. Just guitar and double bass. The main theme worked out…and then I let Ben Taylor work his magic.  You can listen to the recording/video here…

2Spooky new track

It works a treat, and once again the abillity to hear what you are creating is mega powerful. As a contemporary acoustic player, writing the melodies and riffs on other instruments is amazingly liberating too. I find the textural difference amongst instruments is so much more exciting than trying to squeeze it all into one guitar part.

Refering back to a far older track Amygdala part two, which you can listen to here, I used the same process. And as you can see from the music below, the TAB function makes it really clear as to what is possible to be played…

cello

Ultimately, this has been a really exciting journey for me as some of you may have seen as the CWGO has grown. The main lesson I have learnt here that I’m keen to pass on is how technology really is such an amazing tool when it comes to orchestrating, and also the balance between sticking to written parts and building on what the player has to offer. With regard to technology, I think we can safely say it is facilitating a new inclusiveness, giving people the tools to access worlds that used to be and perhaps are still ‘exclusive’. With regard to other players I have to say so many of the musicians I have worked with in the orchestra always have an amazing idea to offer that I would never have thought of…that balance of ideas is the nirvana of orchestration in my mind, the ability to create an overall piece with a feel, themes and structures but being open to fresh ideas from other creative people….I guess in some ways that’s what is making this orchestra that bit different.

Guitar Revolution: Politics Is Not The Only Way

Politics is not the only vehicle of change…

Just after the brexit vote announcement I launched Guitar Revolution…a project thats aim was simply to form pop-up guitar orchestras around the country to play one of my compositions.

Now, the timing was coincidental really; I’ve always been fascinated by the role of community in music, those of you who know me personally will know that actually the majority of my adult life has been focused around those two things – I also like donuts, walks in the park and John Grisham novels ;). So Brexit wasn’t the driving force, this project did not have any allegiance to leave or remain (and don’t worry this is not a blog about Brexit). But nevertheless, guitar revolution was riding on a wave of Brexitness. 

Since then, as Guitar Revolution jetted (in a white diesel van) around the country forming pop-up guitar orchestras, all manner of political bizarreness has occurred. Of course most recently we are witnessing a whole new level of political insanity….

Now as I said this blog isn’t about Brexit and nor really is it about my political standing, although you can probably take a guess at what I voted for. This blog is instead about how important it is to remember the ‘real’ stuff. How your role in community is even more important than that one vote you have… Crazy, I know! 

This Guitar Revolution project showed me that your real actions really are so much louder than words or Facebook posts.  We engaged with thousand of people across the country and built a collective orchestra of hundreds. These actions are so much louder than Facebook rants and drunken arguments in the pub that result in a hangover of lost friends and upset egos. Continued below….

17269188_10158260998855648_1976906990_o

plym promo image

Here are three points from that experience, that I believe are worth a read:

Number one, ‘Actions – this is not going to be easy’…

 Ive got plenty of experience of trying to bring people together in a musical context and it never gets any easier, I’m not sure it gets harder, but definitely not easier. The human race are a funny bunch.The general public are majoritively quite resistant to getting together for anything less  in size than a political rally, football match or an adele concert. Something that is mainstream and massively controlled, the idea of venturing out for a socio-musical experiment to play a minimalist piece of music, organised and composed by a scruffy guitarist from the west country is apparently not on the average brits list of priorities. Its seemingly niche, which is a shame because I was hoping the revolution would be relatively mainstream. Disappointing, I know!?!?!…..but hey, it just meant we had to work harder.

Number two ‘ Louder! – there is a reason we are scared of getting together’…

It takes a lot of energy and ultimately bravery to come and join a group of strangers to play music. It takes a lot of energy and bravery to join a group of strangers to do anything. Aside from the usual ego risks that playing music comes with it, it comes as a disruption to a busy schedule, it comes with all manner of social anxieties or pre-conceptions. Ultimately the idea of getting together with strangers to play music is powerful in a positive way but comes with powerful challenges too. As life increases in complexity and difficulty the idea of breaking out of that gets harder…Just like the idea of breaking from your normal comfort zone and views. I gotta be honest, if I was invited to join a pop-up guitar orchestra, I may well be the first to bottle it.

Number three…. ‘Words – The results of actions like this are far more positive than angry Facebook posts’…

There’s a simplicity to all of this, something I touched upon in my first blog. The simplicity of gathering people together to play. In this case it was gathering people together to do something different. Now in these crazy political times, of constant bombardment of ‘facts’ and strong view points the abstract simplicity of playing guitar together might seem like a token act of togetherness, but Im quite convinced that it is actually far more than that. (I would like to point out, I fully support your Facebook rants too)

Im not claiming that after each performance of guitar revolution, people spent hours discussing with others, rationally debating their political views. Im pretty sure no-one mentioned politics once or, in fact, the future of humanity. But! It did this…. and this is something I think we all need to focus on more than ever. 

….It got people out of their comfort zone, it got people out of Rupert Murdochs comfort zone and made people feel welcome and part of something positive, peaceful and original….something that was about being together not attacking others. Something vibrant and inquisitive…its a foundation of confidence to question the world around you.

