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….



Building a Guitar Revolution Part 2: Apathy and Emails



In these ‘Guitar Revolution’ blogs I promised to give a little insight into the process of setting this up, a kind of journal…an honest reflection. Here is the second instalment:

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working away, usually in front of a computer, trying to make good stuff happen. Turns out when trying to create a conceptual piece of music that brings together one and all, you will have to email, email and then email some more. Its been hard, but its been good. I only wish I didn’t always have to be on a ruddy computer all the time….I mean, Im meant to be a musician!?!?!

So… whats happened recently? What has the happy blend of hard work from a host of helpful people and my many mildly miserable hours of emailing actually achieved? …well, quite a bit actually. Here’s a list:

1.We have sponsorship from Martin Guitars, which as I briefly mentioned in the last instalment is an insanely cool thing. Aside from their support its great to be associated with a company that has a progressive, green and people focused ideas at the heart of what they do. Thank you Martin Guitars!

2. Sean DeBurca has finished the design, which you can see at the bottom of the page, and Im sure you’ll agree its insanely cool. Physical posters are on their way!!! :) :) Thanks for all your input during the design process folks.

3.Dates for leg one of the tour are up and ready! View them here and reserve your tickets now…

3.Several workshops in schools/colleges have been confirmed. Great news for spreading the word. We could do with more to really reach the wider community, can ya help?

4.Various exciting artists confirmed for guest slots. Names to be announced very soon. They’re all world class and are gonna make the shows so very special!!! – they will also be playing a part in helping to get players together for Guitar Revolution. I was overwhelmed by offers after putting a frankly awkward video out of me rambling on and asking for acts. I think the frequency of responses may have been partly due to me mentioning it was paid? – Im not sure. Anyway, its great to have so many people in touch. We do still have a slot or two to fill, so if you’re local to a date get in touch.

5.Guitar tutors are getting on board. This is a crucial one…. its a no brainer really, so if you are a guitar teacher, get involved. Ive only managed to contact a handful out of the thousands of you, so please save me some email time and get in touch. You can teach the parts and get in touch to let us know you’re doing it. It’s cool to hear from so many already to say ‘you’re doing it’ and ‘no thanks’ is fine too… although shocking to have some responses like ‘oh, they don’t practice anyway, so my students wont be interested’…I mean, seriously??? I despair sometimes I really do!

6.The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra line up for these shows is coming together too, we head into the rehearsal studio from the end of this month. Exciting new sounds itching to be heard.

So thats the main developments over the past couple of weeks, which aint too bad when I look back.

The general process has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster though…the responses have been quite extreme in polarity, its usually ‘yes wow! yes yes please!’ or a an extremely apathetic and negative response. Now Im not going to get into the trap of believing anyone who says ‘no’ to getting involved is ‘apathetic’, but in all honesty it seems especially when it came to approaching guitar teachers there really was a shocking amount of apathy amongst those who didn’t want to be involved…an often genuinely ‘discouraging’ response, rather than a simple ‘thanks but no thanks’. Which is a little crazy, but hey! thankfully there is a huge bank of inspirational teachers already involved, and many more to come Im sure. So get in touch guitar teachers! …apart from the apathetic ones….unless this brief blog has inspired some kind of life changing explosion of energy and inspiration, in which case I would love to hear from you too. Actually, thinking about it, you wouldn’t get in touch anyway if you were apathetic would you? :)

Aside from the knock backs its still overwhelmingly positive….massive thanks to every single one of you is already involved, and thanks in advance to those who will be.

cheeers
C
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Building a Guitar Revolution Part1: Start at the Beginning

This is part 1 of a series of blogs, of journals, recording the journey of ‘Guitar Revolution’. If you don’t know what ‘Guitar Revolution’ is; here’s a quick summary….

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. Players are invited to learn the piece for free and join a mass guitar orchestra of strangers and perform the piece. The Project was launched at The London Acoustic Show on the 10th of September. You can find out more here.

So, that’s it. That’s the revolution, in a nutshell….

There’s a fair bit to share with you at this point since its come a long way from conception to realisation and as we prepare to take it to communities across the UK; I can’t help but think, ‘blimey so much work has already gone in!’…so here’s the story so far, the conception of the idea, and how we got here.

The conception of the idea:
Strange as it might seem (even stranger as I don’t really like the game); I think Music is a bit like football. It brings people together. When those people get together, especially in their ‘teams’ as spectators or players; they lose themselves in a way that is borderline scary, although actually quite wonderful. In fact, when the ambience is right, people from all different teams can get together and share their love of football, and equally lose themselves in the moment. Of course football also suffers from all kinds of bad stuff…elitism, racism and then there’s those people who somehow know exactly how it should have been played.

Now, call me crazy but the similarities with musical culture and kicking an inflatable ball around a pitch are shockingly close…and before you get all upset by the comparison please remember a very large number of the population see how some play the game as an art, and Im not going to disagree…

Anyway….the point of this analogy? well, I wanted to explain to you why I would spend so much time trying to bring groups of people together to play the guitar. That football feeling of being together as a ‘team’, the players, the supporters, everyone, its amazingly powerful. It’s something I wanted to capture in a piece of music….