For everyone on this messed up little island, being open minded, peaceful, and social is key to helping us progress. Whatever your political views, being social, community minded and open is the key to getting along, moving forward and generally not descending into being a country of absolute morons. Getting behind something musical is massively uniting. There are no ‘facts’ or view points, there is only the music. Because really, everyone wants the same thing. Don’t they?…

So, go and create something…  bring people together. Show the world that together is better. Do something! Organise a gig, get some people together to do something creative and pointless…something that is for nothing more than breaking the monotony of modern life and reminding us that we are human and we are here to laugh, dance, sing and share our smiles. 

Building a Guitar Revolution Part 3: Rehearsals Begin

This is the third part of a blog about ‘Guitar Revolution‘ you can read the other parts by clicking here Part I, or Part II…or you can just enjoy this blog post on its own.

In this episode I’ll be looking at our first rehearsal sessions, and explaining a little about the journey to creating The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra .

The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra has been a work in progress since 2015. Don’t take too much from the phrase ‘work-in progress’ though – I see everything I do as a work in progress, I think its a great way to be. It helps me to handle the polarising swings from crippling self doubt to awe inspiring arrogance ;) we all suffer from that as an artist and if you say you don’t, I imagine you might be pretending…

The word arrogance might be a little strong though, perhaps more feeling ‘proud’, yes proud. There are moments of pride, interspersed with that more familiar self doubt. Constantly evolving and moving, helps you to accept that; being creative is just a process, not a product.

The band itself is an ever evolving group of players.The guitar players for ‘guitar revolution’, who are key members of the CWGO, are very much evolving to an extreme extent…I never know who will turn up. The ‘foundation’ members though, (those who play through the whole set) are a lot more plan-able, although they have also gone through various changes.

We’ve had a mix of line ups for different tunes, including hang drum, tabla ,double bass, and even in amygdala part II with drums, cello and piano. Its been a fascinating journey and my approach has evolved drastically….(And just because you dont see it now, doesnt mean you wont see it again!)

I wanted to get a band together for this Guitar Revolution tour that really was focused on the idea of ‘Guitar revolution’…

Something that would push some boundaries, try some new approaches and inspire the audience, something that would compliment our revolutionary pop-up guitar orchestra.

Increasingly over the past year I have been performing with ‘Arthr’ in the CWGO line up…and the work that we are creating together has evolved into something exciting, something that is perfect for these GR shows. You should at this point check out what ‘Arthr’ creates with his blend of animation and electronics to get an idea of ‘Arthr’s pedigree. Our work together is based on the idea of being ‘orchestral’ or ‘symphonic’ and working together in unison to create an ‘interactive symbiotic cinematic explosion’…(sorry got a little carried away there with the ‘pride’ side if things.Ill balance it out later)…

In other words…

‘Arthr’ takes a feed from my guitar and manipulates the sounds I produce to create immense textures. A lot of sounds are completely unrecognisable from the guitar, but the vast majority started life as a vibration in my Martin 000×1.

We’ve been honing it for months, we’ve performed a few english dates together and headed over to Ireland in May last year for a few shows to really try things out (its often best to try out new things abroad, not sure why)……here’s a very early clip from our first rehearsals…..

It really excites me the sounds we are creating. It feels different and unexpected….exactly what I wanted. Theres an interaction between us that is even deeper than your usual musical exchange. I can only describe it has having a conversation with someone who manipulates your words…no wait, thats pretty negative…erm…I’ll think of another analogy soon.

Of course there are practicalities involved in this stuff too….I would love to have hang, tabla, drums, cello, bass, electronics blah blah but of course there is a financial reality…but also one thing I have learnt during the past year of taking the band out on the road is how differently a band sound is communicated live – Its a practical reality, live sound is louder, bigger and seemingly more overwhelming than listening to recorded sound. My current opinion, and this will of course change, is that recorded sound has far more scope for complexity but live performance demands more simplicity… Im not sure why exactly, but Ive really found a trio is perfect. Crazy as it might sound but I feel we are creating an orchestral sound best, as a trio… I know it seems like a contradiction, but come check out a show to see. So, who’s the third player? Well, aside from electronic manipulation from ‘Arthr’ I have chosen to bring in bring in the big guns…. double bass to be precise.

For this tour Im working with two different double bass players. Joe Limburn and Ben Taylor, both jazz playing pro’s. Its an absolute pleasure to work with both of them….

I love the double bass. I love the depth, the versatility. Its so outrageously orchestral….



Guitar Revolution

Guitar Revolution is a piece of music made up of four parts, for an infinite number of guitars. The parts range in difficulty from very simple to complex. You can learn the piece here for free, and then join us on the 10th of September at The London Acoustic Show to rehearse it and perform with The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra – everyone is welcome! click here for Tabs and much more

‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’

Chris has launched two singles from ‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’ which are available to download from iTunes etc and to stream from Spotify and more… The album is nearly there and over the coming months there will be opportunities to see chris perform as ‘The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’. The first chance will be on the 3rd of May at The London Guitar Night, where Chris will be joined by Tabla player Harkiret Singh Bhara. Get your tickets here
 

Chris to Lead Beginners Guitar Summer School for International Guitar Foundation

Chris has been busy working on developing a new beginners guitar course. This Summer he will be offering a residential beginners acoustic course for IGF at bstunning venue in Shrewsbury. Click the image to book your place, or email us vida the contact page if you have any questions.

igf