Now there is one very distinct difference from Arsenal FC and ‘Guitar Revolution’…and no, its not just the money…its that the players in Guitar Revolution are anyone and everyone who can kick a ball (erm…I mean play a guitar…).

Now for Arsenal inviting anyone who could kick a ball to perform at wembley would be a disaster. But, for music I believe its a bonus. Music works in layers, ranging from simplistic to complex. I believe EVERYONE who has the gift of hearing, also has the gift of being musical. I see no reason why an absolute beginner can’t play an incredibly simplistic line with the same emotional beauty that someone from the royal college can.

Im not delusional, I appreciate a mix of amateur players is likely to sound less polished than a mix of well rehearsed professionals….but music isn’t just about being polished is it? Its about; people, atmosphere, vibe, feeling, passion, magic. A terrifying amount of our musical culture is hideously elitist and exclusive. ’Guitar Revolution’ and yes…’The Chris Woods Groove Orchestra’ itself is very much focused on derailing those ideas.



The Story So far:
The actual piece ‘Guitar Revolution’ took a ruddy long time to compose…It’s gone through many different changes over probably a period of about a year. Why? well, trying to compose something that is simplistic enough for anyone to play, but contain parts that are complex enough to keep virtuoso’s interested…and not loosing sight of composing an emotive piece of music is actually quite a challenge. A challenge greatly helped by the lovely members of ‘the creative guitar orchestra’. These chaps and chapets were my guinea pigs. And boy did they work hard! (thanks folks :) )

So once the piece was completed, I set about doing something with it. I knew from the beginning I wanted to have it played by strangers….(see opening analogy! ;) ) The option of taking it out on tour seemed slightly ridiculous at this stage since I hadn’t really seen that done previously and I had that distinctly unnerving feeling it may well be career suicide. After bouncing the idea with a few sponsors, promoters etc I got the feeling it was too big to achieve. In all honesty the idea was subconsciously shelved for a good few months, until….. Steve Harvey (former editor of Acoustic Mag) a fine gentleman dropped me a line to offer me a slot at The London Acoustic Show. I mentioned ‘Guitar Revolution’ and being the brilliant fella he is, he said ‘okay…lets do it!’ Which to me was a bit of a shock if Im honest…but ‘hey’ I thought…this is the chance to see if it fly’s or flops, and at this point it was the only chance I’d had.

So…once the idea settled in I set about trying to make it happen. Filming the video with the help of my groove orchestra brother Christian ‘Arthr’ Ballistrari in a way that demonstrated the different parts – which really wasn’t that easy. I then set about desperately trying to spread the word. Asking people to join at any opportunity.

If you’ve ever had a party as an adult, you would have come close to the feeling of insane insecurity that I experienced, except this party was going to be a little more public and be in a magazine and stuff! Will anyone actually come?? When you are an artist especially in the naughties, everything you do is very public even if no one knows your name, and seemingly the only thing you are allowed to express is ‘success’…and the thought of calling a project ‘Guitar Revolution’ that is performed by me and a handful of my mates wasn’t going to look to good.

Anyway…to cut a long story short, a whole host of people turned up, me, my mates, and well…loads of strangers! We couldn’t fit everyone into the rehearsal room…which was inconvenient, but very cool indeed.

We performed it and it was seriously inspiring…. I gotta admit I was so stressed out that I didn’t fully appreciate it until afterwards. The logistics of performing with your band and then bringing nearly seventy guitarists onto a stage for one song is pretty testing, especially if you’ve spent the last few months in near psychological melt down at the thought of no one coming to your party…. But, nether the less…it was very very cool.

Where are we at now:

Well…Its been an exciting few months. After asking people (via social media) if they wanted to get involved and help take it out on the road, its gone from a one off to a tour that will be enriching and exciting for everyone involved.

Sadly, making this stuff happen takes time and money so my second priority after getting the support from the public has been to try and secure some funding. With the help of a wonderful person an arts funding application is in, and Im also pleased to say Martin Guitars will be powering the event, which is insanely good. Not simply because of their support but because this guitar company embody a lot of what this project is about. Although you might associate Martin Guitars as being a ‘big’ company, they are actually a family business in both the literal sense and in the theoretical sense. Trust me I’ve spent time with a lot the guys and girls who work for martin and it really is like a family. They are committed to working sustainably, they have people at the heart. I haven’t announced this yet, but I though you as a reader who has plowed through over a thousand of my words should be rewarded with something of an exclusive!

So there you have it, its happening! – the first leg of the tour is booked and dates will be released along with a very very cool design very soon. And whilst we are on the subject of design, here’s four rough sketches created by designer and guitarist Sean De Burca, let me know which direction you think should be developed?….

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So, in the next blog or journal post I’ll be getting stuck into the mechanics of how this thing is gonna work, just as soon as I know.…

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